A white face can be a big help in a discriminatory housing market

A white face can be a big help in a discriminatory housing market

Heather MacDonald, University of Technology Sydney

Where you live may be an important factor in the sorts of jobs you find, where your children go to school, and how safe you feel walking home after working late.

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A tight rental market clearly limits housing choices for the less well-off. But are there other factors that might affect this – such as ethnicity?

How we tested for discrimination

To investigate this, we designed an experiment to compare the experience of Anglo, Indian and Muslim Middle Eastern “renters” in Sydney, to see if they were treated differently. We chose to look at these two ethnic minorities because other studies have reported they experience housing discrimination.

Each week between August and November, 2013, we sampled properties advertised for rent across Sydney. We used paired testers (people of the same gender and age, but different ethnicities) as “mystery shoppers”. They phoned the listed agent and then, if possible, attended an inspection in person.

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The testers completed a detailed questionnaire about what the agents told them. We completed a total of 537 phone-call tests and 369 in-person inspection tests.

The study covers only the enquiry and inspection stages of the housing search. We couldn’t test what happens once an application is actually submitted, because that would have involved lying. However, even at these early stages, we found some clear differences in how Anglo testers were treated compared to Muslim Middle Eastern or Indian testers.

What happened in the tests?

The chart below summarises the proportion of “tests” (properties that both testers visited) falling into one of three categories: the minority tester was favoured; both testers were treated identically; and the Anglo tester was favoured.

We tested which of these differences were statistically significant (not likely to be the result of random variation). The net difference between the numbers of Anglos and minorities favoured is shown in the chart labels, along with the statistical significance of the difference.

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On some dimensions, minority testers were more likely to be favoured. Agents were more likely to tell the minority tester when the property would be available and that all adult occupants must sign a lease.

Agents were also more likely to take the minority testers’ details – although they were less likely to contact them after the inspection.

But on most dimensions, particularly those that might meaningfully affect someone’s search for housing, agents favoured the Anglo tester. Agents were three to four times more likely to offer Anglo (but not minority) testers an individual appointment to inspect the property, to ask Anglo testers about their housing needs and to tell them of other available housing.

Agents also gave Anglo testers information about the application process that the minority partner was not given (such as the deadline for applications). And, although agents did this in only a small number of cases, they were more likely to contact Anglo compared to minority testers after the inspection.

All of these differences might make it far easier for Anglo renters to find the right property, at the right price and in the right location.

What can we reasonably conclude?

Paired testing has its limitations. It is difficult to match individuals perfectly. Underlying characteristics (such as how confident someone is) might affect how they are treated.

We screened testers carefully and spent time training them. We also monitored the weekly survey responses to control quality.

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One obvious limitation is that we looked at the experiences of only two ethnic minority groups, because we had limited funds. It’s likely that other ethnic and racial groups might have quite different experiences in the rental housing market. Our results also don’t say anything about other Australian cities.

Despite these limitations, we believe paired tests offer unique insight into how people of different ethnicities are treated in the market. Surveying agents or renters about their perceptions would have resulted in just that – a study of perceptions.

No-one can accurately compare their own experience of the world to someone else’s. So, relying only on complaints of discrimination is likely to underestimate substantially the actual incidence of differential treatment. We think our study offers a much more robust glimpse at housing inequity and has the potential to supplement anti-discrimination enforcement.


Our paper on the study, Rental discrimination in the multi-ethnic metropolis: evidence from Sydney, will soon be accessible when published in Urban Policy and Research.

Heather MacDonald receives funding from the Australian Research Council. The study, funded by the ARC Discovery Program, is the joint work of the author and Jacqueline Nelson from University of Technology Sydney, Kevin Dunn and Rae Dufty-Jones from Western Sydney University, and Yin Paradies from Deakin University. Throughout the project, we have been advised by Professor George Galster of Wayne State University in Detroit, who worked on several of the official US investigations of housing discrimination using the paired tester method.

AFL aims to develop academies

AFL aims to develop academies

If you’re an Asian or African kid in Australia and you’ve never heard of the AFL, that could be about to change.

