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Additional proof of the recovery of the real estate market came yesterday when the Ministry of Housing and Construction announced that new housing starts in 2005 were up about 4 percent compared with the previous year, which totaled nearly 30,000 compared with 28,745 in 2004.

Another sign of growth is the sharp increase in the marketing of building lots in 2005.

Since it takes a considerable period of time between the purchase of a plot and the start of construction, these marketing campaigns are likely to signal even greater growth in 2006.

However, industry experts point out that while the prices of homes and lots have increased sharply in desirable areas, the real estate market in the periphery is still slumbering.

One sign of this is the drop in the number of new housing starts in the public sector in 2005.

Most public housing projects are in peripheral areas, while most private construction takes place in high-demand areas.

According to statistics released by the Housing Ministry, in 2005 construction began on 4,321 housing units in the public sector, compared with 5,138 new housing starts in 2004, a decline of 16 percent.