Addressing race inequality in Scotland: the way forward

A report from the Scottish Government's independent adviser on race equality in Scotland.

D. Housing

35. The housing status of people from BME communities has remained static for some considerable time. Concentrated in poor quality housing in the private sector, as the EHRC's report Is Scotland Fairer? noted, they are four times as likely to live in overcrowded homes.

36. The four interrelated areas of concern in relation to housing are:

  • Access to social housing;
  • Housing quality improvements in the low value owner occupier and private rented sector;
  • Housing advice services; and
  • Employment of minority ethnic people in housing services.

37. The aim of the housing section actions in this report is twofold; to reduce the level of overcrowding by maximising the availability of decent, affordable housing across all tenures for minority ethnic communities; and to increase the number of people from minority ethnic communities working in housing services in 4 years.

Access to Social Housing

38. While evidence from the Scottish Household Survey 2015 mainly points to the fact that people from minority ethnic communities are disproportionately likely to live in the private rented sector, we know little as to why this is the case. To address this, my recommendations are as follows:

Action 42: The Scottish Government Housing and Social Justice Directorate should commission two pieces of research within the next year to explore the gap between what minority ethnic communities need, what they have and why. This research should be conducted with a view to identifying the barriers which prevent housing needs being met.

  • Firstly, there should be a review and assessment of both the Housing Need and Demand Assessments ( HNDAs) which are required to be produced by Local Authorities and their associated Local Housing Strategies. This review should test the rigour of long term housing planning processes to check whether HNDAs and their associated investment plans reflect and implement housing needs of minority ethnic communities; and
  • Qualitative research should be commissioned with a specific focus on those local authority areas with smaller minority ethnic populations. This should be conducted with a view to evidencing the specific housing needs of minority ethnic groups including an intersectional analysis to identify whether the housing needs of disabled and older minority ethnic people are also being met.

Action 43: Where the evidence indicates that there are housing needs and issues for minority ethnic households that are not being met, the Scottish Government should put in place mechanisms for addressing these in partnership with local authorities, reporting regularly on progress.

Action 44: The Scottish Government should consider setting aside a proportion of the affordable Housing Investment Fund to allow for the provision of larger properties required to meet the specific housing needs of minority ethnic communities in those local authority areas which are failing to do this.

39. Evidence from the thematic inquiry on the use of equality and diversity information by social landlords undertaken by the Scottish Housing Regulator shows that at the Scottish aggregate level, social landlords do not know the ethnicity of a third of their tenants. Without good data, social landlords are unable to determine whether they are providing fair access to housing and housing services to minority ethnic communities in line with the standards set out in the Housing Charter or to take action where equality is absent.

Action 45: To ensure that minority ethnic communities are benefitting equally from the social housing system, the Scottish Government should ask the Scottish Housing Regulator to consider the creation of a time-limited action plan for Housing Associations to meet the equality standard in the Housing Charter with respect to race equality. The Regulator should publish the results of this exercise.

Action 46: The Scottish Government should review the extent to which the Joint Housing Delivery Plan for Scotland addresses the specific needs of minority ethnic communities alongside the more general commitments to improve the quality, quantity and accessibility of housing in Scotland.

Housing Quality Improvement in low value Owner Occupier and Private Rented Sectors

40. The Minister for Local Government and Housing is driving forward an extensive programme to improve standards in the private rented sector: Govanhill is a case in point. We have the legislation required to target housing quality improvement in those sectors where minority ethnic communities predominate. What is now needed is better enforcement of that legislation.

Action 47: The Scottish Government should conduct an assessment of the enforcement of private rented sector regulations and report on the findings of that assessment. Responsibility for enforcing this legislation is spread across Scottish Government, Local Government, the Housing and Property Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal, Police Scotland and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. To fix the problem of poor enforcement requires joint working across the various bodies responsible and the assessment should look to identify ways in which joint working ought to be enhanced.

Housing Advice Services

41. Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that people from BME communities have a lower rate of housing benefit take up. Some do not know their rights, or how systems and structures work. This puts them at a distinct disadvantage with respect to access to housing and housing services.

Action 48: To ensure adequate housing advice provision to BME communities, the Scottish Government should make it a conditional requirement of any housing agency or organisation which they fund, to ensure the provision of housing advice to BME communities. Each agency/organisation should be required to report on the scope, volume and take up of advice provided.

Employment of minority ethnic people in Housing

42. Given the positive impact which diversity has on organisational success, an organisation's workforce should, at a minimum, proportionately reflect the community in which it operates. The number of minority ethnic individuals working in all aspects of housing from construction to housing management is very low [5] .

43. To address this disparity, in addition to the action outlined in the employment section of this report, I suggest the following:

Action 49: The employability/equality links with the housing construction sector, in particular the recruitment of minority ethnic individuals, should be pursued as a matter of priority through Scottish Government/Skills Development Scotland engagement with organisations such as Homes for Scotland, Barretts, Wimpy and other significant housing developers. In addition, the Scottish Government should require procurers for public investment contracts to set binding targets to increase their proportion of minority ethnic staff.

Action 50: The Scottish Government should use existing sponsorship and funding arrangements to require Local Authorities and Housing Associations to sponsor housing internships/traineeships facilitated by PATH as a positive action measure to increase the number of minority ethnic individuals in housing management roles.

Action 51: The Scottish Government through its employability teams and working in partnership with the Scottish Housing Regulator, should develop a training programme for Housing Associations on the need for positive action measures to correct staffing imbalances where there is an underrepresentation of a particular group.


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