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The league’s next step to attract talented youngsters into the game will be for all clubs to have academies.

While the NSW and Queensland clubs already have talent academies, the goal is for the other 14 to tap into sections of the community where AFL has had minimal impact.

This week, the Victorian clubs were assigned regions and the AFL will soon finalise the SA and WA teams’ academies.

Along with local communities, the AFL wants clubs to search for indigenous talent in remote areas such as the Pilbara and Kimberleys.

For example, Essendon have northwest Melbourne and West Arnhem in the Northern Territory as their academy regions.

“We’re seriously targeting under-represented sections of the community to make sure they feel welcome and attracted into the sport,” said AFL operations manager Mark Evans.

“The basic premise is we’ll use the expertise and resource and brand power of clubs out in regional communities to find and attract and develop young talent.”

The incentive for clubs is if they can find players and bring them through the AFL system, they can bid for them in the draft similar to what is available for the northern club academies.

The academies will start this year and will be for boys and girls.

Evans says they think they can run programs for 4000-5000 children in the first year and might double that number over the next three.

“We’ve been looking for ways that we can enhance that connection of AFL clubs with communities and help us tackle the participation challenges and development of talent,” he said.

“Australian football has not been traditionally good at attracting Asians or Africans to play our sport.

“If you’re from an Asian or African background – a definite qualification.”

He added the AFL had been working with clubs in the traditional football states for the past year on the academies project.

Once the SA and WA academies are organised, the AFL will also look at how it might operate in Tasmania.

Evans added a panel would assess the eligibility of players in the academy system through Victoria, SA and WA as they developed.

CBA tipped for another record 1H profit

CBA tipped for another record 1H profit

Commonwealth Bank is expected to unveil another record first-half profit next week when it becomes the first of the big four to report results since last year’s out-of-cycle mortgage rate hikes.

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Australia’s largest home lender lifted its variable mortgage rates for investors and then owner-occupiers as part of its response to increased capital requirements from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, forcing customers to wear some of the cost of maintaining profit growth.

The bank’s results for the six months to December 31, the period covering those hikes, are out on Wednesday and analyst consensus is for roughly a three per cent increase in cash profit to about $4.77 billion.

“No nasty surprises,” Morningstar analyst David Ellis said.

“The words `steady’ and `stable’ and `moderate’ will be liberally applied, and I think you’ll see surprising strength in the underlying business.”

Both JP Morgan and Morningstar predict home loan growth of about six per cent annualised, contributing strongly despite property prices losing momentum after years of supercharged growth.

“You’ve got a pretty good story for loan growth and deposit growth. Not ridiculously strong: just a good solid story,” Mr Ellis said.

“Margins should be a little better due to the repricing last year.”

Commonwealth Bank followed ANZ’s lead in July when it pushed up its standard variable rate for investor loans, raising it by 27 basis points.

It then lifted its standard variable rate for owner-occupiers by 0.15 percentage points, the hike kicking in on November 20 – two weeks after CBA lifted first quarter cash profit four per cent to $2.4 billion.

In a recent note to investors, JP Morgan analyst Scott Manning said he expects cash earnings of $4.74 billion – a 2.6 per cent increase on $4.62 billion for the prior corresponding period – but that the interim dividend would remain flat at $1.98 to absorb the impact of August’s $5.1 billion rights issue.

Bell Potter has flagged a $2.12 per share dividend based on cash profit of $4.77 billion.

Analysts agree that further large-scale capital raisings by the big four banks are unlikely unless APRA adopts a tougher stance, but that they will further bolster capital reserves in other ways.

CBA, National Australia Bank, ANZ and Westpac – who all raised investor and owner-occupier rates between July and November – raised about $17 billion in fresh equity between them in 2015.

“Particularly Westpac and CBA as the biggest two retail banks will make sure there’s product repricing to enable them to maintain relatively stable and high returns to shareholders,” Mr Ellis said.

“Shareholders are wearing some of the pain but I think on balance customers are going to have to pay for the much stronger financial system.”

NAB will provide its first quarter trading update on February 16, with ANZ to follow a day later. Westpac is due to release its half year results on May 2.

