Tel Aviv Approves Affordable Housing PlanMar 3rd, 2010 | By Jesse Fox | Category: Featured Articles
After over two years of study and deliberation – and rising rents – the city finally has a plan.
Good news this week for everyone who’s been feeling uneasy about the spiraling cost of housing in Tel Aviv – after over two years of study and deliberation, the Tel Aviv Municipality has approved a plan to create affordable housing units in the city.
While this does not necessarily mean that rents will fall any time soon, it does mean that a supply of below market value rental apartments will gradually come into existence within Tel Aviv’s municipal borders over the next several years. By approving the plan, Tel Aviv becomes the first Israeli city to come up with a coherent affordable housing strategy – although several other cities, notably Jerusalem, are working on plans of their own.
The plan was drawn up by a special commission, whose advisory team was led by Dr. Emily Silverman, an urban planner and a researcher at the Technion. Sounding less enthusiastic than one might expect, Dr. Silverman reacted to the decision this week on the Coalition for Affordable Housing in Israel’s Hebrew-language blog.
“It isn’t an excellent plan, and perhaps not even an especially good plan,” she writes. “And I say this as the person who headed the plan’s advisory team.”
She continues: “The mandate that was given to us was defined as the creation of a workable solution. Not perfect, not grandiose, not necessarily original or a breakthrough. Not a solution based on significant constitutional changes or one that would require financial support. Rather, a solution that could be put into place now, as a first step in Israel. With all of the limitations, shortcomings and opportunities that exist here today.”
Some details about the plan:
The program will benefit mainly young, working couples with children. According to the commission’s report, 70% of new affordable housing units will be allocated to young families making up to NIS 12,000/month (average wages in Israel, equivalent to around $3,200). Rents would be approximately NIS 2,800 per couple, or no more than 25% of a family’s monthly income.
The program will focus mainly on providing long-term rental apartments. On city-owned land zoned for housing, new buildings will be required to include up to 25% affordable rental units. The city will also offer scholarships to students who are willing to live in run-down southern neighborhoods, like Neve Sha’anan.
Regarding another of the commission’s recommendations – that developers be granted increased building rights in exchange for agreeing to build affordable rental units – the municipality will have to develop new legal tools before anything like this can be implemented.
Two pilot projects were also announced: one containing 100 apartments on a 4 dunam city-owned plot in the southern Shapira neighborhood, and another containing around 50 units near Kikar Hamedina in the northern part of the city.
Eligibility criteria for the program have not yet been determined, but will likely require at least 3 years previous residency in the city, and possibly also completion of compulsory army service.
The commission’s report also recommended setting up a forum to address the unique housing situation faced by the Arab community in Jaffa, as well as finding specific planning solutions for that community. That forum has already begun to meet, while a number of other organizations are working on a plan to set up a community development corporation (CDC) in Jaffa.
The plan offers no solutions for the city’s low-income residents, claiming they are the responsibility of the state’s housing agencies.
The commission which formulated the plan was set up in late 2007, after a sharp rise in rents across the city led to public pressure for the municipality to step in with some form of regulation. The issue featured prominently in the run-up to the November 2008 local elections. In May 2009, the city announced that the commission had officially finished its work.
The long delay between that announcement and the formal approval of the plan led many to suspect that the city was dragging its feet, or as Prof. Noah Efron of Ir Lekulanu (City for All), the largest municipal opposition party, told me last year: “Nobody within the municipality wants to advance it, so it’s simply not being advanced.”
The decision to approve the plan this week was made by a controversial municipal entity called va’adat hahanhala (“the executive committee”). One of the most powerful bodies in the municipality, the committee is staffed by the mayor and members of his coalition, along with senior municipality officials. City council members who are not part of the mayor’s coalition, as well as the press and the public, are not allowed access to the committee’s meetings.
Following its approval, the plan will be implemented by a municipal committee headed by city council member Arnon Giladi. The principles contained in the plan will also be integrated into Tel Aviv’s new Urban Master Plan, which is currently being formulated.