Non-Hasidic renters in the Neighborhood

Non-Hasidic renters in the Neighborhood

A reader asked: Can non-Hasids rent or buy properties in the Hasidic neighborhoods of Brooklyn?


Well. Most Hasidim will advertise their properties in Hasidic publications, often in Yiddish. Odds are, you won’t come across available Hasidic condos in your local Streeteasy or another rental map app. Hasidim in Brooklyn are now pretty big in property management (including outside their enclave, big time), but they treat properties in the community totally differently from properties in greater Brooklyn or even beyond. Rentals in their neighborhood can be advertised with a note on the synagogue wall or a $25 classified ad in the Yiddish paper, and the process involves references and word of mouth and knowing who is who and who your father is. Properties in the “goyish” (gentile) part of Brooklyn often involve middlemen, realtors, and the standard credit-check and income-based qualification process are followed.

Years ago, when Williamsburg first started to be very desirable, Hasidim had to contend with the encroachment of outsiders who had a lot more money, could drive up rents, and who could potentially change the face of the insular Orthodox neighborhood. There was a big to-do in the community, and many many people pushed back against letting outsiders outbid Hasidim on property. Some of the pushback came in the form of protest signs in the streets.

This poster above warns that “the seller already advertised the apartments on the internet for artisten.” It implores people to call the developer immediately and urge him to cease “selling to artists and destroying our city, God forbid.” What’s interesting is that the sign includes information of a realtor company. But the people responsible for the sign managed to get some phone numbers and list it on the poster. Not unreasonable to imagine they knew who the developer was and just published his home number.

This type of public shaming is effective because, in a community of exorbitant rents, a lot of people get frustrated by those among Hasidim who sell out their brethren by selling to outsiders who could afford to pay more. The bullying and shaming often come from the more zealous elements of the community who are not driven by economical concerns but by a concern about the spiritual effects of an influx of bare-shouldered overall-wearing hipster ladies who could hurt the eyes. But the zealots can’t be effective unless people respond to their shaming and noise-making, and housing is one cause people care about. Because try figuring out how to secure a home for a family of 5 when you’re not yet thirty and you live in one of the country’s most expensive neighborhoods. So the zealots and economic motivations combined mean that Hasidic developers who want to conquer the artistes market focus their attention elsewhere.

As a tour guide in Hasidic Williamsburg for five years, I’ve only seen a handful of non-Hasidics sit on stoops in the main sections of private-property Hasidic Williamsburg (public housing is different). The Hasidic homes have big gates on the windows and giant porches; they are built for Hasidic life and Hasidim keep it amongst each other.

PS: A Hasidic fella I know once said to me: why don’t you dress up Hasidic, pretend to be pious and all, speak your Yiddish and such, and buy a home from a Hasidic person for Hasidic market value. Then, tear off the Hasidic getup and sell the property to outsiders. You’ll make 200K easy. I said no, thank you. I’m not sure if it’s the Hasidic in me or the goyishe straight fool in me, but it is not my thing.

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