CBA’S RECENT FIRST-HALF RESULTS

* 1H15 – cash profit: $4.62bn; interim dividend: $1.98

* 1H14 – cash profit: $4.27bn; interim dividend: $1.83

* 1H13 – cash profit: $3.78bn; interim dividend: $1.64

* 1H12 – cash profit: $3.58bn; interim dividend: $1.37

* 1H11 – cash profit: $3.34bn; interim dividend: $1.32

Zika answer may be flying around north Qld

Zika answer may be flying around north Qld

The answer to the Zika outbreak could be flying around north Queensland.

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That’s according to Eliminate Dengue Professor Scott O’Neill who thinks the Wolbachia bacteria, which stops mosquitoes transmitting dengue, could also work on Zika.

Eliminate Dengue first started releasing mosquitoes injected with Wolbachia in Cairns five years ago and says it now has unpublished information about reductions in Zika transmission.

“The biology of Zika’s transmission is almost identical to dengue’s so it makes sense,” he told AAP on Wednesday.

Wolbachia field trials have been rolled out in five countries, including Brazil where Zika has been linked to thousands of birth defects.

Prof O’Neill says the program has the potential to make a large impact on global dengue, and possibly Zika, transmissions.

“The suburbs where we have put out the Wolbachia mosquitoes, we haven’t seen any dengue transmissions,” he said.

“The impacts we see for dengue in the field should be similar to Zika.”

Dengue and Zika are both transferred by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which lives in subtropical and tropical areas around the world.

Wolbachia spreads through mosquito populations during breeding and also affects the transmission of chikungunya, yellow fever and the parasites that cause malaria.

It occurs naturally in 60 per cent of insects, but not in the Aedes Aegypti.

Mr O’Neill said Eliminate Dengue was in preliminary talks about rolling out new trials in South America.

There have been 20 cases of the Zika virus in Australia, with all patients having been infected overseas.

Authorities say the risk of an outbreak in Australia is low.

But north Queensland MPs have sought assurances from the federal government that appropriate measures will be put in place.

Queensland Health Minister Cameron Dick said because north Queensland was used to dengue fever, the region would be able to prepare adequately for Zika.

He urged residents in the state’s north to help prevent a potential outbreak by getting rid of still water, applying insect repellent and wearing long-sleeved shirts.

A state prevention response is due to be discussed at a roundtable discussion on Thursday.

Busting the myths about bushfire-safe homes

Busting the myths about bushfire-safe homes

Living in Australia’s beautiful, rugged bushland can be a doubled-edged sword.

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So far this year more than 200 homes have been lost to bushfires, but there is a push towards making bushfire safe building practices more common, which could save homes in the future.

Architect and Queensland University of Technology consulting research architect Ian Weir told SBS there is a common misconception bushfire safe homes are very expensive to build.

He said many people also believe bushfire safe houses, which can be built to withstand six different bushfire attack levels, had to look like “concrete bunkers”.

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Dr Weir said the first five levels of potential bushfire attack saw homes threatened by “primarily ember attack and in the mid-range at [both] radiant heat and ember attack”.

“The sixth level has flame contact, ember attack and radiant heat, so you’re dealing with all three,” he said.

“In the first five levels you’re still looking at a relatively conventional house,” Dr Weir said.

Only a house built to withstand the worst possible bushfire conditions might be comparable to a concrete bunker, Dr Weir said.

These six levels of potential bushfire threat to a home take into account the surrounding vegetation and landscape and how a fire may affect a property.

They are ranked on bushfire attack level (BAL) starting at level 1, low, and ranging through the next five levels of 12.5, 19, 29 and 40 to level six FZ (flame zone).

Dr Weir said ember attack was the main cause of home destruction during bushfires, with embers able to travel far ahead of the fire front.

“In Yarloop most of the houses were lost through ember attacks and once one house caught fire the next caught fire and then you’ve got a town site fire,” he said.

Bushfires do not get hot enough to completely destroy a property, Dr Weir said, but structural fires do.

