Agudas tackling Charedi housing shortage


The chief executive of the Agudas Israel Housing Association has stressed the need for new solutions to the housing problems of the Charedi community.

Ita Symons revealed this week that work has started on a Stamford Hill development, Aviv, under the aegis of the association. It will provide 65 apartments, the largest with four bedrooms, which will be available for outright sale, shared ownership and rent. Completion is scheduled for the autumn of 2017.

For outright sale, the prices of around £600,000 for a two-bedroom flat and £780,000 for a four-bed are beyond the means of many local Charedim.

Mrs Symons pointed out that in better times, Agudas Israel could receive up to 80 per cent of government funding per unit. "You now get £50,000 max - it's pocket money, almost.

"The way we have to build now is selling off some [units] to help us develop affordable housing for rent. Shared ownership is something in between."

There are 600 "live cases" on the association's waiting list but Mrs Symons believed the true need was considerably greater with families living in overcrowded conditions and some facing possession orders to vacate.

She also acknowledged that "whatever is secured will never be enough to supply the needs of this community", with demand far outstripping supply in areas such as Stamford Hill, Golders Green and Hendon.

Some families had moved to Manchester. But this was not an option for everybody as "going there cuts you off from London. It's almost like going to Israel. If you live in Manchester, you don't come to London for this, that and the other. You have to say goodbye. It's too much of a wrench."

Others are exploring the options for satellite shtetls in areas close to London where property prices are less prohibitive.

Mrs Symons would be keen for the association to help the community most likely to succeed. "But which do I go for? All of them have advantages and disadvantages."

For example, she said East Tilbury properties were unsuitable for large families and the local community did not seem keen on the idea of Charedim moving in.

Harlow was "lovely, with opportunity for expansion", but she had doubts as to whether the plans would come to fruition.

Westcliff had some Jewish infrastructure, including an Orthodox synagogue and a part-time kosher shop, but distance was an issue. The same applied to Canvey Island, where as the JC reported last week, families are moving in and a communal building has been purchased. However, she was impressed by the Canvey project leaders and intended to speak to the Homes and Communities Agency to see if the association could get up to 15 houses in Canvey for the Rent to Buy scheme.

"I've come to the conclusion that we simply can't build enough here [Stamford Hill] in the near future," she said.

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