Secular buyers are goal of cheap J’lem housing project

Initiative by Ruah Hadasha and Hitorerut Yerushalayim won bid from the ILA to build new apt. building on Costa Rica Street in Ir Ganim.

(photo credit: SHIKUN & BINUI REAL ESTATE)
In a city where sprawling luxury apartment buildings continue to drive out affordable housing, 80 apartments in a new building project in the southwest corner of Jerusalem are boasting an extra special feature: NIS 200,000 belowmarket prices.
A special initiative by Ruah Hadasha (“New Spirit”) and Hitorerut Yerushalayim (“Awakening Jerusalem”) successfully won a bid last week from the Israel Land Authority to build a new apartment building on Costa Rica Street in the Ir Ganim section of the city, near Kiryat Hayovel.
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The apartments will be sold to young, secular Israelis looking to build a vibrant neighborhood.
Even before the groups won the bid, 45 apartments had been sold. The group expects to sell the remaining 35 apartments in the next two weeks.
“These apartments are for populations we want to stay here, like young workers, open-minded people, groups that are really important to the city,” said Meirav Cohen, from Hitorerut.
She noted that the lack of affordable housing pushes these groups out of the city, and the city loses a valuable, educated workforce.
The four- and five-room apartments will cost between NIS 1.2 million and 1.75m., depending on the size and floor. The apartments are around NIS 200,000 cheaper than a similar building project in the area, which is selling 4- room apartments for NIS 1.4 million and upwards. Construction is expected to start within three to six months, after the group receives a building permit from the municipality.
Part of the reason that the apartments can be sold below market price and still turn a modest profit is that the groups took care of finding residents, meaning the contractors will not spend any money on marketing.
Also, having such a large number of the apartments sold before the bid was awarded meant that the contracting company, Tolus, Ltd., did not have to secure funding from other sources.
“This area, Costa Rica street in Ir Ganin, is an area that’s going to go through a huge renewal process in the next few years,” said Cohen. “There are already a lot of young communities in the area, many roads are planned, there are a ton of parks, even the zoo is nearby and is going to expand. There’s going to be a lot of improvement in the infrastructure that makes the area really attractive.”
Ruah Hadasha director Elisheva Mazia said that the building is a reaction to increasing haredi encroachment on traditionally secular neighborhoods like Kiryat Hayovel.
“We’re not embarrassed to say that the goal of this project was so other populations won’t enter into this area,” she said.
“It’s important for us that some areas stay secular.”
Ruah Hadasha was founded in 2003 by Hebrew University students and businesspeople to promote a vibrant, young, non-religious community in the capital. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat served on its board before becoming mayor.
Hitorerut was started in 2008 to stem the tide of people leaving the city.
The two organizations spent months meeting with contractors and real estate agents to find the perfect site, and rejected many projects because they would not have been be able to offer a steep enough discount to residents.
They have their eye on a few more parcels of land the Israel Land Authority is releasing, hoping to replicate the pilot project in other city neighborhoods.