Deputy Executive Secretary, Honorable Ministers, Chairman, Distinguished Colleagues:
I am privileged to represent Israeli Minister of Construction and Housing, Mr. Uri Ariel at this important Ministerial Meeting. Minister Ariel regrets that he is unable to be here today, and sends his very best wishes for productive discussion.
The Minister has asked me to confirm the State of Israel’s sincere and unwavering commitment to the Committee on Housing and Land Management (CHLM) and to the adoption of the Strategy on Sustainable Housing and Land Management and proposed Action Plan for the period 2014-2020. The Israeli Ministry of Construction and Housing would be proud to assist the CHLM in collaborating with other UN programmes, such as UN-HABITAT, by tapping our government and academic resources to share good practices and expertise.
With the permission of this excellent forum, here is the Minister's statement:
Israeli housing policy has journeyed from a centralized to a market economy, regulated primarily by release of planned government land to increase housing supply. In addition, we fund neighborhood infrastructures such as: roads, water and sewage pipes, parks, schools and other public institutions.
Israel's urban development policy is focused on efficient land management and environmental conservation as a framework for the provision of access to suitable housing that is affordable, safe, healthy and ecologically sound. We strive to formulate policy tools and financial incentives for housing that is easily maintained, energy efficient, sustainable, and appropriate to the distinctive needs of each of Israel’s various population groups.
Sensitive to the weaker sectors of society, our Government promotes social cohesion and equity by targeting deprived urban areas and minority enclaves for urban renewal. We provide public housing and housing supplements to underprivileged families, and elderly persons. New immigrants are aided through a system of manageable mortgages and rental subsidies.
Special planning legislation provides funding incentives to fortify older buildings against the possibility of earthquake and flood damage. As part and parcel of our national programme for disaster risk management, government budgets are allocated to build concrete sheltered casings to protect residences and public institutions from natural and human-generated disasters.
Government policies aim to leverage 'resilience' initiatives to harness available resources for improved city function.
Preparedness for climatic extremes requires reevaluation of Israeli city structure and design, increased housing supply and retrofit of existing stock. As such, planning for compact 'resilient' cities focuses on integrated communities, multi-faceted mobility, and a 'smart' connected 'proximity economy'. Neighborhoods and inner-city areas benefit from a new regenerative relevance through densification and in-fill projects. This and the use of sustainable infrastructure and building materials promote affordable housing; savings on energy water, and home maintenance; conservation of natural resources and lower carbon emissions.
Government Investment in innovation and research has produced new regulations for building, and a building code that is constantly updated. Within the global atmosphere of financial constraint and conservation, one very important area of our research constitutes the search for financial mechanisms to fund the cost of neighborhood regeneration and retrofit.
A major challenge ahead of us is the encouragement of private investment in the housing sector. Our need to address the possibility of a more developed rental market must find a balance between economic viability and affordability, while preserving the principles of accessibility social equity and inclusion. In this regard, we welcome recommendations from the Real Estate Advisory Group.
As well, we need to agree on common inter-ministerial criterion for monitoring the rise and fall of real estate prices for efficient analysis of market capabilities. In our view, such criterion should also be agreed within the framework of ECE countries.
In conclusion, it is hoped that by working together to serve shared interests in pursuance of a common purpose, countries of the ECE can initiate and guide affordable housing development. Using an agreed set of tools and models for building and spatial design can advance creative adaptation of existing urban structure to changing environmental conditions. The result should combine reasonable pricing of construction and maintenance of housing with sustainable life-style alternatives.
I wish to express my appreciation of this convention of Ministers and sustainable development experts, and to thank the UNECE Secretariat for making it possible.
As Minister of Construction and Housing I look forward to the successful achievement of the worthy objectives and targets of the CHLM and to continued and fruitful exchanges of ideas on sustainable housing.