Monday, January 30, 2017

Suburban Lawn or Penthouse Garden?

Yair Assaf-Shapira
Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research

According to World Bank statistics, Israel’s population density is among the highest in the world (387 residents per square kilometer on average). We also live in one of the most urbanized countries in the world, with 91% of the population residing in urban areas.

One might expect, therefore, that construction in Israel would be characterized by high density and high-rise buildings, so as to conserve space. But the Central Bureau of Statistics’ data on construction starts indicate that this is not necessarily the case. Until 2009-2010, most of the housing units being built in Israel formed part of low-rise buildings with 1-4 stories (52% in 2009-2010). Of this low-rise construction, a large majority were not buildings of 3-4 stories but, rather, 1-2 stories – that is, detached or semi-detached ground-level homes, which constitute 80% of the low-rise construction in Israel.

The good news is that the scope of low-rise construction (1-4 stories) is declining. During the years 2014-2015 such construciton accounted for only 38% of Israel’s housing units, compared with a figure of 20% for buildings containing 5-8 stories and 42% for buildings with 9 or more stories. In 2014-2015, high-rise construction (9 or more stories) surpassed low-rise construction (1-4 stories) for the first time. Yet as noted, the vast majority (80%) of low-rise construction still comprises detached and semi-detached ground-level homes (1-2 stories), and this figure remains constant. Of the housing units constructed in Israel during 2014-2015, 31% were such ground-level dwellings.

And what about metropolitan centers? Evidently there is a similar trend – construction rates for housing units in high-rise buildings are increasing while the rates for low-rise construction are decreasing. In Jerusalem the proportion of low-rise construction (1-4 stories) for 2014-2015 was 26%, and for high-rise construction (9 or more stories) the figure was 47%. In Jerusalem high-rise construction surpassed low-rise construction for the first time in 2008-2009 – that is, Jerusalem was 6 years ahead of Israel as a whole. But Tel Aviv outpaced Jerusalem. In the core areas of metropolitan Tel Aviv (Tel Aviv – Yafo itself and adjacent cities) high-rise construction surpassed low-rise construction as early as 2003-2004, that is, 5 years before Jerusalem and 11 years before Israel.

Even in the metropolitan cities – Jerusalem and the metropolitan core of Tel Aviv – a high percentage of low-rise construction comprises detached and semi-detached ground-level homes. In Jerusalem such dwellings constituted 40% of all low-rise construction during 2014-2015 (and 11% of all construction), and in the core of metropolitan Tel Aviv they accounted for 54% of all low-rise construction (and 7% of all construction). Presumably there is a demand for suburban-style ground-level homes in cities as well, and perhaps the thinking is that building such units will attract a “high-quality” populace. But this type of construction might not be suitable for a country as densely populated as ours.

Translation: Merav Datan

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