Netanyahu Policies Blamed in Israeli Report on Home Prices

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is responsible for failing to stop a surge in home prices, according to a report published as the premier’s election rivals attack him on the issue.

Israeli home prices jumped 55 percent between 2008 and 2013, while rental costs increased 30 percent during that period, according to the study released Wednesday by the State Comptroller’s Office. The rise continued in 2014 with another 5 percent gain, even as the government sought to make more land available and accelerate building.

Netanyahu’s Likud party said in response to the report that efforts to promote construction will eventually bring down prices. The government ’’has a accomplished a lot,’’ it said in an e-mailed statement, ’’though there is still much more that needs to be done.’’

The high cost of housing has become a potent social issue in Israel and spurred nationwide street protests in 2011. As Netanyahu seeks re-election on March 17, opposition parties have been assailing him over the issue for several days ahead of the report’s release.

‘Dramatic Increase’

“The most dramatic increase in home prices, the situation in which it has become impossible for the average person to purchase a home, took place during the period when Netanyahu was the prime minister,” Shelly Yachimovich, a lawmaker from the main opposition Zionist Union, said on Tuesday in an Israel Radio interview.

Netanyahu began his latest term as prime minister in early 2009. His government failed to act quickly enough to tackle the increase, and when it did take measures they were insufficient and ineffective, the comptroller concluded.

“Most of the programs to accelerate home construction failed to advance,” according to the report. “Government offices operated without a coordinated, multi-year work plan, and lacked consensual policy objectives determined and coordinated between the relevant bodies.”

Polls in the past week show Zionist Union running level with or slightly ahead of Likud. While both groups fall far short of achieving the parliamentary majority needed to form a new government, the surveys suggest Netanyahu has the best chance of heading a coalition.

The report also examines the Bank of Israel’s impact on housing market, with rate cuts fueling home loans that increased demand and prices. The comptroller said the Supervisor of Banks, which falls under the central bank’s authority, should have acted quicker to tighten credit.

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