Givatayim set to become Israel’s highest-density city

Givatayim is set to become Israel’s most crowded city.

Plans have been lodged with the Tel Aviv Planning and Building Committee to massively increase housing density, from around 24,950 to 41,660 units.

According to a Globes report, this will make Givatayim home to 31,000 people per square kilometer (80,290 per square mile), overtaking Bnei Brak (currently the most densely populated city in the world outside the Philippines) which has 28,500 people per square kilometer (73,815 per square mile). Manila has a density of 43,062 people per square kilometer (111,532 per square mile).

The plans are in line with government policy, which for some time has seen greater densification as the best way forward for Israel’s cities.

Research suggests there are positives and negatives to the approach: Public infrastructure, transportation and economic factors are generally improved through denser urban environments, but there may be detrimental environmental and social impact.

Givatayim was established in 1922 by a group of 22 socialist pioneers, who bought 300 dunams of land (300,000 square meters; 3,200,000 square feet) of land. It rapidly expanded across further hills in the area. Among other innovations, the original Borochov neighborhood established Israel’s first cooperative grocery store, which continued to operate from the same premises up to the 1980s.

With towers of up to 57 stories already approved for the area on the boundary of Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan, new plans add towers of 32 to 45 stories. In the city center, Pinui Binui urban renewal projects — which demolish and rebuild groups of buildings — are proposed to grow heights to around eight floors and create public spaces where possible. Space on the streets for cars will be reduced in favor of bus lanes and wide cycle paths.

The population is expected to grow to 101,000 (from 60,500) by 2040. Most apartments created across the city will be between 40 and 85 square meters in size (431 to 915 square feet) — relatively small. The plan aims at building for a mixed population, including units suitable for sheltered housing, students, and those on low incomes, as well as adding commercial and office space.

This plan faces two major challenges. First, it’s not clear that Givatayim’s existing population is looking to move up into the skies, and to the extent that individual planning projects require agreement from a majority of existing residents this could pose an obstacle.

Second, the plans focus on public transportation links, including the M2 Metro line which is supposed to run beneath the length of Katznelson Street. As The Times of Israel has reported, plans for the Gush Dan Metro system are likely to be delayed and possibly will never come to fruition. Meanwhile, a shift to usage of public transportation requires a considerable change from current behavior; 60% of journeys currently are in cars.