Asked for examples, he started reciting: “The IDF Colleges between Mt. Scopus and the Mt. of Olives…two small projects in the Shimon HaTzaddik neighborhood, as well as a large one there of 350 units…The 1,500 units in Ramat Shlomo, in addition to about 600 units on private property in northern Ramat Shlomo…Near Herod’s Gate, within the Old City walls, a project of 30 units is being held up…900 units in Gilo…”
“It’s important for U.S. Jewry to speak up and pressure our government,” Gabbai said, “to continue building Jerusalem intensively and widely. If not, the demographics will work against us – we’re losing some 8,000 Jerusalemites a year because of housing problems and we will risk losing the city.”
Former MK Yaakov Katz, who served as the Housing Ministry’s director-general under then-Housing Minister Ariel Sharon in the Shamir government, says housing prices in Jerusalem have risen by a frightening 24 percent since late last summer. The greater Jerusalem area, with its municipal population of over 800,000 and another few hundred thousand in the surrounding areas, is home to possibly 15 percent of the country’s population. “Is it any wonder, then,” he asked, “that housing prices throughout the country are skyrocketing?”
Katz noted that the haredi-religious sector alone registers 7,500 weddings a year – “and each one of them involves a new apartment as part of the deal.” True, Jerusalem registered a significant jump in building starts in the first quarter of 2013 – but not in the places or in the quantities that matter. Building a few hundred luxury apartments in downtown Jerusalem does not solve the problem. What must be done is to build expansively in the only areas of Jerusalem with plenty of room to build: those that were freed from Jordanian control during the Six-Day War.
Incidentally, recent scare headlines blaring of “176 percent Construction Growth in Yesha” need not fool us. The finer print in the reports tell us that there were only a minuscule 313 housing starts throughout Yesha in the last quarter of 2012, and that these “ballooned” to 865 in the next quarter – still very few for the 360,000 Jews living there.
What is needed is a meltdown of the construction freeze in Yesha and Jerusalem – and the quicker the better for all concerned.
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