web analytics
July 30, 2015 / 14 Av, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘housing’

Thousands of New Homes Approved for Jerusalem Arabs

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

The Jerusalem municipal building committee passed a development plan Wednesday that calls for construction of 2,200 housing units for Arabs in the Arav al-Swahara neighborhood.

The plan allegedly includes restrictions on building sizes, and the residents are referred to as those in a ‘village.’

Mayor Nir Barkat supported the move, saying, “The planning of neighborhoods … by the Jerusalem municipality is a clear expression of Israel’s sovereignty over every part of the city and the unified strength of Jerusalem.”

An order from the Jerusalem District Court was required in order to bring the plan to a vote. It was repeatedly blocked by council member Aryeh King, head of the Israel Land Fund, and Bayit Yehudi party member Mati Dan.

Lapid: Contractors Shouldn’t Be So Greedy

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

Finance Minister Yair Lapid accused Israel’s building contractors of over-charging for housing and called on construction companies to forego profits for the benefit of young middle class couples. But Lapid stopped short of proposing a genuine free-market solution to Israel’s housing crisis: A massive buidling project in Judea and Samaria.

Speaking to the Globes financial daily, Lapid said he had proposed a series of steps to bring down housing prices in Israel, including exempting first-time home buyers from value added tax. But he pointed out that although land prices have fallen in Israel in recent years, housing prices have continued to rise over the same period of time. That, he said, is a clear sign of one thing: Greed.

“The real estate market enjoys a huge profit margin,” Lapid said. “Over the past four years, land prices have dropped, but housing prices have risen by 64 percent. The contractors certainly have places they can cut back.”

Lapid stressed that he does not want to put small contractors out of business by demanding they drop prices on their products, but he also warned there would be a “transition period” that could harm some builders.

While the finance minister – who in the past has referred to Jewish building in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem as a “double mistake – seems undeterred by the anti-capitalist notion that the state should set prices in a free market, he has also apparently refused to consider another free-market solution to Israel’s ongoing housing crisis: Massive building in Judea and Samaria.

Bringing thousands of new homes onto the market in Ariel, Gush Etzion and further afield would presumably lead to a sharp drop in housing prices in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other major Israeli cities. A building project would also ensure the livelihoods of small and large construction companies alike.

Instead, Lapid said he is concentrating on  a series of tax-related measures, and the hope that builders will forgo some of their profits.

“These steps will bring down housing prices,” Lapid said.

Netanyahu to Trade Freeing More Terrorists for More Yesha Homes

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

Israel will trade 26 more terrorists for between 1,000 and 2,000 new homes for Jews in Judea and Samaria, according to a government official quoted by Israeli television Wednesday.

There is a broad consensus in Israel against freeing more terrorists in the four-step release plan to release 104 terrorists and security prisoners during the nine months that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has scheduled for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to reach an agreement on a future PA state without endangering Israeli security.

Kerry has set the rules of the game, and Netanyahu knows that rejecting the release on Sunday of more terrorists, even though PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas has not lived up to a promise to play by Kerry’s rules, would leave Israel checkmated in Abbas’ game to have international backing to skip talks and go to the United Nations for recognition. The Cabinet on Wednesday approved the release of the third batch of 104 terrorists.

Netanyahu’s ploy has been to announce new homes every time a batch of terrorists are freed. He did this in July and last month and is about to do so again, infuriating the Palestinian Authority and the European Union but not violating Kerry’s conditions.

Kerry has implied it was assumed that Israel would announce plans for new construction for Jews in Judea and Samaria, even though the United States calls Israelis in those areas “illegitimate.” President Barack Obama has called the settlements, including Palestinian Authority-claimed neighborhoods, in Jerusalem, “illegal.”

The Prime Minister can always climb down from a weak limb simply by announcing new homes but not going through with issuing tenders, particularly since the bureaucratic process for doing so could take months.

When Kerry dug up the remains of the “peace process” in July and forced Israel and Abbas to get back to the so-called negotiating table, he demanded that both sides not issue interim reports on the talks. Israel agreed to release terrorists only if there is progress in talks and if the Palestinian Authority does not resort to more violence.

Prime Minister Netanyahu on Wednesday blamed Abbas and the Palestinian Authority for the escalation in terrorist attacks, saying they directly incite Arabs to attack Israelis.

Since July, Palestinian Authority terrorists have murdered at least four Israelis and have carried out numerous other terrorist attacks, not including rock-throwing and fire bombings.

In addition, Abbas and his negotiators have consistently complained that no progress is being made, and he has threatened more than once to end the talks and go to the United Nations.

Kerry has four months left to come back to Washington with a deal.

