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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Now you're talking

Haaretz reports with great distress that there are some 50,000 Jewish housing units in various stages of planning for Jerusalem neighborhoods that, like Ramat Shlomo, are beyond the 'green line.'
Most of the housing units will be built in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods beyond the Green Line, while a smaller number of them will be built in Arab neighborhoods. The plans for some 20,000 of the apartments are already in advanced stages of approval and implementation, while plans for the remainder have yet to be submitted to the planning committees.

The planned construction includes the 1,600 homes in the ultra-Orthodox East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo that were approved Tuesday. Saying the decision undermines peace talks, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has publicly condemned the move, which the Interior Ministry announced during his visit to Israel.


Municipal planning officials said the only direction in which Jerusalem can grow is eastward. The municipality ruled out westward development after the controversial Safdie Plan - a massive construction project planned for the hills west of the capital - was axed three years ago under pressure from environmental groups.

Massive construction within Jerusalem's older neighborhoods was also scrapped, since it clashed with other considerations: keeping buildings low, preserving historic buildings and streets, and retaining quality of life.

Ir Amim data show that the construction plans in advanced stages of approval are for Gilo (3,000 housing units), Har Homa (1,500), Pisgat Ze'ev (1,500), Givat Hamatos (3,500), Ramot (1,200), Armon Hanetziv (600) and Neveh Yaakov (450).

Several construction plans are not being advanced at the moment, including a plan to build 1,300 housing units in a neighborhood in the south of the city. In addition, a plan to make Atarot an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood was put on hold after Mayor Nir Barkat decided to revitalize the industrial area there.
There's a severe housing shortage in Jerusalem. To put it in perspective, in my (beyond the 'green line') Jerusalem neighborhood, a storage room made over into a one-bedroom apartment rents for about $600 per month. The other night, I saw a sign for an apartment the size of ours which is renting for NIS 6000 per month (about $1,600 at today's exchange rate). That's way beyond the budget of most families in my neighborhood.

Part of the reason for the housing shortage is that most of the apartments built in Jerusalem in the last 10-15 years have been luxury apartments that are bought by foreigners and sit empty for most of the year.

Because Jerusalem rent is so expensive, young families are trying to move out of the city. But the places that are cheaper that would be attractive to ultra-Orthodox families who would like to be near Jerusalem - Kiryat Sefer and Beitar Ilit - are over the 'green line' where the government has implemented a 'settlement freeze.' So they are looking for solutions in Jerusalem.

People have to live somewhere. Unfortunately, most of the 'international community' would rather that we just leave.


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