Huldai: Sde Dov airport more vital than new homes

Ron Huldai Photo: Eyal Izhar

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai told the Globes Real Estate Conference today that replacing Sde Dov airport by new housing would be a catastrophe.

"Anyone who equates 3,000 affordable housing units to the state's interest in inland aviation knows nothing about priorities. What significance do 3,000 housing units have in comparison with our link to the outside world and other cities?," Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai told the Globes real Estate Conference today. Huldai opposes the removal of Sde Dov Airport.

"Globes": The Sde Dov plan includes 16,000 housing units. If it is called off, it will affect other plans in the area with thousands of housing units.

Huldai: "That's not true; it won't have any effect. The 3,700 plan was designed when Sde Dov Airport was there, so it can go ahead regardless of the airport's future. Sde Dov Airport is national infrastructure; we mustn't give it up because of real estate. Letting this infrastructure go at the national level is a tragedy. We didn't promote the construction plan. The land in Sde Dov is belongs mainly to the state, with private parties and the municipality owning a little. The state decides about the airport's future, and is promoting a plan on the area within Tel Aviv, whether or not I agree. The plan should be guided by the wonderful capabilities of Tel Aviv, not somebody external, so while promoting the plan, I continued to oppose it.

For whom will you vote in the elections?

"Put one and one together. I'm Ron Huldai from Kibbutz Hulda. I voted for Labor my whole life, and that's what will happen this time, too. I vote for a party, not a person; that's unusual in our country. In the end you have to reach the goal. People forget that."

Why didn't you join the Labor Party?

"I thought about this, including in the primaries, because I knew that I could certainly win. My considerations eventually led me to a different decision. As mayor of Tel Aviv, I influence what goes on in Israel quite a bit. For me, I think that I made the right decision."

Tel Aviv has become 374% more expensive in real terms in the past 30 years. An apartment in Tel Aviv costs 1.5 times as much as a Jerusalem apartment. Is it possible to raise a family in Tel Aviv?

"It's definitely possible. I could brag and say that if you look at what's happened over the years, you will see that Tel Aviv has become a good city to live in. When there's a free market and there's demand, the price rises. On the other hand, there's something that I've been talking about for 20 years already, and with one minister of transport for the past 10 years. There are two very big mutually dependent elements that exert the main influence. It's a failure of the country, and Tel Aviv is the country's center. The metropolitan area is from Gedera to Hadera. When housing prices go up in Tel Aviv, the same thing will happen in Gedera and Hadera. The lack of a good and efficient public transportation system is one element - the traffic jams in Tel Aviv? It's one big city. 50,000 Holon residents travel to Tel Aviv every day. It's one big metropolis called Tel Aviv, in which everything always happens first: the first traffic jam, the first tower, the first traffic light, the first air pollution, and here the crowding begins. In the past decade, they didn't develop an efficient public transportation system, so real estate prices rose dramatically. A good transportation system would have made it possible to live comfortably in Hadera and travel to Tel Aviv for work and to see the opera in the evening. The price gaps would have been flatter.

"Israel's outlook abandoned the idea that it was the state's responsibility to supply housing 30 years ago," Hulda continued. "But the state destroyed the entire system of social housing, so there's a market failure that the state owns the land, but did not market it at the right pace and marketed land at extremely high prices. What happened is that the in the monopolistic situation, housing prices rose dramatically.

"What happened in Tel Aviv is that another 100,000 people entered it. The city population became much younger; a third of the people living in Tel Aviv are in the 20-25 age bracket. That's not all; families with children decided to stay and live in the city. It turns out that the city provides an envelope of services, from education to culture, thereby creating a situation in which people are willing to give up having a car and live in the city with their children in a smaller apartment. Giving up having a second car saves a family NIS 6,000. 50% of our apartments are three-room apartments; it's the leading city in small apartments.

"The preference of an entire generation of people in the world shows that what matters is the quality of life in a city, even if it means living in a smaller apartment, and enjoying what the city has to offer. You can use bicycles and AutoTel without having a car. Many people are doing it, and it's a fact, even though the media thinks otherwise. The minister of transport has to understand that transportation isn't a project that you do here or there; it's a door-to-door solution.

"Everyone thinks that there's at least one huge success in Israel - the high-speed road to Tel Aviv. In my opinion, it's the biggest failure in the country, because they do something like this when there's no public transportation. They’re telling people that they have to leave the house in a car, instead of telling them that they should take a car to parking lot and use a shuttle from there. There are 6,000 cars in the parking lot; that's a drop in the ocean. They should have created a system from people's doors, so that people from Lod and Tel Mond could step outside their homes and take public transportation from there.

"A million people a day now enter Tel Aviv. Most of them enter in one journey from one point to one point. The state should realize that this is a coordinated system, so that the bus travels fast, while the car stands still. I told the minister of transport years ago to paint the fast roads to Tel Aviv yellow. He said that he wouldn't take lanes from private vehicles; instead, he would build public transportation lanes. Did it happen? No. It's a waste of billions.

"You have to look at the entire metropolitan region, not just Tel Aviv. It's the center of a large city. You have to look at the entire metropolis as an integral city serving all of its residents. But in this country, there's no long-term planning."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on March 17, 2019

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

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Ron Huldai Photo: Eyal Izhar
Ron Huldai Photo: Eyal Izhar
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