A new report by far-left group Peace Now indicates that housing starts in Yehudah and Shomron were down significantly in 2015 – some 40 percent less than a year earlier. According to the report, there were 3,100 housing starts in the region in 2014, compared to 1,800 in 2015.
During 2015, 1,547 new structures were completed in Yehudah and Shomron, the report shows. Among them were 63 public buildings (kindergartens, shuls, etc.). According to the report, many of the structures built last year were in “isolated settlements,” outside the areas of the settlement blocs that Israel has said it intends to keep in the event of a final-status agreement with the Palestinian Authority.
The number of housing starts is important for future population growth. On average, it takes about two years for a home to be built in Israel after a housing start is granted. The housing starts were approved in three main areas – El-Matan, Sansana and Shvut Rachel. El-Matan is located between Karnei Shomron and Maaleh Shomron in central Shomron, within the security fence; Sansana is located on the western edge of Gush Etzion; and Shvut Rachel is located near Shiloh, in the Binyamin region. All three are being raised from the status of “outpost” to proper town.
In comments accompanying the report, Peace Now slammed the housing starts and construction – even given the significant fall in numbers. “The message to settlers is ‘build to your heart’s content, even if it is done illegally,'” Yariv Oppenheimer of Peace Now told Israel Radio. “The government claims that any approval of construction is minor, but by approving illegal outposts the government has opened up construction as a free-for-all, where everyone can do as they please.”
Yesha Council Chairman Shilo Adler said that, while “exaggerated” in their negative outlook, the report “shows clearly that there is a building freeze in Yehudah and Shomron, with residents there discriminated against as compared to the rest of the population.”