Telfed Takes on Next Target: Hadera

The South African Zionist Federation's Israel office has recently initiated a new real estate project on the outskirts of Hadera. Similar to previous such undertakings - such as Modi'in's Dimri Towers - South African immigrants registering through the group are eligible for a 12 percent discount on an apartment. While the federation, also known as Telfed, and the likely developers hail Hadera as a future hot spot, urban development researchers doubt the coastal town, which is about 45 km north of Tel Aviv, will significantly rise in popularity in the near future.

Telfed asserts buyers will be able to move by 2010, though details of the project's location are not yet final. "We're currently looking at three or four different sites outside Hadera," said Dorron Kline, Telfed's director of project development. "We're looking at four-room apartments in the price range of NIS 700,000."

He said affordability relative to the country's center led Telfed to focus on Hadera. Kline added Telfed is looking at the outskirts of the city to allow people "to have a high standard of living at low cost. He described one potential area as surrounded by orchards. He noted, "The houses have swimming pools - you won't believe this is Hadera, you'd think you are in [the south of France]."

Following the success of the Dimri project - where Kline says South Africans and other English-speaking immigrants through Telfed receiving significant discounts bought over 20 percent of the project's 455 apartments - the immigrant association immediately looked for its next new real estate venture. Telfed started talking to developers in Hadera after receiving positive feedback in an internal survey.

Praising Hadera as an "up-and-coming area," Kline quoted reports about a recently approved massive new development in city, which currently has as population of 77,000. According to one Israeli newspaper, the plan includes 18,000 housing units, 1,400 hotel rooms and a large industrial park.

"Hadera's getting a major face-lift, it's going to be a national center pretty soon," Kline told Anglo File. "It's going to be transformed into this prime-rate city in Israel and we want to get in early. If we wait too long the prices in Hadera are going to be what they are now in Modi'in."

South African immigrants have a history of successfully identifying attractive areas ahead of the crowd, says Bernard Raskin, owner and director of Remax Israel - one of the developers currently negotiating with Telfed. Raskin, who was born in Zimbabwe and lived in South Africa and the U.S. before moving to Ra'anana 26 years ago, cited Ra'anana and Modi'in as two such places where South Africans got in early and have since become too pricey for most newly arrived immigrants. He also noted Hadera's connection to the railroad and to Highway 6, as well as its proximity to the coastal high-tech hubs, as important factors that might make the city more attractive.

But Dr. Rachelle Alterman, director of the Technion's Center for Urban and Regional Studies - which was founded by South African-born Moshe (Morris) Hill - told Anglo File she is not at all convinced that Hadera will become a new national center any time soon. "The train and the highway are certainly positive aspects, but they've been there for quite a while already," said Alterman, who was educated in Winnipeg, Canada. The planned mega-development might not help either. "The fact they're planning to build so much is not good news - overbuilding is a sure killer for property values."

The only reason why Modi'in, for example, is doing well despite rapid development is because it is located at "the absolute navel of the country," she continued. "Modi'in draws huge amounts of people looking for affordable housing both from Jerusalem and the greater Tel Aviv area. But Hadera is in somewhat of a vacuum between Tel Aviv and Haifa. If the Israeli economy picks up, Hadera will certainly gain attractiveness in the long run, but just because a massive plan has been approved to enable more units does not justify calling it the next hotspot."