Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Temporarily Out of Use

Yoad Shachar
Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies   www.jiis.org

The modern city serves us, its residents, in a variety of ways. We live, work, seek leisure and recreation, or simply walk around within the city. In the past, space was not sharply divided along its different uses, but during the nineteenth century the various uses of space within the city began to be differentiated so as to prevent nuisances or harm from certain uses of land to other parts.
The combination of land uses within a city varies across Israel’s various municipalities and local councils, and the particular mix generally reflects the character of the city. For example, a local council with a particularly high percentage of residential areas will serve primarily as a bedroom suburb whose residents seek employment and recreation elsewhere. Land use plays a major part in the socio-economic status of a city. We would expect, for example, that a town with large industrial zones – which are a main source of employment – would have many residents who are employed as blue-collar workers in the industrial sector. In contrast, a town with large areas of office space would serve as a home for many professionals. The combination of land uses is extremely significant in relation to the municipal budget, which is based on municipal taxes (Arnona) from apartments and properties in the city, some of which yield higher taxes than others: areas zoned for commerce yield a much higher Arnona than residential zones. In other words, the combination of land uses in large part determines the city’s economic base.
Jerusalem is Israel’s second-largest city after Dimona in terms of area of jurisdiction. It covers 125 square kilometers, significantly higher than the figures for Tel Aviv, with 52 square kilometers, or Haifa, with 65. Yet only 47% of Jerusalem comprises built-up areas, compared with 73% of the area of Tel Aviv and 55% of Haifa. The large discrepancies between these cities become strikingly apparent when we examine how their built-up areas are divided for various uses.
Among the major cities with a population greater than 200,000, Jerusalem dedicates the highest percentage of its built-up areas to residential purposes (71% of all built-up areas). This is a high percentage relative to what we might expect for the country’s largest city and the center of a metropolis. Among the major cities, Ashdod and Haifa have the lowest percentages of residential areas as a proportion of built-up areas. These cities have large areas zoned for industry as well as the infrastructure and transportation necessary for the ports they contain.
Another striking discrepancy among the major cities is the difference in percentage of area zoned for commerce and office space. Only 6% of the built-up area in Jerusalem serves as commerce or office space while in Tel Aviv the figure is 17% of built-up areas – nearly threefold. In Haifa 13% of built-up areas serve as commerce and office space, twice the figure for Jerusalem.
Areas zoned for commerce and office space are particularly significant in terms of the municipal budget because they yield higher Arnona municipal tax revenues than other land uses. As most of a municipality’s independent revenue comes from Arnona, the motivation to expand areas of commerce and office space is evident. This is apparently the reason that the big plans for city development focus on the business zone now taking shape and form at the entrance to the capital. It is important to keep in mind, however, that zoning land for commerce and office space does not guarantee that it will be used for this purpose. After zoning land for a particular use, and before printing those promising Arnona bills, the city must create incentives for companies and business owners to come and set up shop in the new business zone and thus actualize its intended use.



Translation: Merav Datan