Meeting the housing needs of BAME households in England: the role of the planning system

Our research finds that the planning process in England is reinforcing racial inequality, despite having clear potential to support the needs of ethnic minority residents.

Planners and housing professionals lack the confidence, skills and resources required to actively address racial inequality in housing, perpetuating socially conservative outcomes and limiting opportunities for achieving racial equality.

Amy Bristow, I-SPHERE and Oak Foundation research intern led the research. She said 

 “While the last few years has seen a positive shift towards policies that support the needs of ethnic minorities across multiple areas, accelerated by movements like Black Lives Matter, the planning system in England has remained stoically traditional.

“This has resulted in a system that lacks any meaningful approach to tackling ingrained inequalities, and one which has remained largely unchanged for 40 years. Our research highlights that planners continue to hold a belief that equality of treatment will result in an equality of outcome; as researchers, we know this is an outdated approach that’s not effective in achieving socially just results. There’s currently no requirement for local authorities to include ethnic or faith groups in an assessment of housing needs. While some areas do consider the housing needs of these groups in their Strategic Housing Market Assessment, this doesn’t translate into specific policies aimed at improving housing outcomes for diverse groups or communities.

“Tackling racial inequalities in housing and meeting the housing needs of ethnic minorities are not currently core aims of the planning system and are not explicitly included anywhere within the National Planning Policy Framework or Planning for the Future, the Government White Paper on planning. While our study found that planning has the potential to influence the design and quality of new housing developments to meet the cultural needs of different groups, this isn’t happening often enough in practice and that has got to urgently change.”

Equalities considerations need to be embedded throughout any proposed central government planning reforms to compel local authorities to take account of issues of racial equality in all planning decision-making and to prevent these considerations from being tick-box exercises.

Additional recommendations include:

· resourcing local planning authorities to keep up-to-date records of housing needs in their area, preventing a reliance on outdated records between censuses

· attaching a clearer statutory duty to Equality Impact Assessments that obligate local authorities to act on any findings that reveal adverse impacts on groups with protected characteristics

· Equalities and Human Rights Commission should issue clear guidance to local authorities specifically detailing the requirements of the Public Sector Equality Duty with regards to planning policy and practices.

Read the Full Report and Executive Summary.