Embers work their way into cracks or gaps in a property or get under the eaves, starting a structural fire that can be very difficult to put out, he said.

CSIRO bushfire urban design research leader Justin Leonard told SBS the best way to protect homes against embers was simple – use materials that don’t burn.

He said using a steel frame for the house was a good place to start, along with building materials like brick or rammed earth.

Dr Weir said it was often complying with energy regulations that cost home owners a lot of money, and many of the measures taken to keep a house energy efficient, like using rammed earth, would also keep it safe in a bushfire.

He said bushfire-proofing elements such as toughened glass, window mesh and window shutters could also fulfill everyday roles such as fly screens or shades.

“Bushfire prone areas are often really hot in summer but quite cold in winter…and a lot of the things you need to make a house thermally comfortable are also bushfire proof,” Dr Weir said.

Both Mr Leonard and Dr Weir agreed retrofitting a conventional home to survive a bushfire could become expensive, however integrating protections into a home design could be relatively cost-effective.

Dr Weir said bushfire safe materials and measures would often cost no more than about 5 percent of the value of a house.

One of Dr Weir’s designs, known as the Kari Fire House, in Western Australia cost $500,000 to build and the fire safe measures, which included special glass, ember screens and a non-combustible verandah, cost just 2.6 per cent of the total cost, or about $13,000.

Bushfire Building Council of Australia chief executive Kate Cotter told SBS governments needed to be more proactive in encouraging and providing incentives for the construction of bushfire safe homes.

She said study needed to be done in places like Wye River in Victoria, where nearly 98 homes were lost last December, to see what conditions and construction allowed a house to survive a bushfire without the owner present.

“There were new homes building to bushfire standards at Wye River that were destroyed,” Ms Cotter said.

“We want to see what works when there’s no human interaction.”

She said there were cases of older, weatherboard homes that had been able to survive bushfires after they had been retrofitted with bushfire measures like sprinkler systems, while new homes next door had burned to the ground.

“We need a whole new way of thinking [in relation to bushfire-safe construction],” Ms Cotter said.

But a big part of being bushfire ready came down to homeowners maintaining their homes and keeping them up to standard, Mr Leonard said.

“The homeowner has to understand what a bushfire is and they have to understand how to maintain their house,” he said.

“You need to close your windows [in a bushfire] and you should not park your caravan hard up against the side of your house.

“It really comes down to the responsibility of that owner.

“If you do it in the right way it is relatively cheap to build something [bushfire safe].”

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Turnbull urged to tone down tax talk

Turnbull urged to tone down tax talk

Malcolm Turnbull is facing calls from nervous coalition backbenchers to steer the tax debate away from the GST and onto state and federal tax cuts.

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The calls come as Labor leader Bill Shorten rejected a suggestion from former prime minister Paul Keating that a modest hike in the GST to specifically fund hospitals could be justified.

Mr Turnbull is considering changes to the GST as part of a broader package of tax reform the coalition will take to the election.

But the prime minister has yet to say whether the government will jack up the rate from 10 to 15 per cent.

On Tuesday, facing questions in the coalition party room about the GST, Mr Turnbull said no decision had been made on the politically risky idea of raising the rate, but voters needed to know the government had properly considered all options.

Queensland Nationals MP George Christensen said the government needed to get rid of taxes.

“I didn’t come into federal parliament to increase taxes and increase the tax burdens on Australians,” he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

“The number one aim is to make the tax system better to stimulate growth and job creation.”

Fellow MP Ewen Jones said he supported a tax system which allowed people to invest and improve business.

“If we remove those barriers like stamp duty and payroll tax – if we can get rid of those things – while looking after the most vulnerable, then we are moving in the right direction,” he said.

“Does that include an increase in the GST? I would be against giving one extra cent to any state government at the moment because I don’t think they are spending it well.”

Mr Turnbull told parliament on Wednesday the government had “not made a decision to change any element of the tax system”.

Treasurer Scott Morrison added: “We’re interested in things that will actually ultimately see taxes fall in this country, not see taxes ever higher to chase ever higher levels of spending.”

