Lapid Promises to Build 150,000 Rental Apartments

Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid launches plan to build more long-term rental units, but former social protest leader MK Stav Shaffir says the real key is to monitor rental prices.

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The ministerial committee for housing has unanimously approved the establishment of the national housing department in the Finance Ministry and the formation of a nationwide housing plan – including a promise by Finance Minister Yair Lapid to build 150,000 new rental apartments across the country.

Lapid said at the beginning of the session of the committee's first meeting Wednesday that the "lowering of housing costs is one of the government's major tests," and promised to meet the challenge.

"We have an emergency situation in housing, which is threatening an entire generation of young people who are afraid that they'll never own a home," Lapid said. "All those sitting in this room are committed to solving the issue and achieving its goals."

He said that the goal of the committee is to remove bureaucratic obstacles and to increase inter-ministerial coordination in order to ensure an increase in the rate of building starts in Israel. Lapid added that there will also be a nationwide housing project for constructing 150,000 long-term rental units, and said that the units will be built over a period of about 10 years. Lapid emphasized that one-quarter of the residential units in the project will be designated for those working in preferred professions – such as teachers, policemen, nurses – and for public housing.

"The government's program looks good on paper, but when it's implemented we'll discover that there's nothing new or revolutionary about it," said MK Stav Shaffir (Labor) in response to the decision of the housing cabinet. Shaffir was a leader of the 2011 social justice protests, which focused in part on the lack of affordable housing for young people.

"It won't succeed in lowering housing costs significantly over the long term because it lacks the most important component: monitoring of the rental prices. The plan can succeed only if it includes rules to guarantee an affordable rent, based on criteria that reflect the average salaries in the country."

Apartment buildings in Tel Aviv.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
File photo: A housing fair in Shoham, Israel.Credit: TheMarker