Government Looking to Increase Housing Starts Through New Expedited Approval Panel

New approval process may shorten wait for new housing by up to several years.

The inner cabinet on housing issues will be asked to approve a plan on Monday for the establishment of a new board empowered to expedite approval of new housing. The plan is an effort to implement many of the recommendations by a team (the so-called 90-Day Team) that developed proposals for expanding housing stocks.

The plan, a draft of which was obtained by TheMarker, is part of a government effort to boost the pace of housing starts, in an effort to increase supply and bring down the cost of buying a home.

The new entity would have the authority to shorten the approval process for the construction of some housing units, so it would take no more than five months from the time plans are submitted until the approval of plans is issued. By contrast, the current construction approval process can take from two to four years, depending upon the extent to which objections or appeals are filed.

The new board would be authorized to provide the expedited process only with respect to plots of land that the housing inner cabinet declares priority housing sites, and would require that the sites fulfill two primary conditions. They will have to provide space for at least 500 housing units; and at least 80% of each site will have to be state-owned land.

The expedited procedure will also require that the new board make a decision within 21 days as to whether the proposal merits being filed for public comment and for the submission of possible objections.

If the plans are given the nod, members of the public will have 60 days to object and a subcommittee of the board will then have to rule on the objections within an additional 60 days. The full board, which would be comprised of 14 members - including nine government members and three from local government - would then be required to make an immediate ruling on whether the plans are to be approved, amended or rejected. One seat on the board, to be appointed by the interior minister, would be reserved for a delegate from a social justice organization.

But the Environmental Protection Ministry is expected to oppose the plan, and an umbrella organization of professional planning groups called the Israeli Planning Forum will submit an expert opinion contesting the government stance that there is a shortage of 150,000 housing units. The real problem, the opinion says, is from government impediments to freeing up existing plans for housing in areas of demand. The Finance Ministry, however, says the plan addresses an emergency situation involving the housing market. 

Moti Milrod