By Gilad Zwick
(JNS) Buildings in southern Israel sustained some NIS 50 million ($14 million) of damage in the escalation of the past few days, according to the country’s Renovation Contractors Association.
RCA Chairman Eran Siv explained Monday that buildings in the south of Israel are inherently more vulnerable than buildings in the center.
“Most of the homes in the [southern] area have tiled roofs, so the damage in the case of a direct hit, or even a rocket falling nearby, is much bigger than to a building that has a concrete roof,” he said.
“A tile roof doesn’t prevent or stop a rocket from entering, so the damage caused to the structure and the inside of an apartment is much greater,” he explained.
The recent round of violence saw about 35 rockets and mortars land in populated areas. In some cases, the strikes caused massive damage to the surrounding buildings.
According to Siv, renovations assessed at NIS 43,000 (approx. $12,000) or less can be carried out by any contractor, whereas more expensive repairs require property owners to hire a contractor registered with the Housing and Construction Ministry. In cases where a rocket strike caused a fire, the renovation is more costly.
Siv laid out the options for property owners whose assets were damaged by the fighting: “The first step is for a property tax adjuster to assess the damage. Then, it is repaired. In cases of relatively minor damage, the owner can hire a contractor and then file a request for reimbursement with the property tax authorities, but for large-scale work, the construction companies do all the work without ‘civilians’ having to lay out a penny.”
Siv also argues that the government must allow any property owner whose home was damaged in the attacks to rebuild to a higher safety standard, and that the government must shoulder all the costs.
“I’m calling on the prime minister and the cabinet to consider the families’ difficult situation and allow them to go back to a stronger, better-defended home and not have to make do with an approval for the minimum renovation necessary to restore the building to its former state,” he said.
As of Monday afternoon, the Israel Tax Authority—whose property tax division handles requests for compensation for damage caused by war—had received 291 requests to cover the cost of repairs to buildings in southern Israel. The largest number of requests were for buildings in Ashkelon (142), followed by Ashdod (79), Sderot (24) and Kiryat Gat (20).
In addition, 137 requests were filed for compensation for damages to vehicles and seven requests were filed for compensation for damage to crops. The ITA approved 70 percent of the requests for compensation, and expects the total number of requests to reach 600.