Hadassah cancels community of apartments

Last-minute move strands families who wanted to buy affordable apartments in French Hill.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
July 8, 2012 04:11
2 minute read.
French Hill

French Hill. (photo credit: Rotem Danzig/Wikimedia Commons)

 
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A plan to create a community of young families in a building owned by the capital’s Hadassah University Medical Center fell through at the last moment last week, leaving two dozen young families frustrated and possibly homeless.

The families said it was a double blow getting thwarted by Hadassah, a Zionist organization that has so many social programs to strengthen Jerusalem.

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When the medical center published a tender to sell a nearly-empty apartment building in the French Hill neighborhood this spring, a group of young families thought they had found the perfect building. The families, organized by Ruach Hadasha (New Spirit) and Youth in the Center, are the fifth group of “young purchasers” who aim to buy an entire apartment building together to create vibrant community life in Jerusalem. The organization has already successfully bought buildings in Kiryat Yovel, Kiryat Menahem and Talpiyot.

The up and coming French Hill neighborhood was an ideal location, the building needed renovation but was suitable and a number of families had already expressed interest. Within six weeks, 24 families had amassed 10 percent of the cost, to put down as a deposit on their bid.

But last week, Hadassah’s lawyers informed the group that the offers made to the hospital were much too low, and the hospital was going to hold on to the building until it could get a better price. Spokeswoman Eti Dvir said the tender was canceled “due to large and impossible gaps between the sides’ proposals.”

She said that the hospital had reserved the right to cancel the tender if it deemed the offers too low, and was considering selling the building when it was more economically viable for the medical center, which has its own financial difficulties.

But the families made a low bid in order to “hold their cards close to their chest,” said 40-year-old Ophir Drori, married and a father of a five-year-old boy. The tender process means that a number of groups compete to buy the building, and offering an initial low price is considered part of the bargaining strategy.

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Drori was so confident in the initiative he sold his apartment in Ma’aleh Adumim. He said his family was forced out of Jerusalem to Ma’aleh Adumim by high prices almost three years ago and had been trying to return to the capital ever since. In the Youth in the Center initiative, they saw an opportunity to buy an apartment at an affordable price while becoming part of a built-in community.

These communities of apartments are one of the central initiatives to keep young, working people in Jerusalem by helping them buy affordable housing.

Drori said he wants the hospital to reconsider the bid and hear other offers from the Youth in the City/Ruach Hadasha initiative, rather than cancel the tender.

The deposits that the families put down on the apartments are still tied up in bureaucracy, meaning many families have little cash to find alternatives.

Drori plan to temporarily rent an apartment in French Hill when his family moves out of Ma’aleh Adumim later this summer.

“People put so much time into this, people really thought they found a utopia, and now they just threw it in our faces,” said Bar Peled, the spokeswoman for Ruach Hadasha. “Where’s the ideology [of Hadassah]? The minimum they could do is sit at the table.”

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