Apartment in Tel Aviv 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The poor turnout at a conference on Israeli-Arab real estate on Wednesday in
Herzliya demonstrates just how difficult it will be to change existing
mentalities that are holding the sector back, organizers say.
half of the 150 expected participants showed up, and Helmi Kittani, director of
the Center for Jewish Arab Economic Development, said that showed there “is a
need for a lot of patience before interest grows and people show understanding
[in the Arab sector] of how essential this is.”
He said organizers had
hoped for the attendance of “more contractors, two or three municipal officials
[from Arab councils]” and “another 30 or 40 businesspeople.”
This was the
eighth annual conference hosted by the center, but the first to concentrate on
real estate. A common theme raised by speakers, both Arab and Jewish, was the
lack of willingness among Arabs to adapt to living in high-density dwellings, or
what is defined by the Construction and Housing Ministry as at least four
housing units situated on one dunam of land.
Data presented by Ayman
Saif, director- general of the Prime Minister’s Office’s Economic Development
Authority for the Arab, Druse and Circassian sectors, showed that demand for new
housing among those minorities easily outstrips supply: 12,000 new housing units
are needed each year, but only 7,000 are available. Even today, 75 percent of
Arabs live in houses, as opposed to apartments, he said.
Saif is Prime
Minister Binyamin’s Netanyahu’s right-hand man on the Arab sector and is tasked
with easing barriers to attaining land for housing.
He outlined plans for
the construction of 7,500 new high-density housing units spread across various
One example he gave was the creation of a new neighborhood in
Sakhnin, where 1,600 housing units are being built on state-owned and private
Association of Contractors and Builders head Nissim Bublil said the
Arab sector faced similar housing problems to its Jewish counterparts, including
a lack of land to compensate for population growth and soaring costs.
bureaucratic process “takes even longer for the Arab sector,” he
State-owned land has expanded to 94 percent of Israeli territory,
Bublil said, while only 6% of land is in the hands of private owners. Despite
that, he said, 60% of all housing construction takes place on private land,
while only 40% is done on the state’s 94%.
Bublil said decades of reforms
had done nothing to change housing problems, and now “the time has come to work
and to downsize the bureaucracy.”
In the Arab sector, “there is a need to
accept the challenge and not wait for government programs,” he said.
have heard for years in the Arab sector, ‘We will not live in high-density
buildings,’” Bublil said. “I am not a great expert on the Arab sector, but I
will tell you something: A large portion of Arabs [already] live in highdensity
buildings, in Karmiel, in Nazareth, Lod, Jaffa. Why can they live in these
high-density dwellings, but in other cities Arabs can’t? “They need to get over
this, to construct buildings of a high standard, to give social services at a
very high level, to construct infrastructure of a high standard. And I promise
you that everybody will live in high-density buildings and will be happy about
Saleem Lahham, chairman of the Association of Contractors and
Builders’s northern branch, echoed Bublil’s comments about high-density
dwellings, but said Arabs needed to take responsibility for their own housing
problems, as only they had a good enough understanding of their community’s
needs to find viable solutions.