The national building committees law, or, by its official name, the Planning and Construction Process to Expedite Residential Construction Law is a new means of fast-tracking construction plans, which bypasses the existing planning and building councils.

According to the law, which was passed as temporary legislation for a period of 18 months, every district will have a special committee authorized to discuss residential construction plans involving at least 200 units. A similar committee will operate at the national level.

Each such committee will have nine members, seven of whom will be representatives of government ministries and only two of which will be representatives of public bodies.

Only government bodies, such as ministries or local government, will be authorized to submit plans to the committee for approval. These plans will have to involve an area at least 80 percent of which is state-owned property. That is supposed to make it easier to approve the plans without having to negotiate with private land owners or give compensation. However, if it is decided to advance plans for construction on agricultural land, the state will have to compensate the farmers.

The winner of a tender approved by such a committee will have to build at least 20 percent of the infrastructure for it within two and a half years from the day it was approved.

According to the new system, construction plans will move through channels very quickly. For example, the district planner will have to examine them within two weeks and experts consulted about them, such as specialists in transportation, waste and noise, will have to submit their opinion within three weeks. Six weeks after a plan is submitted, the national housing committee will have to decide whether to open it for public scrutiny (a final stage before approval ).

If the committee does not meet the timetable, a representative of the Prime Minister's Office can intervene in the process and lead the discussion on approval of the plan, which will mean, for the first time, that the Prime Minister's Office is taking over planning powers that until now had been in the purview of the Interior Ministry.

The powers of the new committees are broad because they will trump local or district master plans. Broad planning powers might, in principle, mean that areas so far not slated for construction, including some that are important for recreation and leisure-time activities such as parks or forests, could be built on.

Notably, according to Interior Ministry statistics, there already is a sufficient reservoir of land approved for construction according to the various master plans.

A number of changes were inserted in the law just before it was passed that were intended to address criticism by environmental and social rights groups. Among these changes is a statement that one of the law's purposes is to earmark land for rental housing. Another is that plans submitted will also include small apartments so as to allow for a wider variety of purchasers.

Yet another last-minute clause was that a representative of the Environmental Protection Ministry will also sit on the committee.