MKs Blast Finance Ministry for Reneging on Housing Grants

YERUSHALAYIM -

Members of Knesset railed against the Finance Ministry on Wednesday for reneging on a government promise to provide grants in the proposed budget for housing in the periphery, The Jerusalem Post reported.

In a meeting of the Knesset Control Committee, both coalition and opposition MKs slammed the Finance Ministry for revoking the grants of up to 100,000 shekels to people buying homes outside the center of the country, .

Finance Ministry representative Ariel Yotzer defended the decision, explaining that the incentives are not working to encourage people to move to the periphery.

“Grants can have a negative effect on the housing market and lead to price increases,” Yotzer said. “If our goal is to encourage people to move to the periphery, we have to check how much new construction there was in those areas.”

According to Yotzer, new construction in those areas is down, and that those who already planned to move to the periphery received the grants.

But the MKs were not mollified.

MK Orly Levy-Abecasis (Yisrael Beiteinu) said her party will not vote to approve the budget if the grant is not reinstated.

“The Finance Ministry contradicts itself. If it wants to cancel the grant because it isn’t used, then where are the savings? If it wants to save an expense, then that proves the grant led people to buy homes in the periphery,” she said.

Knesset Control Committee Chairman Amnon Cohen (Shas) warned that lawsuits by citizens who were promised the grants and did not receive them will cost the government much more.

“The purpose of the plan is to encourage people to move to the periphery in order to strengthen our economy and society and lower housing prices,” Cohen said, and alleged that the Finance Ministry never cared for the idea of housing grants, and saw the new government as an opportunity to cancel them.

Cohen called for MKs to “form a united front, without coalition or opposition” to ensure that the grants are not canceled.

MK Yisrael Eichler (UTJ) disputed Yotzer’s figures, asserting that the grants led to a 71% increase in construction in the periphery, and that their cancellation would harm chareidim and young non-chareidi couples desperate for affordable housing.

“There seems to be a trend of harming chareidim — cutting daycare subsidies, free dental care and housing grants — even if the rest of the population is harmed on the way,” MK Orit Struck (Jewish Home) said.