Mr Keating described as “fiscal folly” the prospect of the Turnbull government increasing the GST to 15 per cent.

The additional revenue – about $30 billion annually – would end up feeding government spending and lock the country into permanently high taxation.

But a rise of one or even two percentage points “purely and simply to fund public hospitals and hypothecated to that sole purpose” could be defended, Mr Keating wrote in Fairfax Media.

Mr Shorten said Labor would not support any change to the GST.

“Labor will stick to its guns,” he said.

Meanwhile, Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer appeared to give the last rites to the coalition’s election promise of a green paper on tax reform options.

“I don’t think there is anybody sitting at home waiting for a green paper,” she told the National Press Club.

“What I do think they’re waiting for is … a very clear direction from government.”

Mr Morrison told parliament the government was going through a “very open process” and consulting widely.

Cabinet Secretary Arthur Sinodinos acknowledged there were concerns within coalition ranks about a GST rise.

“It would be natural – we had similar concerns previously in 1998,” Senator Sinodinos told Sky News on Wednesday.

“One of the tests in putting together our package will be to convince our colleagues that the package is viable, economically sustainable and fair.”

He said it was good that MPs were discussing the issue, but no final decision would be made until the cabinet and party room endorsed the reform package.

NAB confirms $805m Clydesdale proceeds

NAB confirms $805m Clydesdale proceeds

National Australia Bank will receive $805 million from the partial initial public offering (IPO) of UK subsidiary Clydesdale Bank.

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The final offer price announced on Wednesday is STG1.80 ($3.68) per share, which was toward the lower end of the initially stated range of STG1.75 to STG2.35.

The pricing values the underperforming UK unit at $3.22 billion.

NAB shares closed down 5.6 per cent to $26.36 against a backdrop of a broader 2.59 per cent decline in the S&P/ASX200 financials, but shareholders are effectively being compensated by receiving one Clydesdale share for every four NAB shares they own.

Stripping that out would put NAB’s $1.62 decline roughly in line with that of ANZ and Westpac, which were down 71 and 73 cents respectively.

NAB is handing 75 per cent of the demerged Clydesdale business, which has been a drag on performance for years, to its shareholders.

It is floating the remaining 25 per cent on the London Stock Exchange.

“The successful conclusion of the demerger and IPO of CYBG is a significant milestone for NAB that will enable us to pursue our own focused strategy in our core markets in Australia and New Zealand,” NAB chief executive Officer Andrew Thorburn said in a statement on Wednesday.

NAB has delayed the IPO by 24 hours to update its listing prospectus after a request for more information from a rating agency.

In a release to the Australian Stock Exchange after the market had closed on Tuesday, the Australian lender said Clydesdale received a request from an unnamed rating agency that could result in a downgrade of the bank’s deposit rating.

Clydesdale is expected to start trading in London on Wednesday evening (AEDT) and on the Australian Stock Exchange on Thursday.

Jamie Gao ‘against’ calling police: court

Jamie Gao ‘against’ calling police: court

The cousin of murdered Sydney student Jamie Gao was against contacting police after his relative disappeared, a court has heard.

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Justin Gao said he and his cousin had planned to meet on the afternoon Jamie Gao was allegedly killed by Glen McNamara and Roger Rogerson in a storage shed in 2014.

But when Jamie Gao did not show and could not be found, Justin Gao and a small group of his cousin’s friends were “very against” contacting the police.

“I made the decision that if we still couldn’t find him the next day, we would call the police and declare him a missing person,” he said under questioning from McNamara’s barrister Kara Shead.

McNamara and Rogerson have both pleaded not guilty to Mr Gao’s murder, but their lawyers have told their NSW Supreme Court trial that each man will accuse the other of shooting him.

They have also pleaded not guilty to a commercial drug supply charge.

Justin Gao returned to the witnesses box on Wednesday after earlier testifying his cousin had told him only two or three days before he went missing that he “would be rich soon”.

Ms Shead has told the jury Jamie Gao was a drug dealer and a member of Chinese underworld gang the Triads and that Rogerson was responsible for gunning him down inside the storage shed in Padstow on May 20, 2014.

