BME HAs must play an ‘expanded role’

A raft of official inquiries and reports have confirmed what we in the black and minority ethnic (BME) housing sector have long known – that BME communities continue to suffer disadvantage and discrimination because of their ethnicity despite decades of equality legislation, statutory codes, and voluntary initiatives.

The latest – a comprehensive racial disparity audit by the government of the economy and society – looks like underscoring how BME communities, by and large, remain left behind when it comes to the best jobs, the most in-demand housing, and access to vital public services.

Alongside, BME communities have borne the brunt of austerity and welfare reform, which have contributed to growing racial inequality in the UK.

All of this forms a worrying backdrop to the BME National annual conference, taking place in London on 19th October. The conference will focus on the disproportionate effects of austerity and persistent racial inequality, together with how BME housing associations are rising to meet these challenges.

Our conferences, which go back many years to the days of the Federation of Black Housing Organisations, are opportunities for us to discuss how we might increase our impact and extend our sector with others from social housing and from a range of organisations and individuals from other sectors. In recent years, our conferences have been augmented by comprehensive research and an external consultation exercise with our stakeholders, key partners, tenants and communities, run in partnership with the Human City Institute (HCI), resulting in a forward looking as well as a ‘state of the sector’ report, and a comprehensive review of forty years of racial discrimination and disadvantage in housing and neighbourhoods.

Working mainly in the major towns and cities of England, our presence has been a long-term bulwark against poverty, disadvantage, discrimination and austerity, HCI’s report concluded. We have offered rehousing opportunities for many BME people not well-served by the wider housing system: BME people are still more likely to be homeless, live in poor and overcrowded housing, experience fuel poverty, and have higher mortality and morbidity rates.

HCI’s report also underlines the pivotal importance of BME housing organisations in disadvantaged communities. It recommends that our sector should be expanded to make a greater contribution to meeting the housing, care, support, health and employment needs of BME communities, since these are not adequately met by mainstream social landlords.
There is considerable scope for BME housing organisations to access new markets. Integrated health, social care and well-being policy areas offer various and multiple opportunities; especially since health inequalities persist in BME communities. Promoting community cohesion, along the lines advocated by the All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPG) Social Integration, is a longstanding specialism.

BME housing organisations are also increasingly engaging with new migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. We have recently launched our pledge to new migrants together with a range of larger, mainstream housing associations.
These future options for BME housing organisations, and the wider challenges to the social housing sector, will be discussed at length at our London conference on 19th October. So if organisations and individuals want to help us make even more of a difference to racial equality in housing, come along and say hello.

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It’s time to address the racial injustice in Britain’s social housing

For 30 years, specialist BME housing associations have fought for better housing, but we need more money and concerted action.

The government’s racial disparity audit confirms the extent and persistence of racial injustice in Britain, but includes precious little on housing beyond commenting on lower levels of home ownership among ethnic minorities… read the full article on the Guardian Website.


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Creating a more diverse housing sector

The review by David Lammy of the UK’s criminal justice system, the report by the APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) on Social Integration on the integration of new migrants, and a range of new evidence on employment have underscored how far the UK still has to go to offer full equality on the grounds of ‘race’.
Mr Lammy’s review confirmed the long observed inequalities in how black and minority ethnic (BME) citizens fare under our nation’s policing and sentencing practices. For example, the proportion of BME young offenders in custody rose from 25% to 41% between 2006 and 2016, despite the overall number of young offenders falling to record lows.

The APPG on Social Integration, chaired by Chuka Umunna, recognised a “rising concern about anti-immigrant sentiment and the demonisation of newcomers”. It further remarked that, following the Brexit vote, there has been a striking increase in racist abuse and hate crime directed at both new migrants and settled BME communities.

And new research by The Guardian and Operation Black Vote – as part of its Inequality Project – has recorded the under-representation of BME people in the UK’s power structure. The research has revealed that the UK’s top 1,000 organisations have just 3.5% BME people in senior positions in contrast to more than 17% of the total population.
The Guardian research has shown how many BME people in major organisations are over-qualified for their roles compared with their white counterparts, who are more likely to climb the career ladder. It concludes that BME talent “is not necessarily lacking in abundance, but it is seriously lacking in support”.

