Barkat unveils J'lem housing plan

Initiative will make affordable apartments available to young people.

building311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In a nod to one of the cornerstones of his 2008 campaign platform, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Sunday unveiled a municipal plan that, if approved, will provide young residents of the capital with affordable housing.
The housing solution
The initiative, which is set to be deliberated on by the city council and members of the local planning and construction committee later this week, has been dubbed “20:20:20,” as it would require future construction projects of more than 20 housing units to designate at least 20 percent of those units to be sold for 20% lower than the market value.
The discounted homes will be specifically aimed at persuading young families to purchase property in Jerusalem. Eligibility will be limited to those who are 41 years-old or younger, employed and who do not own additional property in the city. The municipality estimates that the program will reduce apartment prices by NIS 200,000-300,000.
The plan also allows for potential cooperation between the city and its major institutions, among them the Hebrew University, whose graduates are key members of the demographic group Barkat hopes to keep in Jerusalem.
The plan is still in its early stages and must be approved by a number of government and municipal bodies, among them the Interior Ministry, which will also mandate the establishment of a committee to determine availability and eligibility and oversee the construction and development process.
Despite the future hurdles, however, city officials expressed their satisfaction with the plan as it was formally presented during a City Hall press conference on Sunday morning.
“This is the beginning of a revolution,” Barkat said of the plan.
“Jerusalem is a pioneering city when it comes to this model, which is based on existing models in other cities in the world, and will allow for affordable housing solutions for the city’s young population,” he said.
City council member Yakir Segev, who holds the youth portfolio at the municipality, echoed Barkat’s comments on Sunday, lauding the plan’s announcement as a “significant step” in tackling the city’s housing crunch.
“For years, young couples and students have been waiting for good news with regards to housing [in the city] and today we managed to take a significant step towards that. I say to all those those who want to stay here, and there are quite a few of them, we want to keep you here and we intend to try, and succeed.”
Segev added that the initiative “marks a new horizon in which apartments will finally be available at reasonable prices.”
“It may not happen tomorrow morning, but [if the program is approved] developers will have to plan ahead and figure out how to integrate affordable housing into new construction projects,” he said.
The chairman of the Jerusalem Contractors’ Association, Shmuel Levy, told reporters at Sunday’s press conference that his organization backs the plan.
“We are working together with the city, and we see the great importance of this plan, as it will allow for more housing units to be built in the city as well as allow for young couples to continue to live in the capital,” he said.
Students also praised the mayor’s announcement on Sunday. Daniel Greenberg, chairman of Ruah Hadasha (New Spirit), a nonprofit organization that acts to strengthen ties between students and other young adults and the city of Jerusalem, expressed his organization’s support of the initiative.
“Searching for affordable housing for young adults in Jerusalem is one of New Spirit’s top priorities, alongside additional initiatives and interests it has promoted during the past seven years,” Greenberg said. “Currently we, too, are working on additional projects to find housing solutions for the city’s young people, and we are very happy that the municipality is promoting this important issue.”
In an effort to advance the new initiative, Barkat appointed a special unit for urban renewal and affordable housing under the auspices of the Jerusalem Development Authority, which operates in cooperation with municipality’s strategic planning and policy department.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.