Joint Finance and Housing ministry press conference (Moti Kimche)
A joint Housing and Finance ministry press conference last week on lowering housing prices. Photo by Moti Kimche
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Shas is pressing for the approval of a new law that would grant mortgage subsidies to young couples who buy their first home in peripheral parts of the country. The Ministerial Committee for Legislation will vote on the bill this morning and thus decide whether the government will back it. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz opposes the legislation. Eyal Gabai, the director general of the Prime Minister's Office, also said recently he objects to the it.

Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias (Shas ) has recommended the direct subsidy of mortgages to the tune of up to NIS 800 a month, for young couples who have bought their first home in an apartment building in areas of "national priority." The subsidies would be given for a total of 20 years - totaling NIS 140,000 - in the areas of highest priority, whereas families in secondary areas would receive NIS 475 a month for that period of time. The subsidies would last for as long as the couple lives in the same apartment, or moves to another in a national priority area that meets the criteria.

MK Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas ) introduced the bill in the Knesset, and another 28 MKs signed on as sponsors.

"Shas is determined to pass the legislation to provide subsidies to young couples in the periphery - even if the Ministerial Committee for Legislation objects," said Vaknin. "The proposed law is expected to win a majority in the Knesset plenum, even if the government and the members of the coalition oppose it," he told TheMarker.

In Shas, they are optimistic about the chances of the bill to pass the committee today, though it may be with only a one-vote majority. Ministers from Labor and Yisrael Beiteinu have expressed their support, while Likud ministers are split. A number say they favor the proposal, but are hesitant to come out against Steinitz - and may simply not attend the session today. If the ministers do approve the bill today, Steinitz is expected to appeal the decision before the full cabinet, and that vote would only take place in two weeks - after the 2011-2012 two-year budget is scheduled to be approved by the Knesset.

Regardless of whether the mortgage-subsidy bill is approved today, Shas plans on bringing it up for its preliminary reading in the Knesset on Wednesday, at which time the opposition is also expected to vote in favor.

The declared objectives of the proposed legislation are to "help young couples fulfill their dream of buying a home, encourage the influx of a strong and young population to the periphery, and to promote high-density construction in those areas."

Atias said the cost of the bill was minimal as it would be spread out over 20 years, and it would not be a burden on the state budget. He noted that this legislation constitutes only one step in helping young couples. Other measures could include increasing the amount of land available and marketed for housing.

The treasury refused Shas' demand to include the proposal in the Economic Arrangements Law for 2011-2012.