Black History Month: Housing inequality still plagues BME communities

Homelessness, fuel poverty and overcrowding still hit BME people hardest


To be black in Britain today is still to know greater disadvantage than your white neighbours.

Forty years on from the Race Relations Act 1976, black and minority ethnic (BME) groups remain more likely to occupy the worst housing, to be overcrowded, to suffer fuel poverty, to live in the most deprived neighbourhoods, to have fewer assets, and to earn lower incomes than white people.

Ethnic disparities in housing reflect wider inequalities, especially those associated with earnings gaps, unequal job opportunities and variable life chances. Yet BME people are at least three times more likely to endure housing deprivation, even taking these wider issues into account.

New research released during Black History Month shows that BME people:

  • Are less likely to be home owners (at 46 per cent compared with 67 per cent for white people) and less likely to be outright home owners (at 15 per cent compared to 33 per cent of whites). This has knock-on effects to wealth inequalities.
  • Are far more likely to live in older, fuel poor and overcrowded housing, and in flats and terraced homes, rather than detached or semi-detached homes.
  • Are over-concentrated in the most deprived neighbourhoods and worst living environments – BME people are three times more likely than white people to live in the worst 10 per cent of 33,000 neighbourhoods across England.
  • Account for more than one in three homeless acceptances by local authorities in England, despite representing just one in seven of the overall population. Homelessness has grown for BME groups from 17 per cent to 37 per cent over the last decade.
  • Receive fewer lettings from the social housing sector (including both local authorities and housing associations) than their presence in the population and their much higher level of need would suggest.
  • Are almost twice as likely to live in poverty then white people (36 per cent to 19 per cent). The poverty rate for people of African and Caribbean origins has risen from 36 per cent to 40 per cent since 2002.
  • Earn average wages ranging from about 90 per cent to 50 per cent of those of whites depending on BME group.
  • Are likely to have less wealth than white people: this ranges from households of Indian origin who have average wealth equivalent to 92 per cent that of white households, to Bangladeshi households who have just 15 per cent.

Forty years of struggle by BME groups to achieve equality, supported by a range of legislation and statutory codes of practice in housing and other policy areas, has seen some improvements.

No longer are BME people confronted by the ‘no Irish, no Blacks, no Dogs’ signs in the Rachman end of the private rented market. However, their disadvantage in tenure, wealth and earnings, coupled to more extensive housing deprivation, has damaging effects on their quality of life and life chances.

A lack of political commitment today, especially in the wake of Brexit and given the toxicity of immigration discourse, signals many more years of struggle by BME communities to acquire parity in public life.

Kevin Gulliver is Director of Birmingham-based research charity the Human City Institute, writing in a personal capacity. Follow him on Twitter @kevingulliver

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3 Responses to “Black History Month: Housing inequality still plagues BME communities”

  1. Mick

    The way the Left paint the nation, you’d think we weren’t actually some of the most tolerant people in the world. Indeed, when it suits them, lefties burst into tears at how our people welcomed black GIs in the war. And that was when we were ‘hideously white’, ‘a sea of white faces’, according to prominent lefties! Not much ‘white people playing divide and rule’ there, Ms. Abbott!

    Anyway, our statute books are crammed with race relations laws to the extent that any incident can be logged as a race hate crime if any third party claims it is. Now that’s pretty heavy and good example of how only a tolerant population lets this lie. And also given how even exhaust emissions from aircraft are also ‘racist’ for hitting black people hardest, we can say it’s LESS politics required and not more!

    Loony Left councils have dominated London for donkey’s years. If they can’t fix things after all this time of positive discrimination, we shouldn’t listen to them now!

  2. Imran Khan

    Once again this article perpetuates the myth that there is such a thing as a BME or BAME community. There is neither. The myth, now pretty much a lie, is propagated by writers like this gentleman and Simon Woolley of the ludicrously named Operation Black Vote and virtually nobody else except the Guardian. Where else?

    I am a member of a broadly ethnic minority group called, broadly, people of Pakistani origin. Or we could be although we don’t call ourselves anything remotely like that. We are just we. It is patronising and racist to lump all all people who are not white as being a part of a ” community” with the same aims and abilities and the belief that they are a part of that non existent entity.

    There is no white community no matter how much racists on the left and their non white supporters would like there to be and for espousing views like these I am now barred from the OBV comments page which just goes to show how much Mr Woolley values discussion and the airing of view he doesn’t agree with.

    A Kashmiri Pakistani Muslim is a totally different entity from people like my family who grew up bilingual in Lahore and Delhi before the partition of India. Similarly we have nothing in common with the female genital mutilators of the Horn of Africa except religion and we interpret that very differently.

    Some ethnic minorities are doing well financially and in many other ways and some are not. I have personally found hostility from African Caribbeans because they perceive me to be, as some have said, acting white and I know that the same accusation has been leveled at some Afrcian Caribbeans who don’t conform to the stereotype that is expected of them.

    Similarly some of the lowest achievers educationally and economically are working class white people yet they are accused of benefiting from slavery and colonialism. This is a ridiculous article and like too many others here written for the sake of it.

  3. Tezza

    Imran Khan you are spot on with your post. I also find it extremely patronising when people are lumped together in groups. Grouping people together into ‘white’ or ‘BME’ just helps to maintain or reinforce any existing divides. But thats the issue. People like Simon Wooley need to play on and perpetuate a sense of us versus them to justify their salaries.

    Can the left please stop obsessing with skin color, and let us interact as normal humans. Articles like this, positive discrimination, OBV etc just work to maintain boundaries.

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