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      Initiative: 10% of All Building Projects for Public Housing

      Bill to mandate transitionary apartments for families in desperate need of public housing picks up speed, supporters in Knesset.
      By Tova Dvorin
      First Publish: 2/14/2014, 12:29 PM

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      A revolutionary proposal has been made by MK Orly Levi-Abekasis (Yisrael Beytenu), Maariv reports Friday, which could drastically reverse the housing crisis in Israel. 

      The proposal: to mandate that 10% of every apartment-building initiative approved be dedicated to adding to Israel's public housing. 

      The proposal is an extension of a 2011 offer by building contractor Nissim Boulil to the Trachtenberg Committee giving very similar terms: that building contractors enter a deal with the State whereby 10% of every piece of land sold for construction of residential areas be used to build more public housing units in the wake of the housing crisis. 

      The same year, over 40,000 housing units were built in Israel, according to the daily - and could have provided 4,000 units for Israel's underprivileged.

      But the bill - like a similar bill proposed by then-Housing Minister Ariel Attias to dedicate 5% of construction projects for public housing - was eventually rejected. 

      Three years later, the housing crisis has worsened, with at least 2,700 families having been deemed eligible for public housing by the Ministry of Housing and Construction and another 30,000 more by the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption. Eligible families often face a 5-8 year waiting list before being provided with new homes. 

      During the wait, the new apartments would not be used for long-term solutions for public housing, but be well-built, spacious, subsidized rental apartments for those families who remain on the waiting list, according to the daily. In addition, families who cannot receive these transitional apartments would become eligible for rent subsidy for apartments on the free market - a substantial subsidy which would equal the low-rent prices for state-funded housing. 

      "The state must serve as a bridge to eligible families who cannot afford ab apartment on the open market, and there is no reason for them to wait three, five or eight years," MK Levi-Abekasis stated at a meeting of several MKs. 

      New initiative gaining support

      The bill appears to be picking up speed, with over 60 MKs signing a document showing support for the initiative - including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. 

      At a meeting held a few weeks ago at the Ministry of Finance, which was attended by Netanyahu, Chairman of the National Economic Council Professor Eugene Kandel, Housing Minister Uri Ariel and senior officials from the Ministry of Housing, Netanyahu expressed his support for the plan in principle. 

      "This is a serious problem that we cannot run away from," Netanyahu said during the meeting, "and we need to know: what do we do with the many families waiting for public assistance?"

      "They would not be able to cope with the prices on the free market - and you know I am the biggest advocate for the free market," Netanyahu mused. "But we have a population that cannot be sent to deal with it." 

      "Those who can realistically cope with free market prices, fine; but for those who cannot - we must help them," he declared. 

      Ministers and activists have warned that the government must act to bring down the price of housing, which rose 8% in 2013. Finance Minister Yair Lapid said in December 2013 that the high cost of housing has become a “strategic threat” to Israeli society, and accused the government of failing to create policy to address the issue.

      The rise in prices has affected some regions more than others. Jerusalem representatives have warned that the pace of construction in the capital is "a drop in the ocean" compared to demand, while youth from Samaria (Shomron) have reported fears that they will be unable to find a home near their families for any price.