J'lem Reaches for Affordable Housing, Tel Aviv Gets Stuck

The Jerusalem project is the product of an agreement in principle by city council members that would give builders extra building rights if they agree to build some apartments that meet affordable housing standards.

The Jerusalem local planning committee approved this week a project that would include affordable housing, while in Tel Aviv, residents petitioned against the very idea.

The Jerusalem project, planned for the Gilo neighborhood, will have 140 apartments, including 26 designated for younger people and priced at a discount of about 20%.

A simulation of the future development called Plan 3700 for north-west Tel Aviv.

Meanwhile, residents of the Azorei Chen neighborhood in Tel Aviv petitioned the municipal planning committee to revoke plans for a massive project in the city's northwest, arguing that they lacked the authority to include affordable housing in the project.

The Jerusalem project is the product of an agreement in principle by city council members that would give builders extra building rights if they agree to build some apartments that meet affordable housing standards.

City hall defined this as apartments priced at 20% less than similar new flats in the area of the project. The price will be set by a municipal assessor when the building permits are being approved or when the apartments are being marketed.

Potential buyers will have to meet several criteria: When the buyers are a couple, neither person can own a significant share of another home (more than 25% ), and neither may have owned a home or part of a home at any point over the past three years.

At least one of the partners must be under age 41, and together they must be employed at least 150% - meaning one person could be employed full-time and the other half-time. A single parent must be employed at least 75%. Alternately, one of the partners may have been determined to have a 75% disability, or both may be disabled.

If there are more eligible applicants than apartments, the contractor will hold a lottery overseen by a public official and a municipal representative. Preference will be given to public servants, students and employees of the high-tech factories in and around Jerusalem.

"The additional building rights weren't purchased, but were given for meeting requirements such as affordable housing and other social considerations," states the document delineating the city's policy.

The municipality decided to condition building permits on the contractor not decreasing the proportion of affordable housing in the project as a whole. It also ruled that it would not approve additions of 2,000 square meters or more unless at least 20% of the project was affordable housing.

The buyers will be obliged to live in the homes for at least seven years from the move-in date. Those who move out beforehand will be obliged to pay city hall the value of the discount they received on the purchase price.

The municipality is particularly concerned about providing affordable housing due to the city's negative migration, it stated in the agreement.

Meanwhile, in Tel Aviv, residents of Azorei Chen petitioned to revoke plans for the large project planned for the city's northwest, arguing that the decision to include affordable housing was done without proper authorization.

The new neighborhood would border the western side of Azorei Chen.

The residents cited a recent opinion by Deputy Attorney General Sarit Dana, who stated that planning committees do not have the authority to approve projects that include affordable housing until the matter is regulated in law.

The plan at hand, plan 3700, calls for building a new neighborhood on the 1,900 empty dunams north of Sde Dov Airport, the last free stretch of land in the city. It would include 11,000 housing units, with a possible expansion to 12,300 units.

The plan, which has been under discussion for the last eight years, is still going through the approval process. In September, the committee opened up the plan to objections.

Of the 11,000 units, 2,160 would be affordable housing averaging 60 square meters per apartment. In total, there would be 129,000 square meters of affordable housing.

The residents of Azorei Chen, represented by attorney Eliezer Wilchek, submitted an urgent request to the head of the Tel Aviv planning committee, Gila Oron, asking that the plan's approval be rescinded, due to Dana's opinion.

Five other projects that would have contained a total of 1,570 projects were canceled due to that opinion.

"The planning authorities are not authorized to include in the plans instructions regarding prices or conditions for selling apartments. There is no reason for attorneys, appraisers, planners and other professionals to put their effort into drafting objections to this massive plan, a large part of which is affordable housing," Wilchek wrote.