This is confirmed by a 2014 study by the University of Manchester that showed higher levels of qualification of BME adults when compared with their white peers, although the generally ‘younger’ age profile of the BME population partly accounts for this. The study concluded that this educational shift has failed to translate into the workplace, with BME people more likely to be left in low-paid jobs.
While the employment picture in social housing is not as bleak – the 2015 Chartered Institute of Housing’s (CIH) Presidential Commission on leading diversity showed that 11% of CIH members and 7% of housing’s leaders are from BME backgrounds. There remains much to be done.

One of the great achievements of BME housing organisations, as the report by the Human City Institute from last year pointed up, is their ability to recognise talent, nurture BME staff and help advance their rise to the highest levels within BME housing organisations. Historically, this has provided the wider housing sector with a wealth of talent in terms of staff, senior managers and board members.

The BME housing sector has long shown that diversity is crucial for creating successful, thriving community businesses. After all, championing equality and diversity enables social housing greater access to innovation and new ways of working.
It also recognises the changing nature of our economy and society. This is more important in social housing since one in five tenants are from a BME background, and in many of our major conurbations where the majority of social housing is located, the BME population represent more than one in three households.

And it cannot be stressed often enough that BME communities bear the brunt of housing deprivation – especially poor and overcrowded housing – are more likely to become homeless, have far less housing wealth than white people, and more frequently live in the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods.
Today, social housing helps to rectify such disadvantages which have deep roots going back to the early days of migration to the UK from the West Indies, Asia and Africa, and have yet to be full dismantled.

On control of social landlords by board and senior staff, the CIH’s Presidential Commission established a number of challenges for the social housing sector. To be achieved by 2020, these included challenging all employer and external agencies responsible for recruitment to ensure that all shortlists include qualified candidates from under-represented groups. Alongside, the commission recommended an aspirational target for board recruitment from these groups.

Publication of ‘diversity data’ on the composition of the boards, executive teams and total workforce of social landlords was advocated, too – to be presented annually. Identifying and providing mentoring and coaching opportunities for staff and board members from under-represented groups was also on high on the list of challenges set.

Rising to these challenges is good business sense for social housing and promotes value for money, as well as dovetailing with the fair housing approach supported by BME National. Improving equality and diversity across social housing fits not only with our historic social purpose but sets us apart as a modern, fair and committed sector for all communities.

Cym D’Souza, chief executive, Arawak Walton Housing Association, and chair, BME National.

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We know there’s a housing crisis – but why is it so much worse for black families?

Shineade Sey is about to move. After three years in a flat in south-east London, she is selling up and buying a house with her partner. Sey, who is half Jamaican and half Ghanaian, says she is lucky – when her former employer was bought out she received a payment that meant she was able to buy her first home. “Without that, I would probably still be saving now,” she says. While her white friends had already bought by the time she could afford to, she was among the first of her friends of black descent. “Their parents weren’t able to help them – many were in social housing to begin with and a lot are from single-parent families – I come from a single-parent family, too, and my mum was in her late 30s before she was able to buy … before that, we lived in social housing… Read the full article on the Guardian Website here

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Arawak Walton achieves highest grading from HCA after In Depth Assessment

Following continued growth, Arawak Walton moved into mainstream regulation in 2016 due to owning over 1,000 homes.

After completing an In Depth Assessment (IDA), earlier this year, the Homes and Communities Agency awarded Arawak Walton Housing Association a rating of G1/V1. This rating is the highest grading achievable and confirms that Arawak Walton benefits from robust governance and are financially viable respectively.

Ms Cym D’Souza, Arawak Walton’s Chief Executive, said “At a time where the social housing sector faces many challenges, this is a fantastic result. Sound governance and financial stability are essential in allowing us to do what we do in the community.”

As a Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) specialist housing association, we are delighted to be able to evidence that an association born out of the community has grown and flourished and has now achieved the highest regulatory grading possible.

Arawak Walton currently has 1052 properties in Manchester, Trafford and Stockport.

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