In 2015, the Israeli government decided to implement the Economic Development Plan also known as Decision 922, a multi-year plan of about 12.3 billion ILS, targeting issues such as planning and housing, employment, transportation and education in the Arab society. This is no doubt a potentially historical step in the direction of closing the big gaps between the Arab and Jewish communities in Israel.
The Arab community in Israel suffers from a severe housing crisis due to a number of factors. These include not only a lack of land necessary to accommodate the natural growth of an Arab township due to the large scale confiscation implemented by various Israeli governments, but also a low government support in establishing new Arab neighborhoods and infrastructures. In fact, since the establishment of the Jewish State no new Arab township has been established. These obstacles are related to the pattern of land ownership, the absence of detailed master plans, the low access of the Arab public to planning decision making in planning institutions, and difficulties in the registration of land ownership among others.
Given the lack of professional knowledge and capacities in the Arab local authorities, ACAP sees it of utmost priority to follow up on the planning decisions related to Decision 922 and ensure an efficient and effective implementation of the plan in Arab townships answering the real needs of the community in terms of number of housing units, their quality and their fit into the township, as well the provision of necessary infrastructures.
The Arab Center for Alternative Planning has over 17 years of experience working as a statutory institution in Arab townships, in the public and governmental sphere. This experience enables ACAP to advocate and engage in professional processes with planning authorities on different levels and ensure that the detailed master plans provided indeed met the real needs of the Arab community.
The main aim of this project is to ensure the optimal use of resources dedicated to resolve the housing crisis in the Arab community in Decision 922. Specifically, ACAP aims at providing tools for developing sound and sustainable policies and work processes in relation to planning and urban development in the participating Arab local authorities, building capacities in planning and urban development processes to enable participating Arab local authorities to use government sponsored opportunities and building capacities for engaging in policy dialogue and decision making processes on a local, regional and national level.
ACAP plans on working with 8 Arab local authorities through the years 2017-19 on promoting sustainable urban planning and resolving the imminent housing crisis of the Arab community. This entails preparing an individual analysis of needs for each of the 8 townships, an analysis of opportunities within the framework of 922, and capacity building for municipal staff.
Namely, ACAP will implement an evaluation of needs that will be compared to the one prepared by the governmental team; and develop criteria for the distribution of resources. The criteria will be developed based on the assumption that the investment should serve as leverage for economic development in the Arab townships, while the driving forces for growth are defined as employment of women and access to higher education.
Also, ACAP will work with 8 Arab townships where the ACAP team will analyze the actual need for efficient and effective investment in terms of quality of life, employment, solution to the housing crisis, participatory urban planning the community is part of, examination of projects of urban renewal, and sustainable, environmentally friendly urban planning. The results of this analysis, alongside the evaluation of needs will be presented to the team appointed by the government for the implementation of the economic plan, and will be fundamental for the promotion of policies of the heads of Arab local authorities, Knesset members and civil society organizations.
So far the project has been successful, especially in the townships of Tour’an and Arara. In both locations, ACAP supported the local authority in marketing lands, in applying for special housing committees and prepared a master plan, which together can bring about a significant change for a town and its citizens. In the other townships, a clear raise in the number of housing units planned, the number of detailed plans deposited and an increase of state lands slated for construction in Arab townships are expected. ACAP will continue monitoring developments on the implementation of the master plan and will ensure that it is fair and efficient.