A supertanker without any water
A panel tasked with fast-tracking plans under the new 'supertanker' law has already disbanded for lack of money and manpower. They are not alone.
While the Prime Minister's Office tweaks its plan to speed up residential construction, nicknamed the supertanker, the concept has already crash-landed in Haifa.
At the end of last week the bill, "Processes of Planning and Building to Accelerate Housing Construction" was changed to include fast-track regulatory procedures for developing privately owned land, and not just state land - a victory for private developers.
The government has also given up its effort to have the law supersede national master plans. But the present draft retains dominance over regional master plans.
But while the Prime Minister's Office is pushing to jump-start the supertanker, its engine is stuttering.
The "supertanker" subcommittee of the Haifa Regional Planning and Building Committee has suspended work after just four meetings because it has neither the manpower nor budget to do the extra work.
One aim of the plan is to lower housing prices by relieving supply-side constraints. However, until the government budgets money, it won't happen.
A week ago the Haifa Regional chief planner, Liat Peled, wrote to the acting Planning Administration director at the Interior Ministry, explaining the problem: The planning officials already have enough work on their plates.
Yosef Mishlev, the regional head, ordered further meetings canceled until the Interior Ministry extends explicit confirmation that the meetings should be held - and provides the budget for them, Peled wrote.
Nobody to check the plans, no secretary
Housing Minister Ariel Atias is tasked with compiling a list of plans for accelerated construction. The plans would then be handled by special subcommittees comprised of Interior Ministry land planning officials, at the regional level.
Atias compiled a list encompassing dozens of cities, to fast-track the construction of at least 113,200 units. The sites in question include Yavneh (6,000 apartments in its east ); Galil Yam and the Israel Military Industries site in Herzliya, 4,365 apartments; the Afek and Rakefet neighborhoods in Kiryat Bialik, 4,640 apartments; and eastern Rishon Letzion (3,704 apartments ).
Members of the regional planning committees were tapped to serve on the subcommittees.
The subcommittees received all the powers of the regional committees and began to meet once a week, but Haifa's ran aground four weeks later.
During those four meetings, the subcommittee discussed plans to fast-track building 2,150 apartments in Hahotrim in Tirat Carmel; 4,000 apartments in Afek in Kiryat Bialik; 1,000 apartments in Bat Galim in Haifa; 803 apartments east of Fureidis; and 192 apartments in Nesher.
But the manpower and budget needs of the supertanker subcommittee were never addressed. TheMarker has obtained the minutes of the subcommittee's first meeting, which state, "The region has started operating the subcommittee even though the necessary resources for it have not been provided. The subcommittee notes a lack of manpower to inspect and supervise the plans, and the absence of a subcommittee secretary for the purpose of scheduling its meetings. A similar request was made by representatives on the subcommittee of the Israel Lands Administration and by the members of the Housing and Construction Ministry. The subcommittee will have difficulty operating over time unless these demands are met."
This is not the first complaint about inaction by the government, specifically by the Interior Ministry. The Interior Ministry says the blame lies with the Finance Ministry.
The Interior Ministry says they quickly appointed members for the subcommittees, but the Finance Ministry didn't provide the requisite budgets.
The Interior Ministry charges that the Prime Minister's Office and finance minister are aware the regional committees don't have the manpower to proceed, but still have not done a thing to resolve the problem.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai has named a committee headed by economist Amir Barnea to streamline bureaucratic processes for the supertanker subcommittees. That committee is supposed to estimate the needed expert manpower for the fast-tracked projects to proceed. But it has yet to convene.
In fact there are a number of unfilled top building-related jobs in the Interior Ministry. The Planning Administration at the ministry has been without a director since October 2010. That is the top planning position, responsible for pushing building plans at the national and regional levels.
In recent days the steering committee in charge of finding a suitable candidate nominated Binat Schwarz-Milner.
Haifa regional planning had been headed by Adam Kolman, who was replaced by Liat Peled; her deputy position remains empty.
In central Israel, with the highest density of building in the country, no top regional planner for it specifically has been named.
At the start of the year Jerusalem regional planner Ruth Yosef was appointed as head of regional planning for the central region as well, while also chairing the Jerusalem and central regional planning committee at the Interior Ministry.
"What's happening in the central and Jerusalem region is absurd," says a member of the central regional planning committee. "Ruth Yosef zigzags between two different districts, two days here, two days there. It's impossible to work like this, especially since the two districts are so different."
The regional planning committees convene every two weeks, explains Yael Dori of the Israel Union of Environmental Defense (Adam, Teva V'Din ).
"The Tel Aviv regional committee meets once a month," Dori said. "These committees need to meet more often, and if they're undertaking a major reform, they need budgets. We noticed that the barriers committee headed by the director general of the prime minister's office, Eyal Gabay, managed to release hundreds of housing units [for development] in the center and north after talking with the relevant bodies holding up the planning. That's how things should be done, not just settle for slogans that can't be fulfilled."
The Prime Minister's Office responded that "The Finance and Interior Ministries are in the final stages of fromulating an agreement on resources. If the sides do not reach an agreement, a meeting has been set for Wednesday with the director general of the Prime Minister's Office, where the matter will be decided."