Government Ok’s Sharon’s Request to Import Prefabricated Homes

The government has granted Housing Minister Ariel Sharon permission to import prefabricated homes to ease the housing crisis brought about by large-scale immigration.

While the decision, made at a special Cabinet session Thursday, fell far short of the crash program urged by Sharon, it was a victory for the

housing minister over Finance Minister Yitzhak Moda’i, who has warned that Sharon’s plans could wreck the economy.

The Cabinet adopted a compromise proposal offered by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.

The housing ministry was authorized to import 9,000 prefabricated and 5,000 mobile homes. In addition, 6,000 permits will be issued in the private sector to import housing.

Sharon told the Cabinet on July 22 that prefabricated housing could be expected to arrive in November or December, Ma’ariv reported last week.

The entire program will cost an estimated $500 million. Sharon’s plan called for the purchase of 50,000 mobile homes and 40,000 prefabs over the next two years, at an estimated cost of $3 billion.

The Cabinet also rejected Moda’i's plea to include the cost of the imports in the regular budget, so that it could be balanced by corresponding cuts in other areas.

If not, the finance minister argued, an additional budget would be required, which would threaten economic stability and possibly reignite the inflationary spiral.

Although Shamir and a majority of the ministers thought otherwise, it remained unclear Thursday from where the additional half-billion dollars would come.

In Moda’i's view, employment takes precedence over housing, and national resources should be devoted to creating jobs for immigrants arriving in large numbers.

Sharon argued that the lack of adequate housing would lead to social unrest and could bring about an end to aliyah from the Soviet Union.

Originally, the housing was to go chiefly for Soviet immigrants, who have been coming to Israel in unprecedented numbers, and for whom there were totally inadequate preparations.

Now, however, much of the imported housing is planned for young couples, who have been forced out of their homes by soaring rents.

The increase in rentals has come about because landlords have raised rents three and four times in keeping with the higher amounts Soviet immigrants can pay, because of substantial stipends they receive from the government and the Jewish Agency.

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