Strong family, communal and cultural ties underlie the reasons for geographical concentrations of Jewish households in certain parts of North, East and North West London. For mainstream orthodox and Charedi communities in Barnet, Brent, Hackney, Haringey, Harrow and Redbridge, the requirements to observe Sabbath and Kashrut laws makes being within walking distance of a synagogue and other religious facilities a key determinant when deciding where to live.
In terms of housing and planning related issues, London Jews have exactly the same concerns as their fellow residents. These include lack of affordable housing to buy and rent in preferred areas and close to places of work, which is affecting all young people and preventing them from setting down roots until their late 30’s and 40’s in many cases. Land, especially in public sector hands, urgently needs to be released for housing development at prices and rents that all Londoners can afford.
Like the wider community, there are pockets of severe deprivation. In Hackney, where the average number of children in the Charedi community is around three times the national average, 47% of all children in the borough were assessed as living in low income households by the Audit Commission in 2007. Only 32% of households in the borough are owner occupiers, less than half the national average. Action is needed to prevent a cycle of deprivation spiralling out of control.
The economic downturn is having serious consequences for older persons and those with support needs in London, who are finding it increasingly difficult to continue living independently or to find suitable accommodation that meets their needs and keeps them close enough to family members and communities who can help them. Year by year, less resources are available for the supported housing sector with homes having to be de-registered. As older people live longer, more of them are having to cope on their own.
Build homes which young people can afford to buy and rent
Young Jews, who are economically active, are being squeezed out of the London property market. Every year more of them are discovering it is impossible to find homes they can afford to buy and rent if they want to live within communities of their choice. This is bad news for London; the brightest and best of our young people will be forced to move to other centres or to go abroad to live and work.
We would encourage the Mayor to utilise new housing powers to build more homes as a priority. The Mayor should actively support the Government’s mortgage guarantee scheme and apply pressure on banks in public ownership to agree lending targets to help first time buyers.
Ease the burden of Housing Benefit caps on the most vulnerable people
The Housing Benefit caps, which will transition into the new system of Universal Credit in 2014, are already creating serious hardship and fear for many families and the most vulnerable residents including those who care for them. More than 50% of strictly orthodox (Charedi) Jewish households in Hackney and Haringey live in rented accommodation. In Stamford Hill where average rents outstrip local reference rents, the lack of affordable housing for these families has reached crisis levels.
We would urge the Mayor along with Local Authorities and London Councils to argue the case with central government for higher benefit caps for Londoners reflecting the high costs of housing and transitional reliefs for the most vulnerable residents.
Make independent living feasible for older persons and other people with support needs
Local authorities in London are cutting support and this is adversely affecting Jewish people with the highest priority needs.
Early indications are that the combined effect of benefit cuts and reduced social services budgets is forcing Jewish people into accommodation which is often unsuitable and far away from the support networks of their families and communities. This increases levels of social exclusion for many people, old and young.
We would welcome the opportunity to connect the Mayor and GLA with the active and highly skilled Jewish Adult Social Care sector to help meet the demand for supported living developments for older persons and others with support needs and ease the planning process for these developments.
Use the new powers in the Localism Act to encourage Neighbourhood Forums and use of Local Development Frameworks to engage with London’s diverse communities
Restrictive planning bureaucracy and preservation interests are seriously impacting the Jewish community’s ability to meet its own housing needs effectively. Extensions to family homes required to ease “Victorian” conditions of overcrowding in parts of North London are being blocked at every turn. Communal and religious bodies are increasingly unable to make effective and transformational use of their assets which are being annexed into conservation areas or have been listed by third parties.
We urge the Mayor to encourage local planning authorities to interpret regulations in ways which meet the priority needs of the communities which those authorities serve. Local authorities should include within their Local Development Frameworks the dual objectives of preserving Jewish built heritage and delivering fit for purpose buildings that meet the changing needs of their communities.
Make the Olympic Legacy, a Housing Legacy for Londoners
The London Borough of Hackney, one of the five designated Olympic boroughs, is one of the most deprived local authority areas in Britain. All of the issues highlighted in this document – unaffordable housing, benefit cuts, reductions in social service budgets and overcrowding are encapsulated in Hackney and its near neighbour Haringey. The Charedi community in London is projected to increase by 4% p.a. and will double in size from its current level c. 25,000 to 50,000 by 2030. Without land and other resources being released in and around Stratford after 2012, the social consequences resulting from this rate of demographic change will be catastrophic.
The GLA will shortly become London’s largest owner of public land. The Community would encourage the next Mayor who presides over London’s Olympic Games to ensure that the legacy includes more affordable, family sized and specialist housing to meet the needs not just for the Jewish community, but for all Londoners.