Builder Uses Contract for Low-income Housing to Put Up Luxury Tower in J’lem

In 1995 the Jerusalem changed the plan and allocated the site for a medical center, clinics and a sheltered living facility for sale or rent.

A real estate developer built a prestigious housing project in Jerusalem’s German Colony neighborhood on land earmarked for an old folks’ home and a clinic.

The developer, Rassco-Isras Group, has put the building’s apartments on sale or rent to the public-at-large. To bypass the building’s designation as sheltered housing, the developer stipulated that one of the tenants in each apartment must be over 55 and declared the building an assisted living facility.

“The Colony” in Jerusalem
Emil Salman

The city originally planned to build a public clinic on the project site. In 1995 the city changed the plan and allocated the site for a “medical center, clinics and a sheltered living facility for sale or rent.”

But instead, a luxury apartment building was built with the stipulation that at least one tenant must be aged over 55. The project’s website promotes luxury housing, spacious apartments, a grand lobby and “a special living approach providing all the tenants’ needs in a fascinating architectural envelope.”

A Jerusalem resident familiar with planning and construction procedures said he complained to the city when the project was in construction. The man, who asked to remain anonymous, said the city ignored his complaints and the construction was completed and inhabited. The developer is now promoting the sale of the building’s six luxury penthouses in the local media.

A marketing woman for the developer told Haaretz anyone can buy, sell or rent an apartment in the project, dubbed “the Colony.” But, she added, “only someone over 55 can live here,” because the developers “wanted to give the building character.”

Neither she nor the company’s website mention the site’s designation as sheltered housing and compatible facilities.

Residents objecting to the project say an ordinary family can buy or rent an apartment in it providing the father or mother are over 55. They compare the case to the vacation apartments in Herzliya’s marina that had been sold as regular apartments until the court ordered the buyers to rent them in order to restore their original purpose.

The objectors say the developers took advantage of the flawed definition of “sheltered housing” in the project plan.

The Rassco-Isras Group dismissed the complaints. “The building was built to a very high standard and in keeping with all the required permits and habitation procedures,” the company said.

Sources associated with the developers said the building was indeed “sheltered housing”, in keeping with all the plans’ requirements. They said the developers suggested the 55-year age limit after the city had refused to set an age which would define the building as “sheltered housing.”

The Jerusalem municipality said the city’s legal department was dealing with the matter.