J’lem residents protest against future luxury apartments

Ganim residents ask J'lem and ILA to build affordable housing in their neighborhoods rather than new luxury apartments for foreigners.

costumed demonstration jerusalem_311 (photo credit: Melanie Lidman)
costumed demonstration jerusalem_311
(photo credit: Melanie Lidman)
A group of residents from one of Jerusalem’s most neglected neighborhoods held a mock cornerstone laying ceremony on Monday night as they launched a new neighborhood coalition to advocate for affordable housing.
Residents of Ganim, which includes the southwestern neighborhoods of Ir Ganim, Kiryat Menahem, and Givat Massuah, are asking the Jerusalem municipality and the Israel Lands Administration (ILA) to build affordable housing in their neighborhoods rather than new luxury apartments for foreigners.
The conflict centers around dozens of high-rise housing projects that went up quickly in the 1960s to accommodate large waves of immigrants. Today, these buildings are dilapidated and are at risk of collapse in an earthquake or other natural disaster. A total of 2,500 apartments in the area have been recommended for destruction due to their poor infrastructure.
“We’re worried the municipality is going to build luxury apartments, so we’re trying to start the wheels turning now,” said Eyal Moshe, the head of the community council for the Ganim region.
Neighborhood activist Mike Leiter, a 30-year resident of Ir Ganim, pointed out that unlike other cities struggling with urban renewal, the government already owns the land.
“It’s the responsibility of the government to do urban renewal,” he said. “The problem is the government sells the bids to those who give the most money.”
Leiter believed a show of support from area residents, joined by the Yerushalayim Movement and possibly Sustainable Jerusalem, would convince the ILA to listen to the residents rather than selling the tender to the highest bidder.
Raheli Ruham Naor, a third-generation resident of Ir Ganim lives with her two children in a rented apartment in Beit HaKerem because she couldn’t find anything affordable in the neighborhood.
“We want to live in this neighborhood with our parents and grandparents,” she said. All of her childhood friends have left the neighborhood for more affordable areas such as Ma’aleh Adumim and Pisgat Ze’ev. “The mayor needs to do something about this, he needs to take this seriously, there’s not a lot of things here for youth, so they should at least be able to help with apartments.”
Leiter said the new coalition had written a letter to Mayor Nir Barkat, who passed it onto Deputy Mayor Kobi Kahlon, the head of the Local Planning and Building Committee. Kahlon will oversee the approval of any projects in the area. Leiter said he hoped the demonstration, which nearly 100 people attended, would encourage Kahlon to consider their request.
“I came to support the residents because they’re taking things into their own hands,” City Councilor Meir Margalit (Meretz) said at the protest, which was held in an open area near the Bustanya Park. “This is one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city, and I hope it will become like the Tahrir Square of Jerusalem.”