Marching toward chaos?

Plans to build new housing in the city may create a degree of chaos.

THE JERUSALEM skyline as viewed from the Mount of Olives. (photo credit: DAN/FLICKR)
THE JERUSALEM skyline as viewed from the Mount of Olives.
(photo credit: DAN/FLICKR)
The local Planning and Construction Committee is approving construction projects virtually everywhere. In Kiryat Hayovel, some 7,000 housing units are to be built in a series of towers by 2025. Thousands of other units are planned for Katamon and in other haredi neighborhoods. Altogether, following the last three meetings of the committee headed by Deputy Mayor Eliezer Rauchberger (Degel Hatorah), some 23,000 new housing units will be built by 2025 – about a third of the 60,000 needed units that former mayoral candidate Ze’ev Elkin pledged to promote if elected.
The need for significant residential construction was a common theme among the mayoral candidates – to build as much affordable housing as possible in both religious and “pluralist” neighborhoods to attract and retain young families. A project promoted by the Treasury Ministry and the Planning and Construction committee was presented to the city council in August (two months before the elections) and rejected. Virtually the same plan was brought again to the council in February and this time was approved. The Planning and Construction committee examined different plans in the concerned neighborhoods where available plots could still be found. Some elements of the famous Safdie plan rejected some 15 years ago (to build on parts of what is considered the green lungs of the city) were revived.
While the final plan is still in the process of being submitted for public response and objections, there appears to be agreement between the haredi and non-haredi representatives at city council for 15,000 units in the secular/pluralist neighborhoods and 8,000 in the haredi neighborhoods in skyline-changing towers from 10 to 23 stories.
Critics say infrastructure needs are largely being ignored. Council member Laura Wharton (Meretz) says that while there is agreement that low buildings can no longer answer the needs of the population, “There hasn’t been serious debate on the impact of such a change, in terms of parking, traffic, the needs for kindergartens and schools, and even sewage. I am concerned we are marching toward chaos.”
Former MK Rachel Azaria said last year that while construction plans for Jerusalem are necessary and welcome, they do not adequately address the required infrastructure. She warned that massive construction in the capital could result in chaos.
Some NIS 1.4 billion has been approved by the government for infrastructure needs and development of business areas and public spaces, but a source at Safra Square involved in the topic, says that this does not meet the real needs.
“That is far from being enough; we are talking about 23,000 units within five years – as a first step to be soon followed by about the same number of units again. Our roads, public transportation and educational facilities are far from being adequate for that.”