by Rabbi Miriam Berger
Why should we be concerned about the housing crisis and how has it affected our Jewish communities?
As a Jewish community, we see some housing issues in our own way. Whether it is the vastly-inflated house prices around Jewish schools or within the eruv, house prices can define our Jewish lives as well as influence demography.
We have to pre-empt how housing issues will affect us and make sure our Jewish infrastructure keeps up with our moving masses. Yet there are the broader issues that affect many in our community and many more beyond.
I have heard example after example of shockingly-bad social housing with a direct impact on the NHS, education and employment. There are children with asthma because of damp, teenagers doing homework by torchlight because of faulty electricity, a family driving miles to bathe the children because they have had no working boiler or hot water for months and people who have been moved out, making their commute so difficult they lost their jobs.
Every example is from here in Barnet, each one a Catch-22 with no escape from the problem of rogue landlords, which the council are forced to deal with because only one new home is built for every nine council houses sold around London.
These stories make me so angry and they’d be heartbreaking if I didn’t think we could do something about it. But at Finchley Reform Synagogue, when we see something of a broken society we do all we can to fix it.
We have to get to the roots of the issues, protecting everyone, not just individuals who happen to be brought to our attention. This is not about party politics, demonising anyone or thinking someone else has a solution; this is all about democracy and big society.
We must stand by those in our community and beyond who need our support. We can encourage those with investment properties to rent to Department of Social Security recipients, maintaining their properties adequately.
We mustn’t accept gentrification at the expense of people being forced out of their homes. Diverse communities in Barnet can unite.
In April, 50 members of FRS and 6,000 other ‘London Citizens’ representing organisations who have been on their campaign journey will meet mayoral candidates Zac Goldsmith and Sadiq Khan. This will be an opportunity to assure ourselves that whoever takes over as mayor of London understands the concerns of its people and, hopefully, agrees to some solutions.
This is an opportunity to be engaged in building and regenerating in a way that works for all members of society and a chance to remind us that the power of the people to rise up and improve their world is the moment we see the Divine among us.