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Opinion: Expansion of BME housing sector essential

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Opinion: Expansion of BME housing sector essential

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities

Opinion: Expansion of BME housing sector essential Opinion: Expansion of BME housing sector essential

Image: Housing via Shutterstock

By John Morris, chief executive, Trident Social Investment Group

The question of whether social housing needs an independent black and minority ethnic (BME) housing sub-sector has re-emerged after a decade long hiatus. A renewed debate has begun following a recent study which revealed that over the last 18 months the proportion of new social lets to White people has risen while the proportion rented to BME applicants has dropped noticeably.

These research findings confirm those of new research by BMENational, the representative body for BME housing organisations, and the Human City Institute (HCI) think-tank The research, supported by Trident Social Investment Group, takes a longer-term timescale, and shows that social lets to BME applicants have been in relative decline over the last ten years. Although social lets by all social landlord types, including local councils and housing associations, grew from 14 to 16 percent between the two Censuses of 2001 and 2011, the BME population in England expanded from 7 to 14 per cent, representing a ‘real terms’ fall in social lets, especially since BME communities experience greater levels of housing need.

While accounting for 1 in 7 of the total population in 2011, BME households represented 1 in 3 of those accepted as statutorily homeless by local councils. Homelessness has also been growing among BME communities over the last ten years or so. In 2001, 28 per cent of statutorily homeless households were from a BME background. Yet by 2011, this had grown to 33 per cent and has since increased further to 37 per cent in 2013.

Alongside, BME communities experience significantly more ‘hidden’ homelessness: they are more likely to be living in overcrowded or poor housing than their White neighbours. Only 6 per cent of Whites are classified as overcrowded, whereas this rises to between 15 and 35 per cent of BME households with Black Africans and Bangladeshis most overcrowded.

One quarter of BME households live in the oldest pre-1919 built homes, which are more prone to poor housing conditions. Fifteen per cent of BME households live in a home with a category 1 hazard under the HHSRS (Housing, Health and Safety Rating System). Sixteen per cent of BME people live in fuel poor households compared with 10 per cent of Whites.

And, while rates of home ownership have fallen for all ethnic groups over the 2001 to 2011 period, BME households have experienced the greatest drop, especially Chinese, Pakistanis and Indians. BME communities are now more likely than ten years ago to be living in the private rented sector, with overcrowding approaching 1 in 5 of all BME households in this tenure. At the same time, the presence of most BME groups within social housing has declined, especially African-Caribbeans and Bangladeshis.

So the growth in the BME population, and their higher levels of housing need, should indicate that they figure more prominently in social lets but this I not the case.

That’s why our wide-ranging research is seeking to define a new and more prominent role for BME housing organisations in the future of social housing. Trident has a special interest in this since our group includes an African-Caribbean housing organisation – DORCAS. We also support a BME housing co-operative called Shahjalal, which is managed by the Bangladeshi community in Birmingham’s core areas. And the Matrix Housing Partnership, of which Trident is a partner, incorporates Ashram, one the country’s largest BME housing organisations.

Additionally, HCI has a longstanding research commitment to ‘left behind’ communities with a series of action research projects completed or underway with various communities in the Midlands including the Irish, African-Caribbean, Somali, Bangladeshi, Vietnamese, Chinese and Gypsy and Traveller communities. These studies reveal that BME communities not only experience greater housing need but also inequalities in health, shorter lives, more material deprivation and lower wellbeing.

All of this points to the continuing need, and indeed an expansion of the independent BME housing sector. Our report and recommendations for this expansion will be published in the autumn.

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