To a casual observer, Jewish Blind and Disabled’s £10 million housing development in Bushey appears very much a building site.
But on one of her regular visits to monitor progress, JBD chief executive Hazel Kaye says the end is definitely in prospect.
Construction is on target for September completion and Ms Kaye points out elements of the 41-flat block that are taking shape — windows installed, roof largely in place, areas designated for communal use.
Applications are now being accepted for the apartments, which are sufficiently spacious to accommodate couples.
Fifty people have already expressed interest and following mailshots to local GPs and other health providers, promotion through Jewish community contacts and advertisements in the Jewish press, that number is expected to treble. The penthouse flat will be highly coveted but Ms Kaye stresses that allocations are made on the basis of individual needs.
The JBD’s six other buildings in the London area house 320 people — around 20 per cent of whom have visual impairment.
As with Bushey, the goal is for tenants to live as independently as possible. “We don’t want them to feel that they are in a charity institution.” The site was chosen for its close proximity to transport links — most JBD tenants do not drive — shopping and Jewish activities.
“The local shul [Bushey United] and the League of Jewish Women want to get involved,” Ms Kaye adds. “They feel it’s an amazing service we are bringing to the area. Congregants have already asked if they can invite tenants over for Friday night meals.”
Two flats have been reserved for the house managers who will take up residence in October, after which small groups of tenants will be moved in on a weekly basis.
They will be able to call on the services of JBD’s tenants’ support group and the community team of volunteers, who help to arrange social events.
Communal facilities will include a wheelchair-charging area, a Shabbat lift and a laundry room. And two guest suites are being incorporated to house visiting family and friends.
Ms Kaye anticipates a good spread of ages among the tenants. “This works well in our other buildings. It helps to develop a community. The young people like being mothered. The older people like having younger people around.”
Despite receiving no statutory support, JBD has under £1 million to go to complete the funding and the hope is that a lunch with a yet-to-be-revealed celebrity will significantly reduce the shortfall.
She explains that JBD also has to fund constant upgrades of its existing properties, adding: “We are so proud of our buildings. We make sure there are no nasty smells or peeling wallpaper.”
The charity is already looking for another site in the Herts area. “We need to be where Jews are living or are moving to. The location has to be spot-on. And we know how long it can take to get planning permission [three years for the Bushey scheme].”
Each project helps to raise the JBD profile, alerting potential new funders and tenants.
“People with disabilities are living longer,” Ms Kaye says. “And there are those who did not need us three years ago who need us now.”