Young activists protest for cheaper J'lem housing

Awakening Jerusalem organizes protest outside Lands Authority.

Around 60 young people demonstrated outside the Jerusalem offices of the Israel Lands Authority on Thursday night to encourage the state to take a more active role in creating affordable housing in Jerusalem.
The protest was organized by Awakening Jerusalem, a political organization that aims to keep young people in the city.
“These are people that are just starting out, and if the government could help them a little, they could stand up on their own instead of falling behind,” said Awakening Jerusalem spokeswoman Merav Cohen.
The purpose of Thursday’s protest was to encourage the ILA to change the bidding process for building projects in Jerusalem. Currently, the authority, which owns 90 percent of the land in Israel, sells tenders for land to the contractors with the highest bids.
Awakening Jerusalem wants the authority to give the tenders to contractors offering the cheapest price per apartment, rather than the highest price overall.
Often, the price of the tender has been so inflated during the competitive bidding process that the contractors must build luxury units in order to make a profit, and can’t afford to build housing for regular residents.
The Israel Lands Authority said it supported an increase in affordable housing, but that it was up to the Construction and Housing Ministry to ensure that projects included affordable housing.
“Our program to lower the price of housing is to make a meaningful increase in the amount of housing units available, because when there’s more available, the price will drop,” said Ortal Tzabar, the spokeswoman for the ILA. She noted that in 2009 the authority had put tenders on the market for 22,000 new apartment units across the country, and in 2010, it put tenders out for 33,000 housing units – an increase of 133%.
Jerusalem is challenging because there is so little land available for building in the city, said Tzabar. The authority has barely any land free in the western part of the city, and only small parcels available in in Har Homa, Pisgat Ze’ev and Ramot, some of which are already designated as haredi projects.
“We’re not against helping haredim or families with lots of children [who receive more affordable housing from the government], because they need it, but it’s not possible to only help them and not others,” said Cohen.
The same way the government gives preference to families with lots of children, it should also give preference to first-time buyers and young couples who work, Cohen added.