Jerusalem needs 100,000 new apartment units by the year 2020
to meet the city's housing needs Mayor Rabbi Uri Lupoliansky
said at a special meeting of the Knesset Interior Committee
held at the Mayor's Office.
The meeting was called to discuss plans for housing
construction on the western end of the city. Rabbi
Lupoliansky noted that Jerusalem has the highest rate of
public housing construction in the country, with the number
of small apartment units built in Jerusalem and its environs
five times the rate in Haifa. Many families buy two small
apartments and convert them into one large apartment, which
reduces the apartment-family ratio.
"In 1998 the government made a decision to expand the city
westward," said Rabbi Lupoliansky, "but the plan was
downsized and inquiries were made to determine how it would
be possible to make Jerusalem neighborhoods denser in order
to fit more housing units in. The essential question is how
is it possible to maintain existing housing while allowing
the city to develop to make it lively and dynamic?"
Committee Chairman MK Rabbi Yuri Stern (HaIchud HaLeumi) said
that all municipal development must focus on the downtown
area. He noted the city has numerous problems that must be
solved such as preserving the downtown, excessive high- rise
construction, lack of housing and jobs, etc., saying no
solution will be agreeable to all sides and therefore the
various parties must try to reach a compromise.
City Engineer Uri Shetreet told the committee that the main
reasons for out- migration include the lack of employment,
high apartment prices which drive many residents to towns and
communities in Judea and Samaria, the changing demographic
balance which has made the city less and less Jewish and
depleting land reserves.
According to Shetreet in order to confront these problems the
municipality, in cooperation with the national government,
has decided to act to renovate the city and strengthen the
downtown, including improved access, light rail, improving
the city's appearance and parks, etc. He says building to the
west is the best option to contend with the housing shortage
because the lands are publicly owned.
City Council Opposition Chairman Nir Barkat said Jerusalem
has become the poorest city in the country and in order for
the city to stand up on its feet the upper-middle class must
be encouraged to hold onto its share of the city. He also
claimed there is constant talk about physical planning while
no attention is paid to the issues of education, culture and