BMENational member Bangla Housing Association last week celebrated 20 years of helping its local community.
Bangla was formed in 1991 to help tackle overcrowding and poor housing conditions among London’s Bengali community. Today the association provides good quality affordable homes for those in need and now manages 171 properties in Hackney, north London, including housing for other BME and white British tenants.
“People forget that 25 years ago there was a lot of discrimination against black and minority ethnic people in housing. Organisations like Bangla showed the way,” said Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington. “They’ve provided good quality housing for ethnic minorities and were great examples of organisations where BME people were in leadership.
“I think large organisations have learnt from them about how to deal effectively with diverse communities.”
Social housing chiefs, together with Diane Abbott and staff from Bangla Housing Association, were treated to a children’s performance on respect and building bridges between neighbours at the event in Navarino Mansions Tenants Hall in Hackney, north London.
Lara Oyedele, chair of BMENational, the umbrella body for BME housing associations, said that associations like Bangla work hard towards integrating local communities.
Bangla arranges advice and translation for Bangladeshi and other Asian communities and helps elderly tenants to access GPs and health clinics. The association is also involved in many community engagement, educational, training and health awareness initiatives.
“It’s not just about housing, it’s about the other things that add to your life, to enable you to be a productive member of society,” she said. “For example, Bangla organised tenants’ English-language classes so that those that came here unable to speak English now participate fully in society.
“That’s the key thing about community cohesion; being able to communicate with and understand the people around you, without losing your cultural identity and roots.”
Bangla also works in partnership with 13 registered housing providers and is a member of the North River Alliance, a collective that works on development and regeneration programmes in Barnet, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.
“Often, the word ‘partnership’ is abused in all walks of life,” said guest speaker Tom Dacey, CEO of Southern Housing Group. “We find Bangla one of the easiest partners to work with. It’s a very open and very collaborative organisation. I hope that our relationship continues to thrive in the future.”