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Does race discrimination still exist in housing?

Posted on 25th November 2016

The Human City Institute published a report Forty Years of Struggle: A Window on Race and Housing, Disadvantage and Exclusion on 20th October 2016.

The report highlights that legislative changes since the 1960s have been geared towards eliminating the discrimination that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic “BME” people have suffered. Whilst this has reduced discrimination against BME people in housing to some extent, this does still exist. The report however concludes that the aims have not been fully achieved.

I do not intend on recreating the 50 page report here but have highlighted below some excerpts that stood out to me.

The report found that “[o]ne in ten BME people live in the worst 10 per cent of neighbourhoods in contrast to just 1 in 30 for the white population. BME people are also three times more likely than the white population to be residing in the 1 per cent worst living environments”.

It also states that “BME households are today far less likely to own their homes, either outright or through a mortgage”, the report also found that BME people tend to live in concentrated areas and are dependant on rented accommodation. BME people are frequently found to be living in cities and in inner cities close to roads” and that the “air quality in neighbourhoods with these locations tends to be much worse than in the suburbs or the countryside”. This is also an indicator of “relative neighbourhood prosperity and health inequality.”

The finding shows that there would be reduced opportunities available for BME people which has caused an increased reliance on local authorities to assist them with housing. It is questionable whether enough opportunities are given to BME people.

The report does not touch on the social pressures BME people face on a daily basis, which is an important factor. I had a client who was forced to engage in certain activities and act in a certain way so as to avoid an onslaught of harassment and exclusion. In effect the cost of living in a bad area can be a lot greater than statistics can show.

It also found that although there has been a significant long term decline of people dependent on social housing 28.7% of the overall BME population are in social housing. “Homelessness has grown disproportionately among BME communities: over the last twenty years, from about 16 per cent of total homeless acceptances by local authorities to more than 37 per cent.”

It is important to remember that homelessness has reduced over the years so that actual numbers of statutorily defined homeless people has reduced. However, proposed changes in legislation through the Homelessness Reduction Bill would broaden the amount of people who are statutorily homeless. (A detailed analysis of the Homelessness Reduction Bill is available in the blog by Sophie Bell and Vneeta Ratti). Therefore the figures right now may well be misleading.

The finding of the report show BME people are often found to be in overcrowded houses, deprived neighbourhoods and worst living environments. BME’s have shorter lives, higher levels of morbidity, are more disadvantaged in the criminal justice system and “increasingly likely to be the victims of racially-motivated attacks”. What is most concerning is despite four decades of legislative change it is clear that BME people still face significant discrimination. Whilst the Homelessness Reduction Bill may go a long way to deal with homelessness as a whole, it is seriously concerning that legislation has not been proposed to deal with the discrimination that BME people continue to face.

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