Bookmark and Share

Housing and urban renewal in Haifa - part 2

Posted: February 4, 2014

The second day in Haifa started out with meetings on housing and urban renewal.  We met with two representatives, Haim and Mirit from the Ministry of Housing and Construction responsible for new development and rehabilitation of housing in the north part of Israel, including Haifa. Note we didn't catch their last names because their business cards were in Hebrew!

Haim said that there is a significant focus on retrofitting housing stock to reinforce buildings for earthquakes and to provide for bomb-proof rooms.  One way they are achieving that is to incent developers by allowing them to build 2-4 floors on top of exisiting 3-4 story walkup buildings.  The developers can sell the additional units to pay for costs and to take a profit.  In the construction process, they reskin the buildings, reinforce the outer walls with vertical supports and a "belt" to make the building more able to withstand earthquakes.  They also build bomb-proof rooms for all residents in the top portion of the building.  The Ministry receives an annual rehab budget from the government, and prioritizes projects across their district, targeting lower income neighborhoods. They then work with the owners of the apartment buildings (largely owned not rentals) - the owners arrange for the work within a prescribed budget per unit based on the level of rehab required. The government pays for 75% of the work, and the apartment owners fund 25%.   

Mirit told us that there is a chronic shortage of housing, especially in light of the significant influx of refugees. Israel is actually starting construction on a brand new city near the border of the West Bank, which will house 60,000 people. Affordability is an issue. Israel does have a program to work with communities to educate and develop leaders to help promote, organize and support the ministry's work in housing development and redevelopment.

We then went to talk to Yaron Hadar, who is affiliated with the municipality of Haifa and who coordinates urban renewal efforts for the Hadar Street area of Haifa, a very diverse, historic neighborhood which has had its share of urban problems, including drugs, street crime and prostitution over the years. Yaron, who grew up in the neighborhood (and actually changed his name to it!) considers himself a community activist, working with the various resident populations to coordinate efforts relating to public safety, support for small businesses and sidewalk and infrastructure improvements. So much of the work in Haifa and other places we visited is done at the grass roots level and includes community outreach to get support and to shape plans appropriate for the neighborhodd.

Photos: Haifa port at night; Karen Edlund with Haifa port in the background; 100 year old park in Haifa with olive trees 

Go back

Add a comment