"I believe that, toward late 2014, home prices will fall. We know how to count how many housing units will be marketed in 2013, and it will be slightly more than last year. But in late 2014, many more apartments will be built. There won't be a great drop, but the trend is the important thing, and there will be a downward trend from 2015," said Minister of Housing and Construction Uri Ariel at an urban renewal conference in Tel Aviv today.
Commenting on vacate-and-build projects, Ariel said, "We believe in vacate-and-build. This is one of the best solutions for the housing shortage, and it’s the best of all the available alternatives. It is better than building on open spaces, which would be a shame. Urban renewal is better for the economy and better for the individual. Building reinforcement and protection are also important in these times. That is our responsibility and we're moving forward, but it's impossible to ignore other problems of planning commissions, which belong to the Ministry of the Interior, and taxes, which are the responsibility of the Ministry of Finance.
"I think that the current situation has improved compared with the past. Ministries are cooperating and everyone knows that the objective is to lower prices. In addition, we're planning to make information more accessible to the public. We'll establish a website accessible to the general public which will contain information about all the markets in Israel. Where are we marketing? In which city? In which Urban Building Plan? In the current situation, everyone is confused. I want to reach a situation in which every person can see what's happening. Transparency is part of the democratic experience, and within four months, such a website will be online."
Commenting on contractors' claims about serious skilled labor shortages at construction sites, Ariel revealed that a decision had been taken to bring construction workers from China, but that it had been delayed. "We are aware of the shortage of foreign construction workers. We're working on this. Contractors want Chinese workers because they do the best work. We've begun the process with the countries to bring more foreign construction workers from China. We've sent a finished proposal for signature, but there has been no answer from the other side. We've spoken with our ambassador there, but there has been no progress yet. We're asking to bring 15,000 foreign workers from China. At the same time, we've increased the number of permits for Palestinian workers and, if necessary, we'll approve more."
Israel Builders Association president Nissim Bublil said in response, "We've heard the promises of lower prices many times before. There's a great shortage of housing units, and it's necessary to see exactly where we can build tens of thousands of more units. I have not yet seen any such specific plan."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on November 7, 2013
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