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Public transportation fares to Tel Aviv to be cut


By Hedy Cohen

GLOBES

Public transportation fares will be slashed as part of an effort by Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to contend with the work on the light rail in Tel Aviv and to encourage drivers to leave their cars at home. The projected costs of the plan stand at NIS 120 million.

The planned reform of the system would institute unified pricing for each of the major metropolitan areas: Tel Aviv , Jerusalem, Haifa, and Beersheba. It would radically decrease costs by allowing passengers 90 minutes to transfer between different modes of transportation – bus, train,light rail, and MetroFi rapid bus transit systems without paying an additional charge, as long as they remain within the designated area.

The plan also calls for significantly reducing the prices of monthly hybrid passes that allow unlimited rides on both trains and buses throughout the metropolitan area.

For example, under the new regulations, a monthly pass for rail and bus use between Tel Aviv and Rishon Lezion would cost NIS 252 instead of NIS 400, a decrease of 37 percent. Between Tel Aviv and Rehovot, the cost of the pass would fall to NIS 286 from NIS 491, down 42%, while commuters making the journey between Tel Aviv an Netanya would save 30%.

 

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Housing cabinet approves plans to boost housing supply


By Niv Elis

The housing cabinet on Monday approved two plans to boost housing supply and bring down the cost of apartments, particularly for young couples and first-time buyers.

“Our younger generation has rights, not just obligations, ” Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said. “A roof over your head is a basic right, and it’s our duty to supple one.”

The plans will produce a “massive supply” of apartments aimed at young couples, both in the periphery and high-demand areas, he said.

The first of the plans will broaden a mechanism for doling out subsidized state land to developers who promise the lowest cost for their units. Young couples who are first-time buyers will have first dibs on the apartments, on condition that they do not sell them for five years.

A tenth of the apartments wil lalso be designated for local residents. The land subsidies can go as high as 80 percent of the appraised value of the land, benchmarked from the beginning of June.

In areas where the scheme is expected to have less of an impact, the state will also offer development subsidies of NIS 40,000 to 60,000. The Finance Ministry estimated the grants and subsidies of the whole program would amount to NIS 200,000 on average per apartment unit.

The second plan will allow construction projects that are already in the works to expand by 20% without needing additional approvals. The temporary order, which will apply to buildings that do not yet have a frame built, allows developers to get on=the=spot approval to add more units, on condition that half those units are small apartments (under 75 square meters) appropriate for young couples, and none of the units exceeds 150 sq.m.

The plan is intended to make a quick push for new apartments using existing infrastructure, thus sidestepping the lengthy and costly approval process and need to build further infrastructure to accommodate new buildings.

Local authorities will exact a fee from increased building that they can use toward developing public spaces.

Overall, the Finance Ministry expects its initiatives to get 82,000 units into the planning process by the end of 2015, 45,000 of which will be on state land. The Bank of Israel has estimated that the country needs roughly 40,000 to 45,000 construction starts each year to meet the growing demand for housing.

The plans must still be approved by the Knesset before becoming law.

 


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Gasoline prices set to rise NIS 0.10 on Thursday night


By Hedy Cohen

Globes

The price of a liter of 95-octane gasoline at self-service pumps in Israel is set to rise NIS 0.10 to NIS 6.62 on Thursday night at midnight, May 1, sources in Israel’s energy market believe. The rise is caused by higher oil prices on global markets.

This would be the third consecutive month that fuel prices have risen in Israel after falling sharply to their lowest level in five years in February.

On global markets, the price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) has reached a three – month high of $57.15, and a barrel of Brent crude is selling for $65.28, a three-month high. Prices are influenced by growing demand, dwindling supply and Middle East tensions.

The price of gasoline fell by NIS 0.63 per liter at the beginning of January, by NIS 0.15 at the beginning of December and by NIS 0.27 at the beginning of November due to the decline in the price of oil on world markets.


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Amdocs Israel seeks new local headquarters By Shomit Tsur


Globes

Technology company Amdocs Ltd., which occupies a giant 75,000- square-meter complex at the Ra’anana Junction, on Sunday notified its employees that it is looking for a new location in the central region. The company’s lease with REIT 1 Ltd., the owner of the company’s current site, expires at the end of 2019.

