Finance Ministry to Take Control of Building Planning Committee from Interior Ministry

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon won the backing of the Housing Cabinet on Monday, June 8, for the first two components of his plan to increase available housing and reduce prices, but only after being subjected to fierce criticism by MKs, urban planners, and protesters outside the meeting. On Monday the Housing Cabinet unanimously approved Kahlon’s plan to consolidate all housing-related government bodies, a step the Finance Minister cited as being “crucial to reforming the housing market.” Under his plan, the Finance Ministry will take control of the Building Planning Committee from the Interior Ministry, and establish a housing headquarters and development council within the Finance Ministry.

Demonstrators protest against the finance minister's proposed reforms, June 8, 2015. The main banner reads, "No to Kahlon's planning monopoly!"

Demonstrators protest against the finance minister’s proposed reforms, June 8, 2015. The main banner reads, “No to Kahlon’s planning monopoly!” (Photo: Green Course)

Meanwhile, outside the ministry, demonstrators representing environmental organizations protested Kahlon’s plan and the proposed project to develop some 1,400 homes in the Mitzpeh Niftoah area outside Jerusalem, as well as the focus of his plan which establishes a fast-track building program on open land rather than inside cities. Hadash MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) said Kahlon was gutting the regulatory process in favor of a creating a rubber stamp which favors the interests of capitalists. “The independence of various planning committees will disappear and will be replaced by a centralized and dictatorial planning system,” said Khenin.

Environmental groups were also displeased. “Concentrating authority in the Finance Ministry and weakening the regional planning councils marks a dangerous trend that will speed up irresponsible construction,” said environmental group Green Course activist Mor Gilboa at the protest, expressing fears that more open and green spaces will be lost to building. Under Kahlon, the new housing cabinet excludes the Ministry of Environmental Protection.