Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai is expecting residents to leave the city en masse in the wake of the coronavirus crisis that has made the already high cost of living in the city prohibitive.
Huldai expressed concern for the younger population, many of whom work as waiters and baristas and were hard hit by the crisis and who will be unable to keep renting in the city due to the widespread wave of layoffs in their sector.
In addition to the high rent and living expenses in the city, there is also the cost of early childhood education, which in Tel Aviv can reach as high as NIS 5,000 ($1,400) per month.
Between the 1960s and the 1980s, Tel Aviv's population decreased dramatically. But since the start of the 90s, the trend has reversed with Tel Aviv becoming an immensely popular location. This caused the cost of living in the city to reach new peaks and put it at the top of the most expensive cities in the world.
“The mayor assumes many families with children will leave the city as he believes many will not be able to afford to rent,” says the head of the municipality's education department, Shirley Rimon-Bracha.
“But we are still not seeing this data in action, as the schools are packed and no preschools remain empty.”
In an effort to alleviate the cost of living for families, city councilor Tzipi Brand, who oversees Tel Aviv's department for early childhood, tried to advance the creation of dozens of day care centers but the move was put on indefinite hold due to the spread of the virus.
Brand also proposed the temporary use of public spaces such as community centers for preschoolers and day care centers in order to make it easier and more viable for families to stay in the city.
“The city has a great challenge to deal with now,” says Brand.
“With the near total disappearance of the city’s tourists as a source of income, and changes to people’s consumption habits, for it to survive the city needs to invest in young families so they will be able to continue to live here, and to offer them municipal services not necessarily required by the state,” she says.
Deputy Mayor Meital Lehavi is less pessimistic.
”Anyone who understands urbanism knows that a city has both young and old people," she says. "But the center of the city has people in their 50s renting apartments and it is indeed is very expensive."
Lehavi is also skeptical of Huldai's dire assessment.
”Ron is expecting offices to shut down and for the young to leave the the city; he is a little apocalyptic,” she says.
Lehavi acknowledges, however, that things will become harder still for local residents, as work increases on the construction of the new light rail in the central arteries of Arlozorov, Ben-Yehuda and Allenby streets.
She says however that if the municipality does not offer support to private preschools, then the city will experience a collapse.
“It's better to ensure that the people stay," she says.