New I-SPHERE report finds further evidence of racial inequalities in housing and homelessness

As featured in Inside Housing – Inside Housing – News  our new Deep Dive report Taking a race and ethnicity lens to conceptualisations of homelessness in England, is the third published output of our Oak Foundation funded Homelessness and Black and Minoritised Ethnic Communities in the UK Knowledge and Capacity Building Programme.

The report explores differences in interpretations, experiences and harms associated with homelessness, and finds that while many of the core issues identified affect people of all ethnicities, minoritised communities facing homelessness endure additional challenges.

Based on focus group discussions with practitioners in five local authority areas with ethnically diverse populations, the key findings include:

  • Community transmission of knowledge about legal rights and processes varies substantially across ethnic groups, meaning that some groups are much better placed than others to gain access to statutory homelessness assistance.
  • People from minoritised communities sometimes lack confidence about exercising their housing or homelessness rights, even where they are aware of them. Fear of ‘rocking the boat ’is particularly pronounced amongst groups such as refugees and asylum seekers, but was also noted amongst British-born minoritised people.
  • Racist abuse in some areas means that safe rehousing options are more limited for people from minoritised communities facing homelessness than for their White counterparts.
  • Examples of direct racism within homelessness services that can impact on the service that minoritised communities receive include harmful stereotypes about some ethnic groups misrepresenting their circumstances to gain advantage in housing or benefit systems, and problematic assumptions that overcrowding is more acceptable, or less harmful, to someminoritised groups than to the White majority population.
  • Local authority policy and practice on the ‘suitability’ of rehousing offers seldom recognises additional locational requirements that are vitally important to some minoritised communities, for example, to be able to access places of worship, specialist charities, and language classes.
  • The definition of a ‘household’ for the purposes of homelessness assessments is rooted in an assumption that the small, nuclear family is the ‘norm’ to the detriment of minoritised communities where there are more diverse household arrangements.
  • The emphasis given to(threatened) eviction as trigger for statutory homelessness acceptances can structurally disadvantage ethnic groups where families are unlikely to ask household members to leave even when faced with overcrowding, conflict or other pressures.
  • The complexity of the social housing allocation system, and particularly choice-based lettings systems, could be said to amount to institutional racism given the extent to which it advantages those with good English language skills, familiarity with British bureaucratic processes, and specialist knowledge networks.