A new image

Once considered a poor development town, Rosh Ha’ayin is becoming more attractive for those looking for central, affordable housing.

311_real estate (photo credit: Uriel Messa)
311_real estate
(photo credit: Uriel Messa)

Rosh Ha’ayin is one of the urban entities surrounding the Tel Aviv metropolitan area. And one with a bright future. It has been earmarked by the Construction and Housing Ministry for mass building projects intended to accommodate the overflow from Tel Aviv and places like Givatayim.

Rosh Ha’ayin is 63 years old and was founded in 1949 on the site of an old British army camp. The Nissen huts, corrugated iron igloo-like dwellings, were used to house newly arrived immigrants from Yemen and in consequence it was dubbed “little San’a.”

The name of the city derives from a spring of fresh, crystal-clear water which has supplied drinking water to the area since time immemorial. Today, the waters of the spring, which in times past ran into the Yarkon River, are fed into the National Water Carrier. The area once had great strategic importance. It stands 200 meters above sea level and lies astride the main road connecting Jerusalem with the north of the country.

In consequence in the vicinity of Rosh Ha’ayin are the remains of an excellently preserved Turkish fort, the remains of a Crusader stronghold, Byzantine villas and, as mentioned above, the British Army camp. Until about 20 years ago Rosh Ha’ayin was a sleepy, out-of-the-way town. But then things began to change – slowly at first but picking up speed as time passed.

For nearly four decades Rosh Ha’ayin suffered from an acute public relations problem; among other things it was considered to be a “third world settlement.” To overcome the stigma a completely new town was built to the north of the “old” town, with its own infrastructure and schools. The new dwellings were mostly semidetached, with a sprinkling of single-family homes. They were marketed to career army officers at what were then very attractive prices. But that was over 20 years ago.

Today, Rosh Ha’ayin is definitely “in.” Developers have no problem selling housing at prices that leave them with a handsome profit.

Rosh Ha’ayin has a population of 40,000, of which half are the original residents and their offspring and half are “newcomers,” residents of the new neighborhoods, which are generally called Neveh Afek.

The town is set to expand further: According to the national master plan, it will have 250,000 inhabitants by 2025. One of the town’s major selling points is its hi-tech Afek industrial park.

Rosh Ha’ayin is very centrally located. Twenty kilometers east of Tel Aviv, it sits smack on the intersection of Highway 6 and Highway 5, which connects Petah Tikva to the West Bank.

All of these factors; convenience, the industrial park, malls and entertainment centers have a bearing on the real-estate scene. The government has initiated a vast building program in the eastern part of the city which when completed will add 14,000 dwellings, and from 60,000 to 75,000 residents. Most of the new developments are in the “new part” of town, but the Afridar Building and Development company is also building a new complex of 450 dwellings in the older part of the city called “Mishkenot Hamusika.”

Arie Helshtok, Afridar’s sales manager, says the old Rosh Ha’ayin still carries something of the old “third world” stigma.

So why build in the old part and not in the new?

“The old city of Rosh Ha’ayin is not what it used to be 20 or 30 years ago. It has a modern look today, with good infrastructure and excellent schools. We are building our 450 dwelling units in the old part of Rosh Ha’ayin because we believe that the city will continue to develop and we are doing our bit in this. We are building housing for approximately 2,000 more residents. We are building a whole neighborhood with its own special brand,” says Helshtok.

He adds that Afridar has already completely sold out the first two stages, with the third stage nearly complete and the fourth and fifth stages following closely.

But Or Peretz, the RE/MAX concessionaire in Rosh Ha’ayin, says that demand for housing is weak overall, as it is, he says, all over Israel. “Up to a year ago the real-estate market in Rosh Ha’ayin in general and the new parts like Neveh Afek in particular was strong and vibrant and prices rose accordingly,” he says.

Not today.

“There is demand,” he says, “but compared to a year ago it is weak. And prices are at best steady.” Prices in Rosh Ha’ayin are low by Tel Aviv standards. A three-room, 80-sq.m. apartment in Neveh Afek costs, on average, NIS 1.05 million. A four-room, 110-sq.m. apartment costs on average NIS 1.17m.

In the Mishkenot Hamusika project, a four-room, 108-sq.m. apartment with a terrace costs NIS 1.2m., and a five-room, 128-sq.m. apartment with terrace costs NIS 1.35m.

A four-room apartment in the old part of the city can cost as little as NIS 1m. and a single-family home as little as NIS 1.4m.