Cost of Lapid’s Housing Plan Estimated to Be Bigger than His Ego

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

Finance Minister Yair Lapid, chairman of the Yesh Atid party, has come up with a fantastic plan to solve Israel’s apartment shortage but it has one large problem –  a cost of approximately $14 billion, according to an estimate by Globes business newspaper. That may be par for the course for the former journalist who didn’t even finish high school, let alone specialize in math.

Approval of the plan has not taken into consideration how the government will pay for it. A large cost will be compensating owners of farmland where some of this planned 150,000 apartments are to be built.

“Contractors regret that no one consulted with them in drawing up the plan, assessors call it ‘hallucinatory,’” Globes reported. The land will cost the government approximately $12 billion but will have to be sold for far less  in order to make it a feasible investment for contractors.

The plan also faces heavy opposition from environment groups and the environment ministry.

Even the estimate of $14 billion is low, according to Israel’s Real Estate Appraisers Association chairman Ehud Danus, who said the final cost could be double after taking into considering necessary schools and parks.

The Ministry of Finance responded to the report with a weird admission of that “we’re talking about the preliminary stage, and as we accumulate the land for projects, we’ll budget the activity later on.”

Left Targeting Jewish Home Housing Minister for Ouster

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Gush Shalom, which defines itself as the “hard core” of Israel’s peace camp, is going after Jewish Home Housing Minister Uri Ariel, who is, apparently, to blame for anything that has and will surely go wrong in the explosive Middle East.

The reason Gush Shalom, headed by the aging but still very charismatic journalist Uri Avneri, who was the first Israeli newspaper publisher to meet openly with the late PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, is going after Minister Ariel has to do with something he said this month:

“We should make clear to Secretary of State Kerry that Israel will never return to the Auschwitz borders, will not freeze the settlements endeavor, and will not agree to be sacrificed so that he could receive the Nobel Peace Prize. I am sure the prime minister will not be partner to abandoning Israel’s security.”

And on Sunday, on the occasion of the inauguration of the new neighborhood of Leshem in the town of Alei Zahav, a few miles away from the city of Ariel in Samaria, Minister Ariel said:

“It should be clear to any thinking person: there are no two states for two peoples west of the Jordan River, there will be no such thing, even if we’re sitting at the negotiations table, this is not on the agenda.” He then added: “We will build everywhere in the Land of Israel, and certainly in Samaria, and certainly in Judea.”

The reaction from the left was furious:

“With the winds of war blowing in our region, Housing Minister Uri Ariel pours more oil on the flames by establishing the new ‘Leshem’ settlement on the West Bank. In the inflammatory speech which he delivered on that occasion he shows himself a dangerous extreme right provocateur,” reads the Gush Shalom press release, responding to the Minister’s relatively benign, if somewhat excited statement.

The entire press release reads like the stuff Avneri used to dish out on a weekly basis, back in the roaring 1970s. The next paragraph is vintage Avneri:

“This is far from an unexpected development. Ariel’s rampage could have been predicted from the moment when the settler cat was placed in charge of the housing cream. Ariel is not a private individual, he the Minister of Housing in the government of Israel.”

It’s interesting to note that Alei Zahav, established a little over 30 years ago, in 1982, is more likely to vote Likud-Beiteinu than Jewish Home: its 130 families (now a few more, with the opening of the new neighborhood) are 80 percent non-religious. So you can’t quite accuse Minister Ariel of being the cat taking all the cream to himself – not if he shares the cream with other cats…

Also, Deputy Minister Ophir Akonis of Likud Beiteinu, who also graced the inauguration with his presence, repeated everything the minister had said: “There are indeed negotiating with the Palestinians, but that does not stop anyone from building homes in Israel,” he said. “Out of this place, a message is emanating, that a Palestinian state will never be established.”

“Look around you,” Akunis said, “who needs another Arab country in this area?”

Nevertheless, Avneri et al are after Uri Ariel, despite the fact that his message is not different at all from what’s being said these days by the majority of the Likud Beiteinu ministers. The reason is obvious: if you portray the situation as it is, meaning that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Justice Minister and chief negotiator Tzipi Livni are way to the left of the government in which they serve, then you must abandon hope of the two-state solution becoming a reality in the near future.

But if you portray Jewish Home as the extremist, settler holdout in a government eager to plant a second Hamas entity right next door to Ben Gurion International Airport – then you’ve got something to work with.

This is precisely Avneri’s next point:

“There is not one government which is busy building settlements and spitting in the face of the Palestinians, and a different government which is supposed to negotiate and reach a peace agreement with the same Palestinians. It is the same government, and all its ministers are responsible for Ariel’s acts of provocation.”

