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.