Nov 27, 2018

Mayor Aliza Bloch changes agreements for future Bet Shemesh neighborhood construction

Mayor of Bet Shemesh Aliza Bloch is putting together her coalition (I have no information about the progress on this other than the little bit that has been leaked to the press - such as it looks like Shas and Agudat Yisrael will be in the coalition, along with Likud, Habayit Hayehudi and Bloch's party, while Degel Hatorah might be out - nothing is final or real until the final coalition is actually announced and then even after that things can change - as they aren't yet getting the jobs or commitments they are demanding).

In the meantime, there is already some news of dramatic changes being made by Bloch in Bet Shemesh.

Bloch announced that in her meetings yesterday in the Knesset with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and the Minister of Housing (Yoav Galant of Kulanu), among others, it was decided and agreed upon that changes would be made in the agreement with Bet Shemesh for future construction that the Sheves Law will not be applied. The Attorney General of Bet Shemesh, Miki Gastwirth, has already informed kablanim and developers of this change.

The Sheves Law allows kablanim to take the originally approved plans for a neighborhood and using the same meterage make changes by building smaller apartments and up to 30% more of them, without going through bureaucracy and needing to obtain new permits and submitting new plans. Meaning, for the sake of an example, if initial approved plans allowed for buildings of 10 apartments each being 100 square meters, the kablanim using the Sheves Law can build 13 apartments of 77 square meters each (or whatever the actual numbers are).

The Sheves Law gives the kablanim the ability to make more money off the same meterage, by selling more smaller apartments, thus giving them encouragement and more reason to build there. The entire RBS D is planned to be built like this.

With Bloch announcing that RBS D will not have the Sheves Law applied to it, people are in a tizzy. They think this will put a stop to future construction of Haredi neighborhoods, as the kablanim will decide it isn't worth building in Bet Shemesh without the Sheves law. Bloch is making significant changes fast.

I heard Bloch on the radio and she explained that in RBS C (aka Gimmel), for example, many [Haredi] residents are complaining that the neighborhood was built with many people stuffed into small areas, and inadequate infrastructure. She was elected to change that. Instead of building future neighborhoods for more people than approved with less than adequate infrastructure, they will build, and RBS D will still be built for the Haredi community, for the right amount of people for the infrastructure, and the infrastructure (eg shuls, mikvaot, yeshivas, parks, etc) will be built while the neighborhood is being built rather than years after residents move in - as what happened in RBS C (Gimmel).

With the apartments being built to the sizes they were originally planned, that will mean slightly larger apartments at slightly higher prices. That will likely mean not as many newly married young couples, while purchasers will likely be a little bit older, with kids already, and with income and a slightly higher socioeconomic status.

Degel Hatorah is very upset at this and is threatening to thwart the plans to make this change, as such a change must be approved by the City Council. The thing is, even if Degel stays out of the coalition for now, as it looks like might happen, if Shas and Agudat Yisrael join the coalition Degel won't have the blocking majority they were hoping for and this change should get approved easily.

I don't know if this change is good or bad overall. I don't understand the logic of the Sheves Law in the first place. it seems to be a convenient way to pull a fast one on people, planning a neighborhood to look like x and then letting the kablanim change it to y so they can profit a little more. The Sheves Law looks bad to me, but I don't know enough about it. It does seem to me that building for the right amount of people based on local infrastructure seems like a good idea rather than crowding people in with inadequate resources and letting them complain a few years later. The other option would be to extend the Sheves law and have it say that if the kablan increases the numbers of apartments, the infrastructure must be increased proportionally, but then there go their extra profits, so it might still not be attractive...

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