The Central Bureau of Statistics reports that the number of empty apartments in Israel rose from 97,404 in 2000 to 140,300 in 2009. Occupation of even some of these apartments would greatly boost the housing supply and dramatically narrow the demand/supply gap.
The figure puts a new twist on endless wrangling between the authorities over rising home prices and ways to counter it. Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fischer, Minister of Finance Yuval Steinitz, and Minister of Housing and Construction Ariel Atias are again meeting today to discuss the issue.
They will discuss barriers in the Israeli housing market and the shortage of land for new construction.
An empty apartment is defined as an apartment that is not permanently occupied for any reason, for example because it has been purchased by a foreign resident, has been transferred to heirs and is subject to an ownership dispute, is a holiday apartments, or has been sealed or abandoned, or is in ruins.
The government is now working on a plan to tax owners of empty apartments, in order to render it not worthwhile to keep them in that condition. It remains to be seen if this will bring homes onto the market and lower prices.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on December 23, 2010
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