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Exclusive: Scale of community's London housing crisis revealed

High property prices in the capital leave many Jews in unaffordable, sub-standard or overcrowded accommodation

    Researchers found few large Jewish communities in areas with modestly-priced housing (Photo: Getty Images)
    Researchers found few large Jewish communities in areas with modestly-priced housing (Photo: Getty Images)

    More affordable homes may have to be built for lower-income Jewish families in order to enable them to live close to a Jewish community, according to a new report seen by the JC.

    In some areas with a sizeable Jewish population homes cost 11 to 12 times the local Jewish median income.

    The study shows that lower-earning Jewish households appear less likely to belong to synagogues, buy kosher meat, celebrate a Friday night meal or even light Shabbat candles.

    Research conducted by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research for the Industrial Dwellings Society, a Jewish-founded housing association, also reveals the extent of problems in meeting the housing requirements of elderly Jews in declining communities who suffer from ill-health or lack of mobility.

    The report says: “Although British Jews live in relatively prosperous parts of the United Kingdom and have a healthier socio-economic profile than the average, that does not mean that disadvantage and deprivation do not exist.”

    Areas of need are identified in the London boroughs of Hackney and Redbridge and potentially also in parts of Barnet, Haringey, Enfield, Brent, and Epping Forest, in Essex.

    “In general, Jews tend to live in the more expensive parts of London and there are few areas where we find large and growing Jewish communities in areas with modestly priced housing,” the IDS says.

    The report says there is a strong case for investing in housing stock in areas such Hertsmere, Hertfordshire.

    “Other areas to consider are Hendon, Hale [between Edgware and Mill Hill] and Mill Hill on the grounds that, in London terms, these are relatively affordable areas with large and growing Jewish populations,” it says.

    Young and old struggle to put a roof over their heads

    In 2013, a semi-detached house in the North London borough of Hackney cost 11.6 times the median (mid-point) income of a local Jewish couple.

    For the growing number of Charedi families with their large numbers of children, soaring house prices have increasingly restricted their opportunities to find somewhere to live in the area.

    Although income may be higher among the Jewish families of Golders Green, the equivalent house was 10 times the median earnings.

    For something more affordable, you would have to move further out to the suburbs to the expanding community of Hertfordshire, where a semi-detached house was available for 5.8 times the median local Jewish income.

    The data has come from a unique piece of research commissioned by the Industrial Dwellings Society (IDS), a housing association founded in 1885 by Jewish philanthropists).

    Only around 18 per cent of residents of the 1,500 homes IDS owns in London are Jewish and it is looking to increase that proportion. The society plans to invest in 500 new homes over the next decade.

    While young people in the capital may be struggling to clamber onto the housing ladder, older, retired people suffering from ill-health and reduced mobility may find themselves in a declining Jewish area where synagogues or other communal facilities are closing down one by one.

    The report measured four indicators of “deprivation” (which does not necessarily include poverty): ill-health or disability; housing issues which could be overcrowding or having to share accommodation; lack of educational credentials; and unemployment or sickness preventing work before retirement. It found that more than two in five of Jews aged over 80 — 44 per cent —suffered deprivation in two or more of the four indicators.

    While, overall, Jews live in “relatively prosperous parts” of Britain,as IDS puts it, areas of disadvantage exist.

    Hackney has the “most acute” problems with nine per cent of households experiencing at least three of the four indicators — calculated from communal surveys and Census data for the IDS by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR).

    Twenty-three per cent of Hackney’s Jewish households have issues to do with ill-health or disability, and 27 per cent have issues with housing conditions.

    But more than a third in areas of declining Jewish populations such as Redbridge, Brent, Harrow or Enfield experience health and disability issues.

    Suzanne Wolfe, chief executive of IDS, said: “It is important to understand what is going on in the Jewish community across the spectrum. [The report] has crystallised our thinking but it has also raised many questions.”

    The most deprived group are older people living alone — eight out of ten report at least one of the four indicators of disadvantage. Two-thirds of lone parents also report at least one of these.

    Older people, Ms Wolfe said, might face the question, “do they move elsewhere to be close to their families or do they stay in the area where they were raised”.

    For younger people looking for somewhere to settle, homes in Hertsmere, which has a populous Jewish community, remain “relatively affordable” — which makes a “strong case for investing in new housing stock” in the area.

    While the price of a semi-detached house in Hertsmere was £476,000 in 2016, the equivalent house cost £697,000 in Golders Green and £1,057,500 in Hackney.

    Beyond housing, the report also found that Jewish families on lower incomes are less likely to belong to a synagogue, buy kosher food, attend a Friday night dinner or even light Shabbat candles.

    Of those who have a regular Shabbat dinner, 31 per cent have a household income of £50,000 or under.

    When it comes to people who do not have a Friday night dinner, 47 per cent have a household income of £50,000 or under.

    Of people who always light Friday night candles, 31 per cent fall into the below-£50,000 income bracket. But of those who never light candles, 50 per cent fall into the under-£50,000 group.

    Since lower-earning Charedi families will remain observant, the gap between higher and lower income groups among the non-Charedi community could be higher than the basic figures. JPR has cautioned against drawing too firm a conclusion without further research.But the finding on candles is striking because they are inexpensive.

    Dr Jonathan Boyd, JPR executive director, said his “tentative assessment is that it is quite expensive to live in a neighbourhood with a thriving Jewish population. If you can’t afford it, you tend to live further away and it’s harder to be engaged… and that has some knock-on effect on how you practise your Judaism.”

    The IDS is planning further research with focus groups to evaluate Jewish housing needs. Anyone interested in taking part can find out more at 
www.ids.org.uk/housingneed

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