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From Health to Housing

Yaakov Litzman will enter his new office this week with plenty of plans to implement

Former Health Minister and current Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman will enter his new office this week with plenty of plans to implement. He doesn’t need on-the-job training. He was one of the central planners of the first chareidi neighborhoods of Beit Shemesh.

But he’s taking over the office at a low point in relations between the department and the constituency he represents. Don’t expect the chareidi housing crisis to be solved in 2020. Due to the lack of a functioning government for the past year, the planning administration did not consider a single plan for the chareidi community in 2019. The housing ministry has only 4,947 apartments left for the chareidi sector, and only 3,518 of these are included in the bids made public until now. All the rest, over 1,400 housing units, are expected to be marketed in the future, but plans have not yet been finalized.

Nevertheless, in a conversation with senior fellow and managing director of the Haredi Institute for Public Affairs Rav Yitzchak Pindrus, he said that Litzman, along with the Planning Administration head and Shas party chairman Aryeh Deri, could bring about change. “There’s need for a comprehensive solution for all the different sectors,” Pindrus said. “This will be up to Litzman, and I believe he’ll be able to acquit himself of the task with honor.”

Pindrus advises Litzman to act on three levels. “Mixed cities — to reopen agreements with local authorities regarding construction of new neighborhoods or sign new agreements to soften their reluctance regarding the entrance of chareidi populations to their cities.

“Second, planning for new chareidi cities — Shafir [a small community 36 kilometers east of Bet Shemesh], can go to the market within two years with thousands of new housing units. Litzman and Deri can now unite to make sure this new city goes ahead.

“Third, expanding the existing chareidi cities in Beitar Elit, Elad, Modiin Elit, Emanual, Beit Shemesh, Meitzad, Ma’aleh Amos, and Yerushalayim should be a priority.” He pointed to the bottlenecking of 50,000 housing units in those areas, and said the problem could be solved.

“With the right planning all could get underway,” he said, “and I’m confident that Litzman is the right man in the right place.”

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 811)

 

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