High Court dismisses legal challenge to Charedi housing association for prioritising Orthodox families

Judges rule that the Agudas Israel Housing Association arrangements were 'lawful' and 'proportionate'


A Charedi housing assocation has seen off an a legal challenge to its policy of allocating housing to Orthodox families, as judges ruled it served the community's "many and compelling" needs.

In a decision handed down this week, the High Court dismissed a claim, which had been brought by non-Jews protesting that the Agudas Israel Housing Association of Stamford Hill's (AIHA) policies precluded people who were not members of the Orthodox Jewish community from becoming tenants.

In their judgement, Lord Justice Lindblom and Sir Kenneth Parker described how “the disadvantages and needs of the Orthodox Jewish community are many and compelling” and therefore said that “AIHA’s arrangements are justified as proportionate" and deemed them "lawful".

The claim was also brought against Hackney Council, which arranges the nomination of applicants for AIHA properties.

The claimants argued that the arrangement by AIHA, and therefore also by Hackney Council, discriminated against them because they are not members of the Orthodox Jewish community, and were therefore unlawful, principally under the Equality Act.

However, the judges also took into account factors including antisemitism and crimes carried out against Charedim and the specific religious requirements of strictly orthodox Jews, which AIHA properties are specifically designed for.

Also considered were issues including “a particular need for larger properties because of the large family sizes” of Charedim and the importance for strictly orthodox Jews of being in close geographic proximity to the rest of their community.

They also called it “self-evident” that if AIHA were to allocate any of its properties to people who are not Orthodox, it would seriously dilute the number of properties available to Orthodox Jews, and would fundamentally undermine its charitable objective of giving meaningful “primary” provision to Orthodox Jews.

“AIHA’s arrangements are proportionate in addressing the needs and disadvantages of the Orthodox Jewish Community, notwithstanding the fact that in those market conditions, a non-member cannot realistically expect AIHA to allocate to him or her any property that becomes available," the judges said.

The court concluded that AIHA served a specific need and tried to do so with access to just one per cent of Hackney’s social housing stock.

AIHA has previously stated that more than 1,000 Orthodox families are on its waiting list for appropriate accommodation.

Ita Cymerman-Symons, chief executive officer of AIHA, said she was “gratified” by the ruling.

“This ruling will help address the imbalance, disadvantages and prejudices faced by Orthodox Jewish families in trying to find suitable housing”, she said.

“I firmly believe that our work contributes to alleviating in our small way, a national housing crisis, freeing up other non-AIHA social housing for others.

"We do not take properties from others, but we lessen the queue for other properties.”

AIHA was represented by the Asserson law firm, which has successfully represented the strictly Orthodox community on a number of issues, including the recent judicial review of the burial policies of Senior Coroner Mary Hassell.

Elliot Lister, partner at the firm, said: “The Orthodox Jewish community’s members’ way of life requires them to live close by each other as a community, to the extent that many prefer to stay in unsuitable properties than to move away from their community.

“I am grateful that one of the highest courts in the land has recognised the features of the Orthodox Jewish way of life and the disadvantages that are engendered by that way of life.

"More importantly the court has confirmed that the disadvantages can be legitimately addressed by a charity founded for that purpose, without fear of censure for discrimination.”

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