Hebron workshop highlights potential for affordable housing
Thursday, Apr 02, 2015 in Office of the Quartet Representative
Dozens of people attended a workshop in Hebron last week (25 March) to discuss an initiative to launch a pilot project on affordable housing in the city. The event, held at the Korea-Palestine Centre in Hebron and hosted by the Hebron Municipality, the World Bank, the Office of the Quartet Representative, and Global Communities, examined the various elements needed to bring down housing costs for Palestinians, and advance a viable affordable housing programme.
Increasing access to affordable housing is critical to boost economic growth, and reduce the cost of living for Palestinians. Nick Gardner, OQR Construction and Building Materials Advisor, explained “The objective of this workshop was to bring together the many partners who are trying to find ways to address this issue, set out what is needed for these partners to launch a pilot project on affordable housing, and discuss housing needs in Hebron.”
Attendees included the mayor of Hebron, Dr. Daoud Zatari and other members of the Municipality, along with representatives from the Ministry of Public Works and Housing, real estate developers, banks, and development agencies. Dr. Zatari opened the event by emphasising the critical need for affordable housing in Hebron given the city’s increasing population density, and the limitations on developing land in Area C (under full Israeli control). Dr. Zatari also highlighted that the initiative would reduce unemployment by opening up more jobs in the construction industry.
Participants listened to a range of presentations, including OQR's recently-completed effective demand survey, the proposed Strategic Development and Investment Plan and transportation sector study for Hebron, access to finance, regulatory reforms, and other key elements in supporting housing. OQR’s Economic Development Advisor Johan Berggren emphasised “The effective demand survey has revealed important insights into the housing preferences of Palestinians, establishing that Palestinians in our low-medium target income range are flexible in their willingness to live in smaller, simpler homes. We hope that developers and banks will take note of this significant business opportunity and commit to participating in a pilot project.”
Hussam Shweiki from the Hebron Municipality explained that the city has a particularly fast growing population in comparison with the rest of the West Bank, making it all the more urgent to have a cohesive vision for affordable housing. Iyad Innab from Global Communities emphasised the importance of urban and transport infrastructure planning when putting together an affordable housing initiative. Senior Urban Specialist at the World Bank Bjorn Phillip said that “better planning in urban expansion, land identification and accelerated land registration” were among the key elements identified by the World Bank which are needed for affordable housing to gain traction in the West Bank.
Key stakeholders were invited to give their input, and to discuss the necessary next steps for making affordable housing available for Palestinians, as well as the various responsibilities for the stakeholders, to help ensure a successful pilot. District Manager of the Arab Bank (South Area Branches) Loay Hawash stated that “Developers and banks will both need to sacrifice in order for the overall target to be reached; for banks this may mean reducing interesting rates and providing long term loans.”
The OQR is now holding follow-up discussions to identify the potential areas suitable for an affordable housing development. The team will work with developers, banks, and development organisations on their commitments with a goal of launching a pilot project by the end of 2015.
• View the OQR's presentation to the workshop