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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
One out of three new apartments in central Jerusalem were sold to foreigners this year, while 20 percent of all apartments in the downtown area lay empty most of the year, according to a new study released Thursday.
Thousands of Israelis leave Jerusalem every year for better quality of life after being squeezed out of the city, in part by a tight housing market that increasingly caters to affluent foreigners.
The findings are to be presented Sunday in Jerusalem at a conference entitled "The Right to Jerusalem: between a bustling city and a ghost town," organized by The Jerusalem Center for Ethics.
The Romema neighborhood has the most foreign-owned properties, with 30 percent of its flats owned by foreigners.
Talbiyeh, where Beit Hanassi and the Jerusalem Theater are located, is next at 20%, followed by Rehavia and the German Colony at 14%, according to the report. The price of flats in these areas has shot up from $5,000-$7,000 per square meter to $13,000.
The percentage of foreign-owned flats is dramatically lower in the periphery of the city. Former Jerusalem residents have cited better jobs and affordable housing as the primary reasons they left in recent years.
A new organization of Jerusalem residents in their twenties has been established to find housing solutions for students and post-army young adults who want to stay in the capital. Young Adults in Jerusalem is trying to focus public attention on how hard it is to find affordable housing.
The group is promoting ideas such as tax incentives to contractors for building student housing and rent control for young Jerusalem adults.
It has also criticized contractors for catering to foreigners, who buy luxury apartments, thereby raising the area's market price, and then leave the flats empty for much of the year.
The subject has been something of a hot potato in a country that has long encouraged foreigners to buy property in Israel as an investment.
Thirty percent of the nearly 5,000 apartments that foreigners bought in Israel last year are located in Jerusalem.
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