Ariel Atias Emil Salman
Ariel Atias. Photo by Emil Salman
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Housing Minister Ariel Atias' call to subsidize mortgages for young couples in the country's outskirts drew a mix of support and fire over the weekend, as proponents said the idea would indeed help its target audience.

Opponents argued that the plan would mainly help the ultra-Orthodox, the support base of Atias' Shas party.

Atias wants the state to give a monthly subsidy of NIS 500 to NIS 800 to young couples buying their first home in the country's periphery.

Hiddush - Freedom of Religion for Israel argued that Atias and the Haredi parties were advancing the initiative while they knew that the Housing Ministry was planning more than 60,000 homes for Haredim in the periphery. Tens of thousands of homes would be built in the near future. As a result, the ultra-Orthodox would be the main beneficiaries of the subsidy, Hiddush argued.

"Mortgage payments will be a new kind of allowance for Haredim, another NIS 450 to NIS 800 per family," said Hiddush's head, Rabbi Uri Regev. "This kind of benefit will kill the chances of getting a family like that into the workforce." But former Finance Ministry Director General Yossi Bachar, now Bank Discount's chairman, said he supported Atias' idea.

"I know it doesn't sound good in 'Finance' speak, but it's a possibility during emergencies," he said. "I don't like subsidies, but in this case I definitely support the minister's position and think he's going in the right direction. They need to boost demand in the periphery and increase the land for building in the center."