Charedim among poorest, yet have less social housing

By Simon Rocker, June 13, 2008

Strictly Orthodox Jews in Hackney, North-East London, are more likely to be receiving state benefits than the general population of the borough — but much less likely to be living in social housing.

According to a council study, 58.7 per cent of Charedi households received means-tested benefits compared with 38.6 per cent on average for Hackney as a whole.

But only 8.5 per cent of strictly Orthodox households lived in affordable social housing compared with 44.1 per cent for Hackney as a whole.

The study into the size and needs of Hackney’s population — which includes a section on the Charedim — was carried out because council officers believed there was a significant undercount in the last census seven years ago. The inner-city borough is one of the poorest in the country.

Around half of its Charedi residents are under 19 — “ a much higher percentage of young people and families than in Hackney generally,” the report notes. As a result, there could be “proportionately greater needs for child care, primary and secondary education, and children’s health services.”

The average Charedi household contains 6.3 people, compared with 2.3 in the borough generally, according to the study. Overall, it puts the size of the Charedi population at 15,409  with estimates of a further 4,300 in the neighbouring borough of Haringey.

Chaya Spitz, of the Orthodox charity Interlink, said that the findings confirmed previous research, but would carry “a higher credibility rating” in coming from a local authority.

“One of the first comments I heard is that clearly not enough social housing is being built for large families,” she said. “If that is the kind of finding, that’s a good thing.” She added: “Over the last two decades, the Charedi community has experienced growing economic hardship. Low incomes, coupled with high rent levels, trap members of the community into dependence on welfare benefits.”

Michoel Posen, director of the Agudas Israel Community Services, noted that the high rate of benefits was due to large families living in private accommodation. “A three- or four-bedroom house costs £400 a week to rent, whereas a four-bedroom council house is £150 a week,” he explained.

A council spokesman told the JC that Hackney “is currently in the process of conducting an in-depth survey of housing needs, which will explore housing needs of all communities within the borough in greater detail.”

In Salford, Hazel Blears, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, is to open new centres on Sunday for strictly Orthodox families.

The Hershel Weiss Children and Family Centre and Bnos Yisroel School Nursery are part of the Sure Start programme to aid families with children under five.

Salford Council has invested £750,000 in the two buildings.

Last updated: 11:19am, July 8 2009