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The kids aren't all wrong

by michael April 29 2008
Municipal news


Classy living space in Yemin Moshe: insert students here. 


In a timely follow-up to last week's shocking report that apartments full of expensive furnishings and left empty most of the year tend to get looted by enterprising thieves, a group of student activists, dismayed at the rising prices and plummeting availability of apartments in central Jerusalem, has begun petitioning absentee apartment owners to rent out their Jerusalem stone pleasure domes to permanent residents during the, oh, eleven months of off-season.

While many Diaspora Jews consider their Israeli homes an important investment in the Jewish state, many locals say absentee homeowners have driven up market prices, drained the market of available rentals and made many Jerusalem neighborhoods unaffordable for Israelis.

That's why a coalition of student activists has launched a campaign to persuade the absentee homeowners to open up their homes to Israeli renters.

"We think it's great that foreign Jews are buying here and investing in Jerusalem," said David Uziel, 29, a graduate student in urban planning at Hebrew University. "But if they keep their apartments empty, they are weakening Jerusalem."

With many homeowners in Israel for Passover, the students are canvassing Jerusalem neighborhoods with fliers and pressing local real estate agents to offer their clients housekeeping deals: Students will help the homeowners manage their properties, take in the mail and deter thieves in exchange for being able to rent their homes.

The Chamber of Real Estate Brokers in Jerusalem, which represents about 200 brokers, has agreed to push the housekeeping option this summer to new buyers from abroad.

This, of course, makes a fair bit of sense, save for one key issue: if you're the type who rattles enough coin to buy a luxury vacation apartment you barely use, you may be reluctant to hand over the keys to one of the intellectual young malcontents who comprise the student population. You let college students into your apartment, and before you know it your children are correcting your pronunciation of 'Sartre.'

Still, students need homes, and as any former resident of the grimly institutional Mount Scopus high rises the Hebrew University calls 'dorms' can tell you, they need them pretty badly. If the city government is serious about staving off the stagnation of central Jerusalem, something has to give.

Photo of Yemin Moshe residence courtesy of Ben-lee Volk from flickr under a creative commons license.  

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