Expected incoming housing minister: I don’t know if there is a housing crisis

‘From what I see, there is construction all around,’ United Torah Judaism leader Yitzhak Goldknopf says, with annual rise in home prices at highest level in recent memory

United Torah Judaism leader Yitzchak Goldknopf at a conference in Tel Aviv, December 7, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
United Torah Judaism leader Yitzchak Goldknopf at a conference in Tel Aviv, December 7, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

United Torah Judaism chief MK Yitzchak Goldknopf, the presumed construction and housing minister in the next government, suggested Wednesday that he does not see any housing crisis in the country.

“People are always talking to me about a housing crisis — I don’t know much about the Housing Ministry until now, so I don’t know if there really is a crisis,” Goldknopf said at a conference organized by the Walla news site.

He added: “From what I see, there is construction all around.”

Figures by the Central Bureau of Statistics released last month showed housing prices have risen by nearly 20 percent over the past year, the largest year-on-year increase in recent memory.

The spike in house prices has driven the rise in the overall cost of living, with the latest inflation data showing prices up 5.1% from the year before, while salaries are only up 4%.

The continued rise in inflation and housing prices — which have been climbing steadily since the second half of 2018 — are likely to be met with further interest raise hikes by the Bank of Israel to prevent the economy from overheating. In turn, this will raise mortgage rates even more, and make it increasingly difficult for would-be-buyers to come up with a higher down payment and find loans that match the rising prices.

New apartment buildings under construction in the southern city of Beersheva on November 18, 2022. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Asked about the sharp rise in housing costs, Goldknopf pledged to ramp up construction.

“We will double, triple, quadruple… We’ll get to everything,” the ultra-Orthodox party leader said. “I think that within a few years we can bring good news to everyone.”

He added that he hoped over 100,000 new apartment units can be marketed each year when he becomes housing minister.

“I’d be happy if it’s more, because we need more,” Goldknopf said.

He also addressed the interim coalition deal that UTJ signed Tuesday with presumed incoming premier Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.

“We have still not reached agreements on many things… One of the cardinal things that we still haven’t finalized is the Housing Ministry’s budget, the addition of positions at the ministry,” he said.

United Torah Judaism MKs Moshe Gafni (left) and Yitzhak Goldknopf (right) sign an interim coalition deal with Likud negotiator Yariv Levin on December 6, 2022. (Courtesy)

Along with the Construction and Housing Ministry, UTJ will receive the chairmanship of the powerful Knesset Finance Committee in its deal with Likud, as well as the Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Ministry, several deputy minister positions and a handful of other Knesset committees.

The agreement was signed as Netanyahu faces a December 11 deadline to form a government, though he is expected to request a two-week extension from President Isaac Herzog.

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