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Controversy Arises over Plan to Import Houses for Immigrants

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A controversy has developed over a proposal to import’ prefabricated houses, an idea that seeks to solve the problem of the growing gap between supply and demand for housing.

Newly appointed Housing Minister Ariel Sharon reportedly has considered the proposal seriously, in order to overcome the immediate need for housing, which is at an all-time high because of the large numbers of arriving Soviet Jews, as well as other immigrants.

One of the serious obstacles to a resolution to the problem has come from the Histadrut labor federation, which seeks to decrease the number of unemployed persons in Israel.

Chaim Haberfeld, head of the trade unions division of Histadrut, threatened that “blood would be spilled” if houses were imported.

This puts the government in somewhat of a Catch-22 situation.

The government has already decided to build some 45,000 apartments and has allocated a budget deemed necessary for this.

But although more and more funds have been directed toward the building industry, construction has so far largely failed to get started, primarily due to bureaucratic obstacles.

Since the beginning of the year, the government has begun construction of only 7,500 apartments, and the shortage already has caused a considerable increase in housing costs.

Yediot Achronot reported Wednesday that the local construction industry can only manufacture between 1,200 and 3,000 prefabricated houses, a far cry from present needs.

Instead of waiting for the slow process to take its course, Sharon reportedly decided to import houses as a quick solution to the long-term problem.

Sharon reportedly had suggested immediately importing of tens of thousands of houses, probably from South Africa.

The cost of each such housing unit is estimated at between $17,000 and $25,000, to which one would have to add some $10,000 for infrastructure.

According to Yediot Achronot, the Housing Ministry wants to place the houses mostly in the Galilee and Negev.

There is no mention of plans to direct them to the West Bank.

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