The dire housing problems of Britain’s Charedi community could be solved by an innovative scheme that is being studied closely by both national and local government.
A small steering committee in Stamford Hill, north London, which includes members of the Agudas Israel Housing Association, has been working on the creation of a community land trust (CLT).
Under a CLT, the land would be owned in perpetuity by a group of members of the Charedi community. New homes would be built on brownfield sites, with funding probably from national government in the shape of the new Homes and Communities Agency (formerly the Housing Corporation) or a benefactor.
Malcolm Levi, the committee chairman, said: “This is a scheme that is attractive for communities who live and work together.
“Far too many people in the Charedi community live in grossly-overcrowded conditions.
“The aim is to set up a model of a CLT for strictly Orthodox communities. However, it will also be applicable to other groups, for instance the Bengali community in Tower Hamlets — or Muslim and other ethnic communities in a number of places around the country.”
Giving an example, Mr Levi continued: “Working on the basis that the cost of the land was 40 per cent, with a CLT in operation a house that cost say £200,000, would be valued at £120,000.
“The CLT, where the community owns the land, makes ownership vastly more affordable. The property would always be that price because the speculation, the ability to make lots of money from the sale, has been removed.”
A recent survey had shown that 54 per cent of the Charedi community in Hackney is renting flats because they cannot afford to buy homes and the community is growing by four per cent a year.
Most of them live in two-bed flats but need four or five bedrooms because of the numbers of children they have.
Sixty per cent of the borough’s strictly Orthodox community is under 25, according to the survey.
“Something has to be done, as the community will double in size in 20 years,” said Mr Levi.
“The government is very keen to see how this works out and has mentioned CLTs in its most recent housing regulation act earlier this year.”
Other councils such as Tower Hamlets and Haringey, both of which have communities that live and work together, have also been keeping a close watch on the scheme’s development.