National Plan change calls for much denser Israeli cities

Tel Aviv Photo: Shutterstock
Tel Aviv Photo: Shutterstock

They may seem crowded, but Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are actually far less densely populated than Athens, Paris, and Barcelona.

Last week, something happened that could significantly change Israel's urban environment: The National Planning and Building Commission approved Amendment 4 to Tama 35 (the National Outline Plan) which aims to increase residential density in urban areas substantially. The move is part of a revised overarching concept among urban planners who now hold that Israeli cities must be far more densely populated than they are now.

Globes reviews the amendment and considers what it will mean.

What main policy points were raised this week about the residential density in urban areas issue?

Tama 35 was formulated by the Planning Administration as a tool for implementing the provisions of the 2040 strategic housing plan, which set a target for construction of 1.5 million new housing units. It was decided, therefore, to increase residential density to the maximum allowable limit, to the point of doubling it.

For example, if the plan originally set a density limit of up to 12 housing units per dunam (one-quarter acre) in Jerusalem, and up to 16 housing units per dunam in Tel Aviv, the amendment permits density of up to 30 housing units per dunam in cities with more than 500,000 people, and in core metropolitan areas.

The amendment also includes a directive that any plan of more than 100 housing units will allocate at least 50% of the area for residential use.

The amendment makes another important provision: residential density will be a gross calculation, taking into account all the parts of the planned areas and not just residential plots. This will allow for variety in construction types - high-rises alongside perimeter block housing, for example - providing tools to create a more flexible planning reality for each area.

So why should Israel's cities become more crowded?

According to the Planning Administration, the average residential density in Athens is twice as high as the average density in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. In Paris it is three times higher, and in Barcelona four times higher.

Planning Administration director general Dalit Zilber, who has been trying for several years to promote increased residential density, believes it will allow for the creation of a lively urban space throughout the day, while maximizing access to public transportation and municipal services. She terms the approved amendment, "A revolution in reorganizing the urban space in a way that will improve quality of life for residents," the rationale being that high density leads to a change in the entire planning concept for a city, encouraging mixed use on a large scale, facilitating the design of more efficient public transportation systems, and therefore also encouraging walking and less use of private cars. The end result will be richer and more varied city streets.

A booklet published by the Ministry of Housing, "Diversification of Construction in Varying Residential Densities," cites Zero (0) lot line construction as an option for increasing residential density. This method of building up to the edge of the property line is not often seen in Israel but is very common in cities abroad. Zero lot line construction allows for lower-rise structures while still affording high density, and has another advantage: the buildings shade the street.

Are we likely to see many more towers?

The Planning Administration and the Ministry of Housing have stated repeatedly that increasing residential density does not necessarily mean increasing the number of high-rise buildings, which are expensive and complicated to maintain. The intention is to encourage a combination of different types of construction: towers, standard residential buildings, and even homes with gardens in some cases.

For example, 500 housing units in a new neighborhood can fit into five 25-story towers of 100 apartments each. But they can also be divided differently. For example, one 25-story tower next to eight lower-level buildings, or even two towers, two ten-story buildings, plus apartments built over public facilities and/or commercial floors, in a mixed-use development.

How will increased density affect parking?

A guidelines booklet published by the Ministry of Housing states that, "A low parking ratio (less than one parking space per apartment) allows for the creation of relatively high-density construction types, without an expensive parking solution and without the need for high-rise construction, because the ‘built-up’ areas (the covered areas of the building) can be enlarged." The Ministry of Housing also notes that planning an additional underground parking level can double the density without adding more floors, and emphasizes that the larger the property size planned for construction, the easier it is to plan underground parking "with all of its elements and levels."

When will the change in Tama 35 go into effect?</b?

Given the current political reality, it’s hard to say. By approving the amendment, the National Planning and Building Commission effectively recommended that the government should approve the details of the proposed amendment, which includes the items listed above. This is an important stage in the process of changing the National Outline Plan However, because of the instability of the coalition, it’s unclear when the matter will be presented for discussion in the government and final approval.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - - on May 19, 2022.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2022.

Tel Aviv Photo: Shutterstock
Tel Aviv Photo: Shutterstock
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