Daily Israel Report

Jump in Settlement Building is an Illusion, Says Yesha Council

Yesha Council says statistics showing tremendous growth in Judea, Samaria is simply the result of a building freeze in the previous year.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 3/3/2014, 10:49 PM

Construction in Samaria
Construction in Samaria
Flash 90

The Yesha Council said surprising statistics showing an increase of over 120% in construction in Judea and Samaria in 2013 were illusory. The reason it seems that housing skyrocketed in 2013 is simply that there was a building freeze in 2012.

The Central Bureau of Statistics noted Monday that 2,534 new housing units were built in the region in 2013, up from just 1,133 in 2012. However, the Yesha Council stressed that much of this had to do with a partial building freeze still in effect in 2012, which pushed off construction projects by several months. In the meantime, the rate for beginning new building projects was the lowest in 2013 in Judea and Samaria, compared to other regions of the country. 

"We are talking about limited building - it's too little and not enough," the Council said in a statement. 

"The increase in new building projects in 2013 was due to the halt in construction tenders in 2012; there was hardly any construction that year," said Yigal Dilmoni, Vice President of the Yesha Council, "so any construction the year after will cause a dramatic upswing [in annual statistics]."

"The solution to lowering housing prices is building more and more in Judea and Samaria," the Council added.

The Council urged the Israeli government not to acquiesce to pressure from the Left or from the US to freeze construction again, and stressed that now - before a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority (PA) - is the time to expand construction in Judea and Samaria.

"We call on the Israeli government to immediately advance all frozen construction tenders in Judea and Samaria and thus increase the supply of housing," the Council concluded, noting that the region "is very close to the center" of Israel and could "help lower housing prices in Gush Dan and Jerusalem."

CNBC noted in December that real estate prices in Israel are building toward an unprecedented bubble, rising nearly 40% since 2009 and 8% in 2013 alone. Government officials have been scrambling to fix the housing crisis, which has left many young couples living with their parents or scraping by to pay inflated rent. 

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.