Denser urban construction approved for Israel

Tel Aviv Photo: Eyal Izhar

The National Planning and Building Commission has approved greater density in Israel's cities.

Israel is going to become far more crowded than it is now. The National Planning and Building Commission today unanimously decided to approve an initiative by the Planning Administration to change the density standards in Israel's National Outline Plan 35 (Tama 35). The change will greatly increase residential density in the country. The change in density will be according to community size, and within the community according to location, with an emphasis on proximity to important transportation arteries.

The plan was reported for the first time last month in "Globes."

Residential density in Israel is 400 people per square kilometer. The Planning Administration, which is initiating the change, says that density in Israel's cities is far lower than in cities in Europe and the US. For example, density is 8,565 people per square kilometer in Tel Aviv, 7,186 people per square kilometer in Jerusalem, and 4,346 people per square kilometer in Haifa. For the sake of comparison, compared with the average density in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the average residential density is double or more in Athens, triple in Paris, and quadruple in Barcelona.

"Higher density is a threshold condition for more municipal services close to home, and high-quality public transportation, and encourages walking and cycling. For example, a density of 20,000-30,000 per square kilometer justifies building rail transportation systems, and makes it possible to reduce the use of motor vehicles and hence reduce pollution in cities," the Planning Administration says in explaining its plan to the members of the National Planning and Building Commission.

The document states, "Dense, compact, and intensive urban environments facilitate optimal use of land and municipal infrastructure and a high urban quality of life in terms of convenience; human, economic, and cultural opportunities; health; environment; the mix of urban uses and forms of residence; and in terms of physical infrastructure, mainly public transportation infrastructure."

The Planning Administration believes that Tama 35 used questionable methods to calculate population density, because it set a minimum residential density in term of housing units per dunam (quarter acre). The Planning Administration says that this calculation method does not allow the creation of municipal communities like those that exist in large cities in Western countries, and also makes it impossible to meet the targets in the strategic plan for 2040.

"The amount of space zoned for residence in plans is often no more than a quarter of the space in the plans," the Planning Administration explained. "In such a situation, even when residential density is high in terms of housing units per dunam, gross density in all of the space in the plan is not, and does not create real urban intensiveness."

In addition, measuring density in housing units per dunam does not take into account the size of households, for example. Tel Aviv has many housing units of small households, while nearby Bnei Brak contains housing units with large households. This is not reflected in the current calculation methods.

The revised density principles are valid not only in new neighborhoods, but also in urban renewal plans. In addition to large cities, the revision of density policy will also be relevant to smaller and rural communities.

What is involved is not just a technical change in calculation method. The new method will greatly increase urban density. In cities with more than 500,000 people, (only Jerusalem currently fits this criterion, but it is assumed that additional cities will meet it in the future), density will rise from 16 housing units per dunam (64 per acre) to 30 housing units per dunam (120 per acre) in the main urban business centers and along the light rail lines, and to 20 housing units per dunam (80 per acre) in ordinary residential neighborhoods.

In cities with up to 200,000 residents, which currently includes most of Israel's large cities, such as Ashdod and Rishon Lezion, density will increase from a minimum of 14 housing units per dunam to a minimum of 20 per dunam along the light rail lines, and to 16 housing units per dunam in ordinary residential neighborhoods.

Density will have to increase even in small cities. In cities with 20,000-50,000 people, such as Yehud, Kiryat Ono, Ofakim, Tira, and Maalot-Tarshiha, the minimum density, which is currently 3-7 housing units per dunam, will have to increase to a minimum of 11 housing units per dunam in ordinary residential neighborhoods and up to 15 housing units per dunam in construction along transportation lines.

Planning Administration director general Dalit Zilber today welcomed the National Planning and Building Commission's decision, saying, "The change in the provisions of Tama 35 will revolutionize the organization of urban space and improve residents' quality of life. We want an active urban space at all hours of the day, with a variety of learning, employment, commercial, residential, and leisure opportunities and maximum access to public transportation."

Now that the Planning Administration's initiative has been approved by the National Planning and Building Commission, the next stage is presenting it to a subcommittee of the National Planning and Building Commission, which will serve as a steering committee for devising a plan to revise Tama 35. An order to make the revision will be brought before the National Planning and Building Commission, together with the plan documents, for the purpose of sending it to the District Planning and Building Commissions for comments.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on August 6, 2019

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2019

Tel Aviv Photo: Eyal Izhar
Tel Aviv Photo: Eyal Izhar
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