Israel's smaller cities growing too fast


An Interior Ministry study says that local authorities in fast growing cities like Harish and Yavne will be unable to provide minimal services to tens of thousands of new residents.

What will happen in the coming years in Beer Yaakov, a sleepy town with less than 10,000 residents until not long ago, which reached almost 23,000 at the end of 2017? How will the local council function in Mazkeret Batya after an increase of almost 30% in the number of it residents? Has the Modi'in Illit municipality adjusted to an annual population increase of almost 6%?

A study conducted for the Ministry of the Interior by Kaveret Consulting under the supervision of Ministry of the Interior planning administration director Edit Bar, Ministry of the Interior development and planning of human capital in local government senior director Roei Dahan, and Ministry of the Interior local government training and development director Ayana Adler lists the communities undergoing accelerated - perhaps too accelerated - growth.

The study shows that these communities are unprepared for accelerated urbanization. Unless they act quickly, with government assistance, they will encounter economic and functional problems, with damage to municipal infrastructure systems, and possibly even collapse.

The study defines a city undergoing accelerated growth. The authors examined global research literature, and defined accelerated growth as annual population growth of 4% or higher, after a survey of cities around the world found that cities whose population is in accelerated growth in recent years had annual population growth of at least 4%. The city with the highest growth in the world is Beihai, China, with average annual population growth of 10.6%, followed by Ghaziabad, India (5.2%), Sana'a, Yemen and Surat, India (5%), and Kabul, Afghanistan (4.7%).

Average annual population growth in local authorities in Israel is 2%. The roof agreements signed in recent years have distorted the data considerably, increasing the number of residents in many local authorities included in the agreements, but not only there. Accelerated construction in many communities, including those not included in the agreements, has caused a spurt in the number of their residents, especially in haredi (Jewish ultra-Orthodox) cities.

Highest growth in Israel in Harish

Harish leads Israel in population growth. Since 2012, the number of residents in the new city has increased by almost 50%, 9.5% per year. Next on the list are Beer Yaakov, which grew at a 7.25% annual clip; Kiryat Yearim (6%); Mazkeret Batya, Givat Zeev, and Modi'in Illit (5.9%); and Kfar Tavor and Yavne (5.8%). Places like Hod Hasharon (3.4% annual growth) and Ness Ziona (3.2%) do not meet the Ministry of the Interior's definition of accelerated growth, but they feature exceptional growth rates that are also worthy of attention.

In addition to the growth rate in recent years, the study also looks at the future, because most of the construction under the roof agreements will be in the future. Growth is set to be the highest in Beer Yaakov. The town had 5,354 housing units in 2016, and the roof agreement will increase this number by 218% (11,653 housing units). For every 1,000 housing units marketed in the local authority, the population will growth by 19%. Maalot, Sderot, and Tirat Hacarmel will increase their populations by 14-15% for every 1,000 housing units added to them under their roof agreements, followed by Elad, Netivot, and Ofakim, whose populations will grow by 13-14%.

The study authors are not concerned about the large cities due to grow under the roof agreements: Haifa, Rishon Lezion, Beer Sheva, Netanya, and Ashdod will increase their populations by up to 2% for every 1,000 housing units added to them.

The study included interviews with administrators and local authorities aimed at discerning to what extent the central government and the local authorities are aware of the problems and challenges posed by accelerated housing construction, and to what extent the local authorities are really prepared for implementation of the agreements. The study revealed that both of these parties are far from fully engaged, especially the local authorities. The interviews conducted showed that the local authorities and government ministries were not acting according to the principles for achieving success in managing urban growth processes.

No systematic view of the consequences of the roof agreements is in evidence. No organized institutional, legal, socioeconomic approach has been formulated. This is the heart of the matter, and it is not at all clear what government agencies have to say about the long-term consequences of carrying out the roof agreements. Furthermore, most of the local authorities are not keeping up with the pace of marketing stated in the agreements, and are having difficulty forecasting the actual extent to which the roof agreements will be implemented. Many variables for the years in which the agreements will be carried out are unknown, such as the pace at which the agreements will be implemented and the mix of the new residents. Beyond that, it is clear that the local authorities are focusing mainly on actual marketing of commercial and industrial zones.

"When the local government authorities have trouble in long-term planning of urban growth processes and managing this growth, accelerated growth has many negative effects. Among these are an increase in the burden on the municipal infrastructure system, road congestion, poorer quality in municipal services for residents, economic difficulties in the local government systems, and environmental damage," the report authors warn.

The Ministry of the Interior says that the study is not merely theoretical; these effects are being felt daily. "As long as things were only being planned, it was tolerable. Now comes the implementation stage. Some of the new neighborhoods are being completed, the new residents are arriving and the local authorities are suffering damage in two aspects. The first is an inability to provide a response to residents in the absorption processes. They are not built for dealing with problems on this scale - not in personnel, professional capabilities, or resources. Rishon Lezion can cope with the new residents. The outlying areas are the ones who will pay the really heavy price," says Ministry of the Interior director general Mordechai Cohen.

"An even more serious matter is the new residents coming and demanding services. These local authorities are unable to provide these services, so the local authority will take the entire budget, and all of the residents will suffer. The new residents are a burden for the local authority. It (the municipal authorities) lacks commerce, employment, and services. Take all of the communities to which suburbs have been added and young families with children have settled there. They are the biggest service consumers. The want educational and leisure services immediately, and the local authority has no way of supplying them," Cohen adds.

In this context, Minister of the Interior Aryeh Deri added, "Most of the local authorities that signed roof agreements have already come to us. The ones that haven't are those that are still in the initial planning processes, whose leaders don't realize what awaits them."

Recommendations: A growth management cabinet in each local authority

The study authors recommend that after signing a roof agreement, the local authority should set up a roof agreement administration to manage and supervise the timetable for development and public construction work.

They also recommend establishing a cabinet to manage the local authority's growth that will contain the relevant officeholders in the local authority, and which will set long-term strategic goals, including the local authority's growth engines.

Another recommendation concerns public participation and encouraging public participation in the public sector in order to bolster trust between people and government, providing more knowledge for decision-making, achieving more legitimacy for decision-making, addressing the obstacles to implementation, and creating cooperation likely to promote and implement decisions. "Involving the public will help the local authority's administration build trust among the public, especially the city's veteran residents, who are now inclined to feel marginalized, because many resources are being allocated to new neighborhoods."

One interesting bit of information from the report, which is visible in several local authorities, is that many of those moving to new neighborhoods come from old neighborhoods in the city, thereby weakening the old neighborhoods The report states in this context that urban renewal management agencies should be strengthened.

The report states that the local authorities that signed roof agreements should prepare for extreme growth in a number of municipal units, such as services for residents, human capital, information systems, financial management, and engineering. Municipalities should also construct a reliable database for the number of housing buyers in the city, where they come from, their education, and where they work, so that the local authority can adapt activities to their needs.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - - on August 5, 2019

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

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