It is not yet clear if some of new homes backed by Israels's cabinet will be in the West Bank or annexed east Jerusalem
A sign advertising apartments for sale is displayed near a construction site in the West Bank Israeli settlement of Almon on the outskirts of Jerusalem in 2009. The Israeli cabinet on Sunday approved a slew of measures aimed at increasing the supply of apartments and lowering housing prices, as part of an economic reform package following a wave of social protest. © Ahmad Gharabli - AFP/File
It is not yet clear if some of new homes backed by Israels's cabinet will be in the West Bank or annexed east Jerusalem
AFP
Last updated: March 18, 2012

Israeli cabinet approves housing reforms

The Israeli cabinet on Sunday approved a slew of measures aimed at increasing the supply of apartments and lowering housing prices, as part of an economic reform package following a wave of social protest.

The measures will include marketing some 187,000 new apartments throughout the country over a five-year period, primarily in the Tel Aviv, central Israel and Jerusalem districts, of which 40,000 apartments will be for affordable housing, the prime minister said.

The government will also raise the limit on rental assistance it provides to people eligible for public housing, and double the property tax on apartments that are uninhabited, a move expected to free another 15,000 apartments per year in demand areas.

Contractors who win tenders but do not complete construction within two years of receiving building permits will also be fined with levies of up to 10 percent of the apartments' cost.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the decision to approve the measures constituted "a genuine revolution."

"Its goal is to increase the supply of apartments and affect the best possible allocation of apartments for young couples, families and those in need," he said in statement sent by his office.

"This is an important decision that will lead to an increase in the availability of apartments and to lower prices."

Sunday's decision was the fourth in a string of approved decisions based on recommendations by the Trajtenberg committee, headed by respected economist Manuel Trajtenberg.

The cabinet has already approved measures pertaining to taxation, the cost of living, and education based on the committee's report, which was presented to the cabinet last September.

Trajtenberg was commissioned to lead a committee after Israelis took to the streets in record-breaking numbers last summer, to express their frustration about the cost of living and economic disparity in Israel.

It was not clear yet if some of the new homes marketed as part of Sunday's plan would be in the West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem.

A senior official in the housing ministry told AFP there was currently no decision on exactly where within the general areas earmarked -- including within them parts of the West Bank and east Jerualem -- the new units would be located.

"The government's decision to expand the supply of housing units by 187,000 deals solely with areas, and does not enter the resolution of specific locales," he said. "As of now, it is unknown which of the locales will be part of this move, and to which extent."

Israel captured the West Bank, Golan Heights, east Jerusalem and Gaza during the 1967 Six-Day War, and considers all of Jerusalem its "eternal, undivided" capital.

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