Planning Officials: Construction of 270,000 Homes Delayed in Israel's Center

Interior Ministry officials reveal figures in heated debate held over an updated national master plan.

Some 270,000 new apartments have been cleared for construction on land in the center of the country, but these homes aren’t being built, said Interior Ministry officials during a heated debate that erupted during a special meeting called to discuss the national master plan.

The meeting, called by incoming ministry director general Dr. Shuki Amrani, was intended to update NMP 35.

During the discussion, the local planning board chiefs got into an argument with the national planning chief, Binat Schwartz. Ruth Yosef, who is in charge of planning for the central region, and Gila Oron, who is in charge of planning for Tel Aviv, denounced programs to plan tens of thousands more homes for central region.

There are already hundreds of thousands of apartments slated for construction under their jurisdiction, but building is being delayed due to several reasons that have nothing to do with planning, they said.

Amrani, who has been on the job for only two weeks, called for the discussion in advance of a January meeting of the national planning board to approve updates to NMP 35. Amrani chairs the national planning panel.

The revised NMP 35 also has drawn opposition from environmental organizations and municipal governments, which had representatives at the meeting. But they had little work to do, given the strong onslaught from planning authorities themselves.

Yosef argued that the revision being advanced by Schwartz ignores the fact that Yosef’s jurisdiction already has land slated to build another 120,000 homes, plus a similar number of homes in the various planning stages. Progress on all these homes is stuck due to issues involving transportation and sewage, issues that fall outside Yosef’s authority.

“I don’t need another 90,000 housing units,” said Yosef. “I can get another quarter-million homes built under the current master plan,” she said.

She stated that the country needs to work on getting citizens to move beyond the central region, and emphasized that this needs to be done by creating jobs in the periphery.

“Every construction plan I approve for the center of the country harms national interests,” she said.

Schwartz also drew fire from Oron, who is in charge of planning for Tel Aviv. Oron also noted that Tel Aviv has tens of thousands of homes already slated for construction, even before any updates are made to the national master plan.

Oron’s data indicates that some 21,000 units were slated for construction in Tel Aviv alone over the past three years, while another 15,000 units are in various planning stages.

Schwartz returned fire, stating that only via national planning committees could building starts be boosted significantly. She stated that the revised master plan had been drafted based on aerial photographs showing current construction density.

Daniel Bar-On