09/08/2011 23:22

Minister says compliance with environmental demands can help solve housing crisis.
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Addressing the government’s ability to solve the housing crisis, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan said he felt that intrinsic to preserving the economy and providing affordable housing to all is the duty to “comply with environmental demands,” the minister told The Jerusalem Post during an interview on Wednesday afternoon.

“The ‘tycoons’ or those who own big companies because they don’t want to comply with environmental demands, they drove the issue as something that is for rich people – after you solve problems, if you have time, then fight for an endangered species. Tree huggers aren’t important,” Erdan told the Post.

“It’s exactly the opposite. Everyone knows today environment and economy go together. When economy is good, it costs less – save electricity, pollute air less and save money. The same with water, and public transportation – if you invest in public transportation, you reduce air pollution and save money for public instead of using private cars.”

Having been instrumental in initially suggesting Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg as the appropriate appointee for Netanyahu’s housing advisory committee, Erdan said that he met with Trajtenberg last week to discuss “how to combine environmental protection issues with costs of living.”

The committee, he said, can take significant steps that will both improve the environment and reduce costs for families across the board. For example, the committee can encourage builders to erect their buildings in such a way so that there is less of a need for air conditioning, institute methods of recycling water within buildings and enforce legislation regarding waste separation and recycling – all of which Erdan estimated would save each family hundreds of shekels every month.

Environmentally-friendly construction itself, the minister argued, is also used by far too small a share of the population.

“In Israel there is a gap – builders don’t live in green buildings, they sell them,” Erdan said. “Those who pay the bills every month – electricity, water – are those who live there for the next 20-30 years. If we force green standards on builders, those who live in the buildings save money every month.”

Meanwhile, repairing neglected pipes would allow people to drink water straight from the tap, rather than purchasing mineral water or filters, as twothirds of the population are currently apt to do, which would also save families hundreds of shekels each month, according to the minister.

“This is a basic need of human beings which you are entitled to get from your government,” Erdan said. “Not to mention the fact that for one billion plastic bottles, we now need trucks all over Israel to deliver mineral water, endangering those driving on the roads, polluting the air and creating a lot of plastic waste. If the government takes care and rehabilitates the infrastructure of water in Israeli cities, people can go back to using tap water.”

By taking into account the fact that “the environment and economy are combined,” Erdan said he was confident that the housing situation would improve, and with the independent experts on the committee, the minister was certain that Trajtenberg would come up with a good plan.

“At the end of the day, even politically, the people will see we took it seriously, implemented it, to make things better in Israel,” he said.