Jewish Blind and Disabled reveals plans for £6m Mill Hill project

Eighth development reflects demand for charity's housing


Jewish Blind and Disabled has unveiled plans for a new £6 million apartment development in Mill Hill.

The charity has purchased a site two doors down from its existing Mill Hill property, Frances and Dick James Court, from the International Bible Students’ Association. The building will be extended outwards and upwards to provide 30 large one-bedroom flats plus communal facilities and the hope is that the first tenants will move in early in 2023.

Until a lead donor is secured, it will provisionally be titled number eight, adding to the charity’s seven properties in North and East London, Essex and Herts offering 319 apartments for those with physical disability or visual impairment. They are mostly single occupancy but tenants currently include 42 couples and one mum and baby.

In age terms, the majority of tenants are older people but there are younger groups at some properties. The youngest tenant is in their 20s.

Chief executive Lisa Wimborne said JBD had been looking for a suitable site in Barnet or Hertsmere but the latter had proved problematic — “organisations are struggling with land acquisition there”.

Key criteria for a development were ease of access — “we wouldn’t build on a hill” — good transport links and nearby health facilities and shops. “We also know our tenants want to be in close proximity to their family and the Jewish community and be able to get easily to kosher shops and shuls.”

In size terms, “anything less than 24 flats doesn’t work when you have two house managers [to ensure constant support]. We’re a people organisation and we don’t want to move away from that.”

After the 20 places were filled at the most recent opening in Bushey, the charity has a waiting list of 30, although news of an additional property tends to swell the number, particularly once construction work is well advanced.

The charity also continues to focus on enhancing existing buildings with £1 million being spent this year on refurbishments. Around 40 per cent will go towards health and safety work — “we are compliant-plus”.

Having taken up her role last summer, Ms Wimborne said she offered a fresh pair of eyes as the charity reflected on the way forward. “We have done amazing work in 50 years. But what about the next 50?”

To this end, JBD would be commissioning research on future community demographics and needs. But although its Essex and East London properties were fully subscribed, there was still migration to North London among the older generation as people wanted to be close to family. This would dictate the location of future projects.

JBD would continue looking around the Borehamwood and Elstree area for the potential “number nine”. But Ms Wimborne pointed out that if a suitable site became available, “we have to be in a position to buy it.

“The model stacks up because once bricks and mortar are in place, it pays for itself [through rental income],” even if the funding for the 65 per cent of tenants on housing benefit does not fully cover the cost of services.

Meanwhile, the timing of the announcement of the new project has made it the perfect subject for JBD’s Pesach appeal.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive