J'lem to build affordable housing for 'middle class'

The Jerusalem Municipality is now in the planning stages of a new initiative aimed at increasing the amount of affordable housing for young professionals and working families in the capital, a statement from the municipality said on Thursday. "The Economic and Employment Development Committee, under the auspices of Mayor Nir Barkat, has approved plans by the Department for Policy and Strategic Planning to create a special body for stimulating urban renewal, that will develop the policy tools needed to achieve equal and affordable housing opportunities across the city," the statement read. In a meeting held at City Hall on Wednesday, Hebrew University Prof. Shlomo Hasson and lawyer Ezri Levi, who were appointed by the city to examine possible tools needed to implement such policies, discussed their findings with the committee, which included the need to make affordable housing more readily available for young professionals in the capital. "Affordable housing allows the city to become a destination for creative forces and is key for economic development and urban renewal," Hasson told the committee. As such, the committee expressed its intention to work with the Ministry of Housing, along with other government ministries, to create hundreds of affordable apartments for young professionals and young couples in the capital, beginning in 2010. "There's no argument over the need to raise the number of apartments in Jerusalem," Department for Policy and Strategic Planning head Roy Folkman told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. "But what's missing is the idea of zoning. It doesn't exist in Israel." Therefore, Folkman ex-plained, within the city's goal of building hundreds of new apartments in neglected and older neighborhoods of the capital, a significant number of those apartments will be designated for young professionals, or as Folkman described them, "the middle class." "Usually, it's the ultra-Orthodox and low income families who receive help with finding apartments, but the middle class - young working families - they're not receiving assistance at all, and we want to change that. "Now we have to ask serious questions," Folkman continued. "Like, how do we lower land costs, how do we give discounts for people working in choice industries? These are some of the things we want to do, but we need logistical and legal help to determine how these policies can be implemented." Hasson and Levi are currently working to find those answers. Additionally, the municipality has consulted architects and Treasury officials to get the ball rolling by next year. "The city plans on building a wide variety of apartments in the coming year - luxury apartments, apartments for low-income families, apartments for the ultra-Orthodox community," Folkman said. "But we're also trying to attract people who positively affect the economy of the city, and the best way to do that is by offering them affordable housing and designating a portion of the new apartments in the city for them."