The plan was presented last week at a panel on "housing solutions and options for construction in Arab towns as part the solution to economic problems among the younger Arab generation," which was held within the framework of the Sakhnin conference in the city of Sakhnin.
Yet the proposal did not receive the hoped for response. After it was presented, Arab sector representatives expressed their opposition to the plan and made it clear tat they were only interested in cooperating with the Housing Ministry under the condition that minimal density plans were on offer.
This, because according to the Israel Land Administration, saturated construction was defined as construction with density of four housing units per 0.25 acres.
The new neighborhoods will include 2-3 floors with separate entrances for each floor. The reason for the opposition is cultural as the Arab sector will find it hard to live in a new apartment in a building with a joint stairwell. From the sector's perspective, it may only become possible in 10-20 years.
Among those taking part in the panel were Galilee District Housing Ministry Director Uzi Shamir and Suliman Utaman, a Sakhnin Municipality engineer. According to Shamir, the ministry is planning to construct 30,000 units in the Galilee – 50% are already approved and 50% are in carious planning stages.
"The State is funding 50% of the infrastructure development. Moreover, towns declared as national priority towns will also receive a mortgage at especially attractive rates of 3% for 28 years instead of 4.5%, Shamir noted. "Some of the neighborhoods will receive an additional NIS 60,000 ($15,860) grant."
According to Shamir there will also be an additional discount on the land itself. "The towns here are divided between those that receive 69% discount and those that receive a 49% discount on land prices. Moreover, there is also an 80% grant for water and sewage infrastructure and the remaining 20% is granted as a loan, with the repayments only commencing after three years.
In addition, the government has decided to help the local authorities in the layout of the land. For this matter, NIS 250 million ($60 million) has been allocated for a period of five years. People just need to want to live in the Arab sector in the north."
The price of the land after the State's discounts is around NIS 10,000-20,000 ($2,600-5,300). The cost of developing the land is around NIS 30,000-60,000 ($7,900-15,800). This sum is for the most part subsidized by the State. Standard construction costs are slightly over $1,000 per square meter which would mean that a 100-150 square meter apartment in a five floor building in the new neighborhoods in Sakhnin would cost around NIS 600,000 ($158,600).
"We are trying to find solutions for young Arab couples – the 8-10 story building is not suitable for the Arab population. People in the sector don't want to live in (buildings) with communal entrances or stairwells. The custom of living in multiple-residence buildings has not permeated through to the Arab mentality and culture," Utaman said.
As for the question of why building hi-rises is good enough for Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan and New York but not good enough for Sakhnin, Utaman's response was: "Obtuseness is the problem. Perosnally, I could live in Haifa or Carmiel in a building but people don't want to. It isn't a question of bad or not bad. Each sector has its own mentality. We haven't been able to let go of it.
"Everyone wants a separate entrance. We'll get to it gradually. In the future it's obvious there will be 10 story buildings but you need to give people time to get used to it. In five to six years you can start to build higher, that's how you change the mentality."