Housing Crisis Report: The People Are Paying the Price

If the ministers had to cope with similar problems, they would probably be doing more and talking less. But their families are all taken care of.

Or Kashti
Or Kashti
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Demonstrators gather for the 'March of the Million' social protest in Kikar Hamedina, Tel Aviv, Sept. 4, 2011.
Demonstrators gather for the 'March of the Million' social protest in Kikar Hamedina, Tel Aviv, Sept. 4, 2011.
Or Kashti
Or Kashti

A series of failures by Israeli governments that failed to rein in the housing crisis has forced some 1 million people into an impossible situation: Should they use their embarrassingly low salary to cover the rent, or should they use a tiny bit of it to pay for luxuries like food, medicine and education?

Perhaps if the ministers and senior officials responsible for the failure had to cope with similar questions, they would be doing more and talking less. But they and their families are all taken care of.

The state comptroller’s report released yesterday reveals that the social contract between the public and its elected officials — which includes responsibility for shelter — has been violated. That’s what detachment looks like.

The general data — home prices up 55 percent and rent up 30 percent — are liable to mislead. Everyone is suffering, but some are suffering more. The comptroller rightly notes that the rise in the amount spent of housing as a proportion of all expenses is particularly evident in the six lowest deciles; that’s 470,000 families, who constitute the clear majority of renting households.

In the three lowest deciles, rent constitutes between 30 percent and 45 percent of all expenses. Such statistics “are evidence of the possible harm to the ability of households to finance basic needs,” the report says.

The comptroller devotes space to the government’s failure, from Netanyahu on down, to follow up on its own decisions.

“The government secretariat carried out no systematic monitoring of the implementation of cabinet decisions made during the years 2005-2012 that relate to government housing policy, and many decisions were either not implemented or their implementation was long delayed,” the comptroller writes. “The government and its ministries set policy in terms that were not uniform and inadequately defined the objectives of the policy and ways to implement it. The coordination mechanism between the different ministries and the supervision of achieving policy objectives were faulty and did not make it possible to ascertain if all the vital elements for setting out the policy were defined or were coordinated with one another.”

Three weeks ago, the Prime Minister’s Office chose not to respond to a series of questions for a Haaretz article on this issue, including whether and how cabinet decisions are followed up, and what percentage of cabinet resolutions are implemented and when. But Harel Locker, who served a stint as director general of the Prime Minister’s Office, was more open with the comptroller, saying: “Monitoring the implementation of cabinet decisions is of a ‘reporting’ nature, but nothing beyond that. No entity has been given the authority to enforce the implementation of government decisions that aren’t carried out.”

One can hope that the comptroller’s comments will be implemented, but it’s hard to believe the change will come from the politicians themselves unless they are subject to public pressure.

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