JERUSALEM, Oct. 6 (Xinhua) -- Housing prices in Israel surged between 2007 and 2012 by a sharp 72 percent, according to figures released Sunday by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics.
Between March 2009 and March 2010, housing prices rose 21 percent, the report said.
The report attributed the rocketing housing prices mainly to a fast-paced growth rate of the Israeli population. In recent years, the population in this relatively small country increased by 1.8 percent annually, a rate which sets Israel above the average growth of other Middle Eastern and North African countries.
"The size of the Israeli population increases and boosts the housing demand by new households, while the supply is limited by short availability of lands and factors of production," the report said.
In the summer of 2011, the high housing prices and the climbing cost of living sparked a nationwide social protest, calling for affordable housing. The housing prices remained a major cause of protests and discontent in the Israeli public.
In September, Israel's central bank warned of a looming mortgage crisis, saying mortgage costs payment are outpacing salary growth.
"Between 2008 and 2012 the average price of a home increased by about 54 percent, while average household income increased by only 20 percent," Bank of Israel said in a study based on historical trends of the Israeli mortgage market.
"This development led to a marked increase in borrowers' risk levels in banks' housing credit portfolios, which was reflected by a sharp increase in both mortgage borrowers' payment to income ratio, which is currently high compared with other countries," the central bank said.
Amid the growing public discontent, especially among young Israelis who struggle to pay the rent, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed a ministerial housing cabinet. In June the cabinet approved a new governmental plan aimed at lowering housing costs, including a plan to build 150,000 housing units of affordable housing.
However, the cabinet has yet to finalize the plan and get a final approval by the government.