Afula to build massive new neighborhoods to grow population

Northern planning district gives green light on major urban expansion, with new housing, commercial centers, offices

An aerial view of the city of Afula, September 2013. (Assaf Sagi, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)
An aerial view of the city of Afula, September 2013. (Assaf Sagi, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

The northern Israeli city of Afula is set to expand significantly in the coming years after the northern district planning committee approved proposed plans last month for a series of new neighborhoods with over 9,000 residential units, commercial spaces, offices, public parks, and supporting infrastructure.

The new neighborhood will be built at the northwestern entrance to the city over some 1,550 dunams (383 acres), adjacent to the train station, and will include residential buildings of between four and seven stories and mixed residential-commercial towers of between 11-14 and 16-18 stories. Of the residential units, 1,920 will be small apartments of up to 80 square meters (861 square feet), of which there is a national shortage.

Alongside the new homes, plans approved in mid-January promise 85,000 square meters (914,930 square feet) of commercial space, 151,000 square meters for offices (1.6 million square feet), 97,000 square meters (1 million square feet) for public buildings, and 320 dunams (79 acres) of open space, including a new city park covering 70 dunams (17 acres).

A train or metro system is also promised to run along this central axis and connect the districts of the rapidly expanding city, dubbed the “capital” of Jezreel Valley.

Once known for offering cheaper homes than elsewhere in much of Israel, Afula’s housing prices have risen in line with national increases. However, property tax records over the last couple of months show that a three-room (two-bedroom) apartment can still be bought for under NIS 1.5 million ($433,210), whereas the average property price in Israel is now NIS 1.9 million ($548,700).

A five-room (four-bedroom) apartment in Afula routinely sells for up to NIS 1.7 million ($491,000).

Renting a three or four-room apartment in Afula is also correspondingly cheaper than elsewhere in Israel. According to properties being advertised on online rental platform Yad2, such spaces generally ask for around NIS 3,000 ($870) per month.

Alongside the new neighborhoods, big urban renewal plans are underway for the older parts of the city, where 20-story towers will be introduced, using the Pinui Binui (Evacuate and Rebuild) framework to upgrade existing low-rise buildings.

The project is part of an overall masterplan for Afula, approved in April 2022, that will see the addition of around 63,000 housing units to allow the city to accommodate 200,000 residents by 2040, up significantly from 56,000 today.

Afula grew significantly during the early 1990s as it welcomed immigrants from countries in the former Soviet Union, and from Ethiopia, and has doubled its population since 1995.

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