In its announcement to the employees, company management explained the planned move by saying that it wished to improve their working environment. Among the alternatives under consideration by the company are the purchase of a new office building to be constructed for it, renting a new office building or renovation and adaptation of the existing complex to the company’s needs.For this purpose, Amdocs has established a task force, which has already begun looking for locations.

“The search will be in the central and Sharon regions,” Amdocs management wrote in its letter to the employees.”The main guiding criteria are a better experience for the employees, including better transportation, suitable facilities in the area, business, cost and other operation considerations.”

Assuming that Amdocs does move its offices from the current location in Ra’anana, REIT1 will have to find a new large tenant. This large size of the areas to be vacated will make this a difficult task. Amdocs Israel has been in the hi-tech park at the Ra’anana Junction since 1996 and currently occupies 75,000 sq.m., not including parking, out  of 82,000 sq.m.  in the entire complex.

One of the other tenants in the office complex is Microsoft. According to REIT1’s  reports, Amdocs paid NIS 38.2 million in 2014 for its facilities in the Ra’anana site. REIT1 owns 60 percent of the compound, with the rest owned by S.A.N. Centers, Ganai Shefa Building & Investment and Sunflower Sustainable Investments Ltd.

Amdocs Israel is a subsidiary of the global Amdocs company and has 4,500 employees, mostly in the Ra’anana center, with the rest in other development centers in Haifa, Sderot and Nazareth.

“The search will be in the central and Sharon regions,”


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Rents rise 6.6%in a year nationwide


Price of average home increases despite fall in sales

By Ori Chudy and Shlomit Tzur

August is the most active month in the residential rental market, especially with the new academic year approaching. Added to the pressure this year is the expectation that promised government programs will make buying an apartment cheaper, which is encouraging potential buyers to continue renting and to renew leases.

Rents rose 1.1 percent nationally in the second quarter of 2014 compared with the first quarter and 6.6% compared with the corresponding quarter of 2013, according to Central Bureau of Statistics data.

Since 2007 , rents have risen an average of 64.2% nationwide. In Tel Aviv they increased 85% in seven years from NIS 3,067 per month in the second quarter of 2007 to NIS 5,671 in the second quarter of  2014. In 2007, rents for large apartments (4.5 TO 5 Rooms) in Tel Aviv were the highest in the country at  NIS 4,849 per month.Today they are NIS 5,671.

In the Sharon region, average rents have risen 73% since 2007, while rents for large apartments increased 785.

The lowest rents in the second quarter of 2014 were for small apartments (1.5 to 2 rooms) in Haifa and its Bayside suburbs, at NIS 1,654 per month. In 2007 they were also the lowest rents nationwide at NIS 1,250. That is still a  32.3% increase, with a  5.5% annual return on investment for landlords.Renting out an apartment in the North yielded an average return of 5.2%.

Returns on investment for small apartments were 4.5% in Haifa, 4.2% in the central region and 4.75 in the South.

The lowest return for landlords for renting out large apartments in Tel Aviv and in Haifa, at 2.5% in both cities, despite the difference in prices.

The slowdown in the sale of homes continued alongside rising apartment prices in the second quarter of 2014, Government Assessor Tal Alderotti reported Monday. The price of an average 4 room apartment in Israels six largest cities rose 1.6 percent in the second quarter and 6% in the 12 months ending in June.

Average home prices rose most sharply in Ramle (7%) in the second quarter, followed by Eilat (6%), Jerusalem and Modiin (4% each ). Prices rose 1% in Tel Aviv in the second quarter and 9% over the 12 months ending in June..

Prices fell 1% in Holon and 4% in Beersheba in the second quarter. There was no change in prices in Ashkelon, Herzliya, and Kfar Saba in the second quarter.

There was a major slowdown in home sales in the second quarter, mainly of new homes because of the governments plan to charge 0% VAT to new home buyers. However, the low number of deals did not stem rising prices.