Yet Rogerson is expected to give evidence during the months-long trial that McNamara had admitted shooting Mr Gao after a struggle inside the storage unit, and that he himself had walked inside unit 803 to see Mr Gao lying dead on the ground.

It is the Crown case that both men agreed to kill Mr Gao, or injure him very seriously, and that the young man’s body was dumped at sea after Rogerson and McNamara took 2.78kg of ice that Mr Gao had brought to the Rent A Space facility.

A juror hearing the NSW Supreme Court trial was discharged on Wednesday morning for legal reasons.

The trial continues.

Runs flow for NSW in New Zealand

Runs flow for NSW in New Zealand

NSW’s top four batsmen notched half centuries on day one of their historic Sheffield Shield match against Western Australia in Lincoln, New Zealand.

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It’s the first time a Shield game has been played across the Tasman, where Test players Peter Nevill, Nathan Lyon and Adam Voges are warming up for next week’s Test series against the Black Caps.

Sent in to bat, Daniel Hughes (65), Ed Cowan (57), Kurtis Patterson (75) and Nic Maddinson (69) proved New Zealand wasn’t just a seamer’s paradise.

But the Warriors, thanks largely to inexperienced paceman David Moody, did manage to fight back with four wickets in the final session to limit the Blues to 6/293.

Nevill (15no) and Sean Abbott (5no) will hope to build on the total on Thursday.

“It’s fantastic conditions. We’ve seen a great wicket rolled out, great outfield,” Cowan said.

“If the batting condition is like that every game, we should move all 10 games a year here.”

Offspinner Ashton Turner claimed the first Shield wicket on foreign soil when he had Cowan controversially caught at short leg.

The former Test batsman was adamant the ball bounced before it reached Cameron Bancroft in close, pointing to a puff of dust in the area with his bat no less than six times before angrily remonstrating with the fielders and storming off.

“I had a pretty good view of what happened and I made it pretty clear to those on the field what I thought about them,” Cowan said.

Cowan and Hughes earlier made the Warriors pay for electing to field, leading the Blues to a commanding 2-243 and apparently on their way to a big score.

Maddinson’s run-a-ball 69 included two sixes but despite four batsmen reaching 50, none was able to kick on.

NSW then lost 4-42 and their ascendancy in the final session.

Moody, who finished with a day’s best 3-62 off 14 overs, claimed the crucial wickets of Hughes and Maddinson in a breakthrough performance.

“Having the sweeper let me get away with it a little bit but in terms of the confidence, I had the rhythm and I felt as though that was one of the better performances that I’ve had,” he said.

Leadership changes at Yeshivah Centre after abuse probe advised against

Leadership changes at Yeshivah Centre after abuse probe advised against

The New York based orthodox Jewish movement which oversees the centre, Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters, is understood to have sent trustees a letter in which it states the Melbourne centre do not have the power to change governance structures.

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It has told them not to make any decisions without first consulting a special subcommittee of rabbis it’s empowered to represent it.

Victims’ advocate and survivor of child sexual abuse, Manny Waks said the intervention stalls efforts by the centre to implement reform.

He questioned why Chabad headquarters is only stepping in now.

“If they are do believe they are in charge where have they been until now?” he said.

“If they are the ones with the power and authority where were they when kids were being sexually abused when covering ups were taking place, when the intimidatation against victims, their families and their supporters was going on.

“When cover ups were taking place. Where has the global Chabad movement been during all of this?”

Mr Waks said the Yeshivah Centre and Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters have had ample time to respond to the scandal, and it is time to consider bringing in an independent administrator to establish a robust structure of governance.

A spokesperson for the Yeshiva Centre in Melbourne has told SBS:

“The Trustees are committed to adopting a corporate structure for the Yeshivah Centre that reflects good governance and adheres to  the principles of Chabad Lubavitch and the guidance of the Rebbe.

“The GRP is in the process of receiving community feedback on their proposed governance structure. The GRP are conducting an open, transparent and collaborative process and we encourage the community to make submissions to the GRP.”

SBS has also sought comment from the Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters.