My hero, the housing crisis solution
Hebrew media review

My hero, the housing crisis solution

A Knesset panel readies to debate two plans to lower home prices, which means 17 zillion opinions on which idea is best

Illustrative photo of a Jerusalem construction site. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of a Jerusalem construction site. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

They say the worst part of house hunting is having to skin and clean the house after you shoot it. But affording the price of a domicile isn’t exactly child’s play either.

In to rescue the distressed damsel of the Israeli homebuyer galloped Good Sir Lapidalot earlier this week with a plan to offer some people (read: not the ultra-Orthodox) tax-free homes. But look, yonder on the horizon rides Knight Knetanyahu on his trusty steed Price Controls. Oh, who will rescue the home buyer first?

Yedioth paints the competition between two plans as a battle, and in some ways it is — specifically between Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. However, Haaretz and Israel Hayom shy away from artificial drama, instead giving the more accurate assessment of the two plans – one pushed by Lapid to give certain families tax-free apartments and another, pushed by the prime minister, to introduce price controls – as able to exist side by side.

In Yedioth, which illustrates its news with a cartoon of Lapid and Netanyahu running a race, followed by a man who appears to be Housing Minister Uri Ariel, the two main protagonists are battling it out in the public sphere to see who can solve the housing crisis first. The paper says it’s up in the air whether the housing committee will approve Lapid’s plan, which has been pilloried in the press and by Finance Ministry officials as giving benefits to only a few while forcing everybody else to pay even higher prices.

Yet the paper’s Sever Plotzker says that it is in fact the second plan, which would set maximum prices based on the median price in the neighborhood, which will cause the worse damage. “It starts with the desire of the state to set the correct price of an apartment based on statistics of sales and looking for a median home sold at a median price. [That dog won’t hunt,] ladies and gentlemen. There is no median price for hundreds of types of apartments in hundreds of locations, with different finishes and different qualities.”

Israel Hayom, injecting a bit of levity into the conversation, heralds in its headline that “This time, one way or another, prices will drop (it seems).” The paper takes it as a done deal that Lapid’s plan for tax-free homes will sail through the committee, and also predicts that a special team will examine the second plan, which would give land to builders who enact the price controls at a subsidized price, for approval as well.

Too many ideas to lower prices is a good problem to have, but still a problem, writes the paper’s Hezi Sternlicht, who wonders briefly whether people will be able to double dip and take advantage of both plans, at the state’s expense.

“Will a young family come to a builder who got the land at a subsidized price and also buy an apartment without paying taxes? For now the chances seem slim,” he writes.

Haaretz reports that neither plan is perfect, with Ariel joining the chorus against Lapid’s suggestion because of the constricting criteria, and contractors unhappy with Netanyahu’s idea, for constricting the market. Instead everybody has their own opinion on how to solve the crisis.

Real estate agent Shai Ezer is quoted calling for a wider package that “includes selling and developing a critical mass of land and dramatically cutting the bureaucracy in the sector.” Property assessor Ehud Hameiri proposes “that the government’s Israel Lands Authority tender land three to five years before it is ready for development,” and contractor Lee Avisror says the government should revert to a plan from the 1990s when it guaranteed to buy every home built.

Hit ’em where they sleep

Getting back to the Israeli media’s bread and butter, Israel Hayom reports that in the wake of the weekend shootout that left three dead in Jenin, Israel has upped its readiness in the West Bank. The paper reports on some low-level clashes Sunday, including one in Bethlehem in which two soldiers were injured.

Former general Zvika Fogel, writing as an analyst, calls for an iron-fisted approach to terror. “There is no other way to stop terror from occurring in our home than to go to where our enemies sleep and hit them there. That is how you carry out the type of battle called defense. Whoever doesn’t want a rocket next to their home or to be on a bus that is suicide-bombed by a Palestinian, you would be good to support and encourage those that spend long nights to keep these threats away.”

The massive Foreign Ministry strike, which shut down diplomatic work in Jerusalem and at 103 embassies worldwide, gets play in Yedioth. The paper details what is affected (everything) and runs a less than helpful Q and A on what Israeli travelers in need of diplomatic help should do.

“Q: What if I get caught up in something bad while abroad? A: Watch yourself. No consulate will save you, visit you in prison or help you bring back bodies of loved ones. For everything else – they will offer help in cases of life and death, like backpackers stuck in an avalanche.”

Well, that’s comforting.

Perhaps the only person less comforted that an Israeli in a Thai prison is Haaretz opinion writer Ari Shavit, a major proponent of Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, who is subject to pummeling by his boss Amos Schocken in today’s Haaretz. Schocken accuses Shavit, a respected centrist, of libeling the peace camp in a biting essay that would put a rottweiler to shame:

“The additional demands that Shavit supports – that the Palestinians give up their history, including the history that took place within the Green Line before the state was founded; and that they ignore the one-fifth of Israeli citizens who are Palestinians — are aimed at thwarting the chance for peace. Will he accept a Palestinian recognition of a Jewish nation-state that is built on the ruins of 400 Palestinian villages and hundreds of thousands of refugees, who have since become millions, and where 20 percent of the citizenry are Palestinians, who are just as nationalist as he is? Those who present themselves as supporters of the two-state solution, but who insist on demanding recognition of a nation-state, are acting to perpetuate the occupation and settlement.”

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