Cabinet approves significant housing legislation
By MICHAL SHMULOVICH, Times of Israel
Own an apartment in Israel but don’t live in it most of the year? Get ready to pay double in property taxes. The cabinet on Sunday adopted a series of recommendations on housing put forward by the Trajtenberg Committee, aiming to fix tax loopholes, reduce costs and add more housing units to a country that has seen home prices balloon in recent years.
This is the fourth section of the Trajtenberg report to be adopted by the cabinet. According to a government statement, approval of the main recommendations of the section is expected to lead to a significant increase in the number of residential apartments available throughout the country.
One of the recommendations adopted is aimed at people who own “ghost apartments” — apartments that are not lived in by their owners. Units that stand empty for over six months a year will be charged double the property tax. The government statement said the move is likely to release over 15,000 apartments into the housing market, presumably by encouraging those owners to sell or rent their apartments.
The plan also calls on the state to market 187,000 new housing units over the next five years, 60% of them in high demand areas.
The government will also allocate NIS 800 million over the next five years to increase aid for public housing. The maximum rental assistance for those eligible for public housing will rise from NIS 1,750 per month to NIS 3,000.
Professor Manuel Trajtenberg, who heads the committee, said the recommendations will help thousands of young couples buy apartments.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat welcomed the move to add more units to the housing market, saying the cabinet was following in the footsteps of the Jerusalem Municipality, which already increased municipal taxes on ghost apartments a few months ago, but added, “There is still a long way to go.”
The Trajtenberg Committee was established last August after mass social protests took place across the country.