Newhousing hope for Charedim
THE STRICTLY Orthodox community is hoping that its housing problems could be eased by a new opportunity to build along the Thames Gateway, east of London.
Ken Livingstone, the London Mayor, has held preliminary talks with community leaders about providing bigger houses in the short-term in Hackney and Haringey, the boroughs with the largest strictly Orthodox populations.
But looking further ahead, Mr Livingstone has also raised the possibility of a Charedi presence in the proposed major development of the Thames Gateway. The first block of housing will provide 7,000 homes planned for completion before the 2012 Olympics.
In a special report in August, the JC highlighted the problems of young Charedi families in London and Manchester who can afford neither rents nor deposits towards ownership.
Mr Livingstone told the annual reception of the London Jewish Forum at City Hall that he will be handed control of the capital’s £4 billion affordable-housing budget in April.
He already has command of the capital’s housing strategy, and now also has the power to review and amend new housing developments at the planning stage if he thinks they do not fit the strategy. With leading members of the Stamford Hill Charedi community looking on, Mr Livingstone said councils and housing associations should be building fewer units for one or two people, and more for four and five.
“We should be able to address the [housing] needs of the Orthodox community,” he said, “and make sure, where new homes are provided, they fit that need.
“We are working closely with people such as Rabbi Avraham Pinter and the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, with whom housing associations will work to ensure that everyone has access to houses that are the right size for them.”
Speaking to the JC later, Mr Livingstone said: “The important thing is to help where the community is now. We can build small schemes on relatively small sites.
“The Thames Gateway will provide 40,000 homes in 20 years’ time. We have to put in infrastructure. I know that the community will need to have synagogues and schools and shops within walking distance — though, of course, they will have to pay for the synagogues themselves.”
Rabbi Pinter was encouraged by the commitment to five-bedroom homes. “It is excellent that Mr Livingstone is behind this and has cross-party support.”