Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Housing and Infrastructure Shortage in Samaria
The total freeze on new construction in Jewish communities in the West Bank has worsened the housing crunch, leading to a steep rise in apartment prices and rental rates. The pic shows Kever Giddeon the Judge, and it is in the highest point of the Samarian mountains, at 866 msnm. In a good day you can see three seas: the Mediterrenean, the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. It is within Itamar settlement.
The population is growing over 5 percent, which is double or more than that of the rest of the country. Two-thirds of the growth stem from births. However, the picture is more complex: Every year, around 10,000 people leave Jewish communities in the West Bank. Most of those leaving are young people in their 20s. Thanks to a large number of incoming residents, the population figures remain balanced - but they would increase if there were apartments on offer for the next generation.
Due to the freeze on construction in Jewish communities in the West Bank, the number of residents leaving is likely to increase. In many communities in Gush Etzion, prices of detached houses have soared to as much as $300,000 or more. Three- and four-room apartments, which two years ago were being sold for $130,000 are now nabbing as much as $200,000. "For a couple getting married," says Gush Etzion regional council head Shaul Goldstein, "there is simply nowhere to live."
In Tekoa, a mixed community of 400 families, all of the caravans are full. In Ofra, in Kfar Adumim and even in Nofei Perat and Alon in the Judean desert, there are hundreds of rejections each month. Nofei Perat, for example, was built in 1992 by the Oriah garin (a core group of people who decide to move somewhere together, usually from a youth movement) and the secular Tal garin. Some 145 families live there, ranging in age from 20-40; at the moment there are no permits for additional construction and apartment prices in the small and sought-after community are skyrocketing.
To rent a small 2-2.5 room apartment, people are now paying $450 a month. Even in Kedar, near Ma'aleh Adumim, the situation is the same. Houses there are going for $300,000-400,000. In Ofra, where many of the founders of the settlement movement in the West Bank live, the requests of some 20 families are turned down each week. Sometimes the interested families are young couples and sometimes they are middle-aged couples or even olim from France.
The story of the eight-year-old community of Bruchin, which was once planned as "the National Religious Party city" is much the same. There are 80 families living in Bruchin today, most of them veteran Israelis as well as a few new immigrant families. The community suffers from a quite a few infrastructure problems and from a total freeze on construction. Nevertheless, all 21 caravans there are occupied and another 60 couples are on the waiting list. The rent for a three-room apartment there is as high as $400.
The lack of investment in infrastructure is slowly deteriorating the water and sewage infrastructure. I am doing my best to maintain service, and to recycle all the water possible, but simply there are no budgets. We will see.