Netanyahu - Daniel Bar-On
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo by Daniel Bar-On
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented Tuesday his plan meant to solve Israel's housing crisis, saying that Israel will provide affordable housing for students, young couples, and newly discharged soldiers.

"The housing crisis in Israel is a real problem," Netanyahu said during a special press conference to discuss his housing plan. He said that the reason for high property prices is the shortage of housing units, which cannot be built due to bureaucracy.

"The Israel Lands Administration, a government monopoly, controls over 90% of Israel's lands," Netanyahu said. He further promised that the government's goal is to implement "fundamental changes in this structure, and to develop the market for those people hoping for affordable housing."

Netanyahu said the government will decrease the rates of public transportation within and between cities for students, and that new dormitories for students will be built.

The plan, prepared by Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz calls for lowering the cost of land controlled by Israel Lands Administration by tens of percentage points and expediting permit processes, with the goal of spurring the rapid construction of more than 10,000 two-bedroom and three-bedroom housing units, mainly, but not only, in the center of the country.

The housing units that will be built will be geared for young couples, large families, army veterans, students and families buying their first home.

Half of the proposed 10,000 housing units to be constructed would be for sale, and half would be for long-term rental. The rent would be controlled by the state or the local authority.

Discussions over the plan continued into the night Sunday, and changes were made until the last minute because of pressure from various interested parties.

Housing protesters have recently been stepping up their campaigns across Israel. On Sunday, protesters blocked traffic on main roads in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Be'er Sheva, and Jerusalem protesters gathered in front of Netanyahu's residence, calling for a solution to the housing crisis.

Speaking on Sunday at the graduation ceremony of the National Security College on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said that "people are today making a good living in Israel, but by the end of the month they have nothing left. Why? The main reason is that things cost more in Israel."

"Why does yogurt in Israel cost more? In a place where there is no competition, prices are high. The highest prices are not on yogurt, or cheese, but in housing and that is where the government-held cartel needs to be cracked. We have a very small country, but we have made it even smaller because we have a multi-year government monopoly which makes our planning processes the slowest in the world," Netanyahu explained.

Opposition MKs are calling for legislation that will establish construction subcommittees that will manage evacuation-construction projects in the high demand areas of the three largest cities. The committees will expedite the process, which is usually time consuming.