England: Housing association’s policy of only admitting Orthodox Jewish tenants vindicated

England: Housing association's policy of only admitting Orthodox Jewish tenants vindicated

A housing association which provides accommodation exclusively for Orthodox families has defeated an application for judicial review by a mother and her young son over its allocation policy.

The High Court dismissed a claim, which had been brought by a non-Jewish family in Stamford Hill, protesting that Agudas Israel Housing Association (AIHA) policies precluded people who were not members of the Orthodox Jewish community from becoming tenants.

The claimants had wanted to be allocated a home in AIHA’s new Aviv development in Stamford Hill, but were not given the chance to bid. The claim, against Hackney London Borough Council and AIHA, challenged AIHA’s policy of allocating its social housing properties on the basis that they precluded any persons who are not members of the Orthodox Jewish community from becoming tenants.

The Divisional Court ruled that AIHA’s policy was lawful and found against the application for Judicial Review, concluding that AIHA served a specific need and tried to do so with access to only one per cent of Hackney’s social housing stock.

The judgment, handed down by Lord Justice Lindblom and Sir Kenneth Parker, added: “AIHA’s arrangements are justified as proportionate … the disadvantages and needs of the Orthodox Jewish community are many and compelling. They are also in many instances very closely related to the matter of housing accommodation.

“We recognise the needs of other applicants for social housing, but in the particular market conditions to which we have referred, 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.”

Elliot Lister, partner at law firm Asserson, representing AIHA, said: “The Divisional Court has endorsed the critical work of a charity established to fight anti-Semitism and discrimination in the face of allegations that it itself discriminates. The Jewish community and even more so the obviously Orthodox Jewish community, faces an ongoing battle against anti-Semitism, recognised by their Lordships as widespread and increasing and overt.

“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.

“For an organisation that was established to counter discrimination and has that as its mission, this is a particularly important judgment.”

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