Israel plans to end controversial urban development program | Cities

JERUSALEM — If all goes according to plan, the aging 1960s building where Yael Rockoff lives in Jerusalem with her husband and two young sons will be nearly demolished and rebuilt to today’s building standards. Rockoff and the other five households will all get larger apartments in the renovated building, gaining at least one extra room and a balcony. And the massive project will cost them nothing.

Under a unique nationwide urban renewal plan, known by its Hebrew acronym Tama 38, Israeli developers are footing the bill for strengthening buildings like Rockoff against earthquakes and adding protective rooms for use during missile and chemical weapon attacks. They also often include perks like balconies and elevators. In return, developers can add more apartments on top of buildings and sell them to cover their costs and make a profit.

“It’s pretty amazing,” says Rockoff, adding that the developer will also cover the cost of renting another home for his family while the work is in progress. Instead of six apartments, his larger, renovated building will have up to 18. “And I’ll have a new apartment in a building that doesn’t collapse.”

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But municipalities across Israel have raised concerns about the growing number of Tama 38 projects, saying they lead to increased population density without any requirement for increased infrastructure – such as parks, schools and parking spaces – and primarily benefit current owners rather than entire neighborhoods.. The federal government seems to have gotten the message. In early July, he announced tentative plans to cancel the program, prompting a mix of backlash and praise.

Although Tama 38 has been around since 2005, the pace of these projects has accelerated in recent years as real estate prices continue to climb. In 2018, the government approved plans to add 13,133 new apartments to these programs, up from 843 new apartments approved in 2010, according to Israel’s Office for Urban Renewal. The program, which leaves developers and citizens to negotiate most terms, is unique in Israel, says Nava Kainer-Persov, an architecture and urban planning researcher at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

Tama 38 is realized primarily in cities and neighborhoods with high real estate values, where developers can make the highest profits on the new apartments they add and sell, says Kainer-Persov. It is not as active in many poorer and more earthquake-prone parts of the country or in outlying areas closer to possible missiles from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.

The rise of Tama 38 projects, and a similar program called Evacuate and Build, is particularly visible in Jerusalem, a city of about 874,000 with few skyscrapers and little new construction until recently. Now, more than 20,000 new apartments are planned under these programs.

The projects are key to adding desperately needed housing, some city officials say.

“We are limited in space, so these projects are the right social and urban solution for Jerusalem,” says Amit Poni-Kronish, head of urban renewal initiatives for Moriah Jerusalem Development Corporation, a municipal enterprise. He says Jerusalem’s expansion is limited due to the surrounding hilly topography and international political pressure to refrain from new construction on land that peace plans have earmarked for a possible Palestinian state.

But Jerusalem has also put caps on Tama 38, limiting developers to adding only a floor and a half in many neighborhoods so that infrastructure such as parking lots, schools and public parks are not overwhelmed, says Poni. -Kronish. The move was a response to a common complaint about the program: that it increases population density without considering the accompanying needs for more parking, green spaces, schools, and infrastructure like sewers and water systems. drainage. Ramat Gan, a city bordering Tel Aviv, was so concerned about poor infrastructure that it banned the program in May.

Poni-Kronish says Jerusalem prefers evacuation and construction projects because, unlike Tama 38, they require rezoning approval from the municipality. “It allows the municipality to make demands, such as that developers also pay for or build more schools, roads or synagogues, in return for obtaining permits,” he says. “In this way, we can achieve benefits for the public.”

Critics of both programs say they sometimes force people on low or fixed incomes out of their homes. Even though apartment owners get a larger, more valuable apartment for free, new and expanded buildings resulting from the Tama 38 and Evacuate and Build projects often require much higher condo fees for maintenance, and property taxes are also higher on expanded apartments, Poni-Kronish said.

“These are all challenges, and we have to be creative and find ways to make things better,” he says. “We don’t want to exclude people and chase them away.”

Following concerns over Tama 38, the head of the national government office that oversees urban planning and development has announced plans to end the program in 2020, citing insufficient guarantees of infrastructure and public spaces in areas where buildings are growing.

“The position of the Planning Administration is that it is better to promote more comprehensive urban renewal projects that meet the needs of the general public and contribute to the improvement of well-being,” said Dalit Zilber, director of the National Planning Administration, in a statement. . “And the granting of a specific permit for a single piece of land or building is in contrast to that.”

But for many people living in small apartments, often worth close to a million dollars in the central neighborhoods of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, participating in Tama 38 or Evacuate and Build is a dream come true – as long as the programs last.

“This is a real opportunity for us,” says Rockoff, whose apartment, even before the planned upgrade, has more than doubled in value since she bought it about 20 years ago. “But I’m also sad that it’s only those who are already well-off who benefit.”

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