Lapid Changes His Stripes and Tells Middle Class to be Patient

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

It’s amazing how an election victory can change the stripes of a tiger, namely Yair Lapid. The sensation of Israeli politics who campaigned on behalf of the middle class and denounced the government for promising their situation will be better, now says the same thing.

Barely three months in office and weeks after imposing austerity measures and higher taxes that hit the middle class hard, Lapid said not to worry. Just wait a couple of years and everyone will feel the changes for the better in the housing market, he declared.

Israeli media major a mountain of a molehill Sunday morning, headlining “social justice” protests Saturday that grew a grand total of 3,000 people, a measly turnout to mark the anniversary of the first “cottage cheese” protests two summers ago.

“People did not take to the streets because of housing or the price of cottage cheese, but because they felt that they were abused by the system,” Lapid said after Saturday night’s demonstration in Tel Aviv. “Most European countries would grab our situation with both hands,” he told Channel 10 television.

Lapid and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu were the objects of derision at the protest, headed by “limousine liberal” Dafni Leef.

“Bibi + Lapid = Morsi” stated one sign. Another proclaimed, “Capital, government = the underworld.”

Solving One Problem, Sort of…

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

My issues with Satmar notwithstanding, I must give credit where credit is due. The Williamsburg area where Satmar Hasidim live has quietly created a trend of development that is somewhat counter culture – in a good way. In an era where gentrification has become standard for urban renewal Satmar has had its own – much more affordable version of that going on in its outer edges.

Gentrification is what happens to slums (or at best neglected neighborhoods) where the poor live when a city council and developers get together to try and eliminate those slums. Developers will buy out dilapidated buildings and either demolish them to build new upscale living quarters or rehabilitate existing structures that in their hey-day were quite upscale themselves.

When the original tenants moved to the suburbs (what used to be called white flight) and the poor started moving in these neighborhoods became neglected – some of them turning into slums. The residents could not afford to keep up the buildings and they became run down. That is an oversimplified – but I think fair description of what has happened.

Developers – seeking to attract singles or a working couple with no children whose incomes are well above average and expenditures far less that the average family would build housing suitable for this demographic… making them unattractive for most families and too expensive in any event. These dwellings are steeply priced. As an article in the New York Observer points out – in the trendier section of Williamsburg, a half a million dollars will barely buy you a studio apartment.

Satmar developers, ever mindful of the need of their growing community, have taken a different track. They have lobbied government officials successfully and have received zoning variances enabling them to build housing on what were once commercial and industrial zoned areas of Williamsburg. And they have built brand new and affordable housing for Satmar families where that same half million will buy a three-bedroom condo in a new elevator building.

True these structures will not win any architectural awards. “Strolling down Bedford Avenue, you’re greeted by a solid wall of new six-story brick buildings” says the New York Observer. They are obviously more functional than aesthetic. But they do have a clean and new functional look to them. In an area where a modest lifestyle is promoted, this type of housing is ideal. And again from the Observer (here comes the good part): “the ultra-Orthodox have succeeded in building thousands of units and keeping the neighborhood affordable for families—on private land, and without public money!”

I have been to these neighborhoods and seen these buildings. They are a far cry from the impoverished conditions I used to see there just a decade or so ago. It appears to be populated entirely by Williamsburg Hasidim.

And yet, I can’t help but feel that there is something missing from this seemingly idyllic picture. For one thing a half million dollars isn’t pocket change. The ‘modest’ incomes of most Satmar Hasidim doesn’t seem like enough to buy one of these units. Even if you factor in low down payments – there remains the very high mortgage payments. Which begs the question, where do these families with 6, 7, 8 or more children get the money to pay for that? It would therefore appear to be that only a more upscale (by Satmar standards) family can afford these units. Either that or some of these families must be getting subsidized. And if so, where is that money coming from? Philanthropists? Government welfare programs?

The building boom also had some controversy attached when public land was bought along with private land. From the New York Observer:

Black and Latino leaders claimed that the affordable housing complex—to be built on city-owned land, some of which would be seized by eminent domain—would give a disproportionate number of units to the ultra-Orthodox, as traditional public housing projects nearby had in the past.

Rabbi David Niederman, leader of the United Jewish Organizations, begged to differ, saying that both the public and private aspect of the rezoning are needed. “We believe in supply and demand,” he said. “Imagine if 200 people are fighting for one unit”—something that New Yorkers outside of Hasidic Williamsburg won’t have to try very hard to do. “Prices are going to go up like crazy.”

I personally see no problem with what Satmar did. They lobbied for the land and they got it. Black and Latino leaders could have done the same.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/solving-one-problem-sort-of/2013/04/11/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: