20:20:20 vision

A new plan to encourage young people and families to stay in Jerusalem has been launched this week. Mayor Nir Barkat revealed his plan at a press conference held on Sunday. According to the plan, called “20:20:20,” from now on every housing project that includes more than 20 apartments will designate 20 percent of its area for affordable housing, which will cost 20 percent less than the average market price.

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The project will also be proposed to entrepreneurs who are stuck with luxury housing projects that are not being sold due to the economic situation (by dividing the apartments to make them reach the maximum area allowed – 100 sq.m.). The apartments will be sold to young couples who are working and can repay loans, and there will be strict control to prevent any cases of speculation (no possibility to sell the apartments within less than seven years, for example).

Sources at Kikar Safra say the whole project is a huge step in enabling young people to afford suitable housing in the city and thus slow down or stop completely their plans to leave the city. The project still requires the approval of the city council.

Forming an anti-Colony

On Friday morning, a new struggle by the residents of the German Colony began. A model of the massive Colony Hotel, the new hotel planned at the entrance to Emek Refaim, was revealed to the public. The model clearly indicated that the hotel would dwarf the exquisite old buildings from the Templer period there, causing serious harm to the neighborhood’s special character. The German Colony residents are used to public battles with the establishment. Backed by the local neighborhood council, they are determined not to let the new project spoil their neighborhood.

During the few hours that the model was being shown to the public, many stopped, inquired and agreed to sign a petition against it. Many commented that after the Holyland scandal, people are paying more attention to construction projects and their consequences. Quite a few of the petitioners predicted that their chances of succeeding – or at least minimizing the damage – look good due to massive mobilization of the residents.

Night riders

The Night Lines, the special bus lines that operate on Saturday nights to provide safe transportation for teens after the regular buses have stopped, are broadening their service for the summer vacation. As of Sunday, Egged will add 350 bus lines and will operate on week nights as well. This service will continue until August 31. 

The lines operate between neighborhoods and entertainment areas in the city center until the wee hours. Ticket fares will remain the same. 

Among the locations served are Neveh Ya’acov, Ma’aleh Adumim, Gilo, Mevaseret Zion, Kiryat Menahem and Har Homa. The service is aimed at decreasing the number of road accidents, as well diminishing the danger of taking rides with strangers late at night.

Short summer recess

Following a promising first try last summer, the municipal Education Department announced this week that the summer vacation for kindergarten will be shortened. This provides some relief for the parents, who had to spend a lot of money on alternate solutions for their children while they were at work.

In July, 80 kindergartens – secular and religious – will be open at no extra cost. Next year, the program will be extended to all the kindergartens in the city.

Feathering the culture coffers

Mayor Nir Barkat continues to support the cultural budget of the city. From now on, all the cultural institutions operating in the city will be exempted from 50 percent of the municipal property taxes (arnona). This decision will add NIS 2 million to the Culture Department’s budget, which has already doubled since Barkat took office a year and a half ago. One can only hope that this money will find its way back to the residents, such as a reduction in tickets prices for cultural events.

Parlez-vous francais?

The seventh French Film Festival is here, co-sponsored by the French Cultural Center (Romain Gary Center) at Kikar Safra and the Jerusalem Film Archive (Cinematheque). Until June 27, aficionados of  French culture will be treated to a large selection of the most highly acclaimed French films. The festival will include a special homage to the late singer/songwriter Serge Gainsbourg.

Info: www.jer-cin.org.il

House of cards

Only a few members of the city council realized the significance of a discreet announcement made this week by the municipality. According to the notification, the Prazot state housing company was to be dismantled and its assets (about NIS 120 million) divided equally between the two shareholders – the Finance Ministry and the municipality. Asked by city council member Meir Margalit (Meretz) what would be done with the money, Mayor Barkat, so explained Margalit, said it would be used for the affordable housing initiative that was recently launched.

“I’m outraged!” said Margalit. “There is no connection between the objectives of Prazot and the affordable housing project. This will deprive underprivileged residents of their last hope of having a roof over their heads, while affordable housing is geared for people who work and make a good living and can take out loans and purchase properties.”

According to the regulations, the city council must approve the decision at its next meeting on June 24, otherwise it will be canceled automatically.
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