Founded in 1885 by Nathaniel, 1st Lord Rothschild (1840-1915), the Four Per Cent Industrial Dwellings Company was established to provide “the industrial classes with commodious and healthy Dwellings at a minimum rent” and was primarily aimed at serving the Jewish population in East London, who suffered from overcrowding and poor accommodation. The company was formed as a commercial business, with a board consisting of other notable Jewish philanthropists such as Frederick Mocatta and Samuel Montagu. In addition to generating moderate and safe financial returns, the directors were motivated by the clear social return which providing higher quality accommodation at affordable prices could provide.
In 1952, the Four Per Cent Dwellings Company became the Industrial Dwellings Society (1885) Ltd. Today, IDS manages around 1,500 properties in Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Southwark, Redbridge, Barnet and Hertsmere.
For a flavour of what life was like in one of the 'Rothschild buildings', see Rothschild Buildings: Life in an East-End Tenement Block 1887-1920 by Jerry White (Pimlico: London, 2003).