The Department of Housing and Building kicked off the first round of its new housing lottery scheme on Sunday, with more than 10,000 units to be raffled off at a reduced rate of 20% below market value as part of of the new “Target Price” (Mehir Matara) system introduced last year by Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin.

The ministry and the Israel Lands Authority (ILA) said last month that some 30,000 affordable homes, in total, will go on sale this year.

The first batch of 10,028 units will be built in 150 construction projects in 31 cities, including Acre, Dimona, Ofakim, Be’er Ya’akov, Eilat, Ashdod, Haifa, Jerusalem and Rishon Lezion, according to the Housing Ministry.

“Target Price”, like its 2015 predecessor “Buyer’s Price” (Mehir Lamishtaken), is aimed at first-time buyers, young families, single-parent households and others deemed eligible for discounted housing. The program focuses on areas on Israel’s so-called “periphery” – the north and south of the country, which tend to have lower socio-economic rankings according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

The lottery scheme offers a 20% discount or up to a maximum of 300,000 NIS ($93,460) on the purchase price of the apartment, in addition to grants of up to 40,000 NIS ($12,460 $) in some areas. Discounts can be worth hundreds of thousands of shekels and are designed to reduce the amount potential buyers need to find to fund a deposit and borrow as a mortgage.

Prospective buyers must check their eligibility with the ministry and, if approved, must purchase a certificate of eligibility at a one-time cost of NIS 240 ($74). The certificate can be renewed annually. Households then register to try to “win” the opportunity to buy an apartment at a reduced rate in the neighborhoods where they wish to live.

Registration for this first batch of 10,000 units began Sunday morning and is expected to close on March 29. The registration website briefly crashed on Sunday due to heavy traffic.

Elkin said in a statement that he is committed to helping young families and those who do not own a home get a foot on the housing ladder. “After a long hiatus…we are resuming lotteries for apartments with deep discounts across Israel, both in high-demand areas and on the outskirts.”

The target price, like the programs that preceded it, aims to make home ownership more accessible in a housing market that is experiencing soaring costs amid sky-high demand and inadequate supply.

According to the CBS, apartment prices increased by 13% in 2021 compared to the previous year, with a further increase of 2.1% in January 2022 alone. The total sum of mortgages taken out in February was 11 billion shekels ($3.39 billion), the data showed.

The consumer price index rose 0.7% in February 2022, according to the CBS, to cap a 3.5% increase from a year ago, or 0.5% above the l objective of the Bank of Israel.

Israeli governments have long promised to lower housing prices, which have been climbing for more than a decade. The exorbitant costs have put home ownership out of reach for many Israelis, weakening the middle class.

In October, the government unveiled a major housing plan 2022-2025, aimed at rapidly increasing the supply of apartments in the hope of bringing prices down.

Adina Cooper and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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