Affordable housing will not magically appear

Let’s go north or go south. Let’s move to the Galil, the Golan and the Negev. Let’s move to the northern cities, small towns and kibbutzim.

Social justice protest 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Social justice protest 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Another season of social protests began earlier this year. And more power to them – we do need real and effective changes in this country with respect to a living wage, good working conditions for all and affordable housing.
These are issues that are paramount to a thriving society, and as a side benefit, it makes for good public relations when we try to fix our problems.
So let’s look at one issue: affordable housing. With all due respect to the tent city protestors, students and demonstrators taking to the streets, affordable housing will not magically appear in the middle of Tel Aviv. Not on Dizengoff St., not on HaYarkon St.; not with a beach view, not near the University.
I’m pretty sure that if you take a look at any comparable modern, metropolitan city around the world, you’ll find that this is true as well.
Making close to median wage in places like New York, Milan, Tokyo or Paris will not guarantee that you’ll be able to afford an apartment in the city’s center. So while managing to rent or buy an apartment in the city’s most attractive neighborhoods is attainable for some, the rest of us need to seek other solutions.
We can sit in the streets and protest the skyrocketing prices of apartments in desirable areas – and I do agree that they are far too high – or we can do something ourselves now and for our future. We need to come to grips with the fact that those apartments are financially out of reach, and we must move out of the city and take a bus, train or carpool.
But let’s think even a little bit more out of the box – or outsize of the merkaz (center of the country). Looking at the map, we see that the majority of Israelis live in a very small section in relative proximity to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The population density in the central region makes sense, considering how many colleges and universities are located there, not to mention availability of jobs, shopping, family and friends. But not apartments. Or at least not affordable ones.
While I do think we need a solution to create more affordable housing in the central region, I also think there are ready-made solutions staring us in the face. Let’s go north or go south. Let’s move to the Galil, the Golan and the Negev. Let’s move to the northern cities, small towns and kibbutzim.
The north is green, full of hills and lush valleys. Wineries and orchards abound.
In Israel’s north, work can be found in a number of areas, and while finding employment is a real concern, small towns in the north are often commutable to jobs in major cities like Haifa and Tiberias.
Or let’s move south – to the barren but mystical desert of the Negev, pockmarked with giant craters and amazing hiking trails.
Let’s move to the cities like Arad and Dimona, where you can find jobs, shops and restaurants. Small and mid-size towns are speckled throughout the south, providing options in terms of the lifestyle you are looking for. Beersheba, a major city, hosts a great university, industry, and a train that gets you to Tel Aviv in about an hour. The Negev – the home and dream of David Ben- Gurion himself. Could there be a better example to follow? For an area that comprises more than half of our country’s physical space, fewer than 10 percent of Israelis call it home. Let’s change that number. For reasons that help ourselves, and our wallets, the need to look at these options is clear.
For many other reasons – quality of life, helping the environment, and furthering the development of the country in the spirit of Zionism, it’s crucial that we spread out more, pushing out of the center. Organizations like the Jewish Agency, Jewish National Fund and the Or Movement are teaming up to help guide those of us who are interested in making a northern or southern move. The social protesters and demonstrators have valid arguments, and we should all work towards real change.
But if there are options to be explored today, then why wait?
The writer holds a masters in Jewish Education and lives with her family in the Judean Desert, twenty minutes from Jerusalem. Next summer she will be moving to the Negev.