Netanyahu: I Have Been Aware of Israel's Housing Crisis for Years

Prime Minister tells cabinet meeting he is working to fix 'distorted reality' with goal of providing affordable housing for students, young couples.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a cabinet meeting Sunday that he identified with demonstrators protesting high housing prices, and he had been aware of the problem for years.

"We are witnessing a housing crisis that has taken shape in the public sphere," the prime minister said in the meeting.

Demonstrators face off against police following a mass protest in Tel Aviv over spiraling housing prices in Israel, July 23, 2011.Credit: Oren Ziv

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"Even before I became prime minister," Netanyahu said, "I asked the 100-day team [a committee focused on economic transition] headed by [Finance Minister] Yuval Steinitz to create a plan for the housing problem.

He claimed that the government has a monopoly over 90% of Israel's land, and it has not relinquished its stronghold on property because of "complex planning processes."

"When an apartment is already planned, the Israel Land Administration makes it available bit-by-bit at astronomical prices," Netanyahu lamented.

He then called for an end to the government monopoly on Israeli properties, saying he will tend to the issue this week.

"These are the true answers," the prime minister said.

Netanyahu said in the meeting that steps had already been taken to cancel the "absurd prohibition barring building in the country's center," adding that they have awarded 100,000 NIS to the periphery.

"This week, we will pass reforms both in the national housing committee as well as the Israel Land Administration, and then the Supertanker can take flight," the prime minister said.

He continued, saying that the government will then take targeted steps to help students and young couples for one to two years.

"Our goal is that a young couple in Israel will be able afford an apartment," Netanyahu said, "there are some who go against what I am saying, but this is the way to fix a distorted reality. The solutions will provide assistance to all of the housing problems."

Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched on Saturday night as part of a large-scale protest movement against the housing shortage and high rent prices in Israel.

The protest was an extension of the "tent cities" which have sprouted up across the country as part of an organized effort led by a cross-section of Israeli society - including the middle class, young people, students, Holocaust survivors, and the elderly.

Israel Police arrested dozens of protesters who were blocking central Tel Aviv streets in wake of the mass rally.

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