Israel's Netanyahu announces reforms in bid to end housing crisis

Israel's Netanyahu announces reforms in bid to end housing crisis

Attempting to appease growing public anger at rising housing costs, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outlined Tuesday a new plan aimed at adding 50,000 apartments to the market within two years, dpa reported.

But protestors living in street tent encampments for almost two weeks said the steps, articulated by Netanyahu at a Jerusalem news conference, provided only a partial solution to their problems and that their protests would continue.

Netanyahu vowed to remove bureaucratic barriers to the sale of land and planning for construction. The state would also initiate the construction of apartments for long-term rentals at reduced costs and would build 10,000 dormitory units for university and college students, he said.

He blamed bureaucracy for the shortage of available housing in Israel, adding that there is "a real housing crisis."

"The main way to lower the prices of apartments in the long term," he said, "is to build a lot more apartments."

"Young people are living with their parents, and soon they will be living with their grandparents," he said.

Demonstrators at the tent encampments around the country, who watched the news conference on television, were unimpressed.

Some accused Netanyahu of trying to drive a wedge between the students and the other protestors, and one Israeli Student Union activist was quoted in the Israeli media as saying that while the plan for more dormitory rooms was "a nice solution", it did little to "solve the problem that got us here."

Other activists vowed to continue the protests until affordable housing was available to all.

Thousands of Israelis have over the past 12 days set up tent camps in at least 15 towns and cities throughout Israel, to protest at housing prices, which have risen by more than 60 per cent over the past four years.

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