Data on New Homes Hard to Find, Report Says

Construction work on new homes outside Afula. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

How many new homes are being built in Israel? No one seems to know – and the last agency that claimed to, the Bank of Israel, has announced that it will no longer release monthly figures on building starts, Globes reported, because it is unable to get accurate information. The Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) stopped providing that information in July of 2016, and several months later stopped compiling data on housing prices.

As of now, there is no government agency to keep track of housing starts, which are a key component of the construction consumer index, which builders use to keep track of increases in housing prices that home buyers pay if they split their payments into several parts, as is common in Israel. The Bank said that it would from now on only publish quarterly statistics on housing starts.

The problem seems to lie in the Housing Ministry, which the CBS accused of supplying inaccurate information about building starts and home sales. The CBS has been criticized for understating the number of homes sold and the increase in the cost of housing, with many accusing it of lowballing the figures in order to support government contentions that the cost of housing was going down. The CBS said that it had been relying on data from the Ministry, and if that data was incorrect, it would no longer use it – and without accurate data, it could not publish information about housing costs or starts.

The Bank did not give a reason for its change of policy, but sources said that it, too, had experienced frustration with criticism about how the statistics were being compiled. As housing start data is an important component in the setting of policy on imports, labor and finance, it is not clear how the private sector will respond to the lack of official information, the sources said.