This report provides a review of the literature on the housing needs and experiences of minority ethnic groups in Scotland, and presents results of secondary data analysis. The report assesses the available evidence before the Covid-19 pandemic, and provides a baseline against which the housing related impacts of Covid-19 on minority ethnic households can be considered.
Throughout this report, the term 'minority ethnic' is used to refer to the 11% of the Scottish population whose self-defined ethnicity is not white Scottish/British (Scottish Government 2019a). This includes groups such as 'White Irish', 'White Polish', 'White Gypsy/Traveller' and 'White other'. This definition recognises that minority ethnic groups have distinct identities and cultural differences, and this report is based on a recognition of the differences between and within these communities.
The Scottish Government recognises that inequalities remain in many areas of life for minority ethnic people in Scotland. The Scottish Government's Race Equality Action Plan 2017-2021 (REAP), which was published in December 2017, sets out key actions for the current parliamentary session to drive positive change for minority ethnic groups in Scotland. Set as part of the 15 year Race Equality Framework 2016 to 2030 (REF) and informed by the Race Equality Adviser, the Plan is intended to play a key role in advancing race equality, tackling racism and addressing the barriers that prevent people from minority ethnic communities from realising their potential.
This report accompanies a review of the literature on the accommodation needs of Gypsy/Travellers in Scotland, which was published in October 2020. A review of minority ethnic employment in the housing sector in Scotland is intended to be produced in 2021. These reports form part of the housing research actions outlined in the REAP.
This review aims to enhance our understanding of the housing needs and experiences of minority ethnic groups in Scotland. The research also identifies gaps in the evidence and suggests areas where further research could be useful.
The following questions were developed to guide the research, informed by the actions outlined in the REAP:
1. What are the trends in housing for minority ethnic groups?
2. What are the specific housing experiences of minority ethnic groups?
3. What barriers, if any, do minority ethnic groups face in finding and securing housing in Scotland?
4. To what extent does ethnicity interact with other protected characteristics and how does this affect housing experiences and outcomes?
5. What are the specific housing needs of minority ethnic groups, in terms of tenure, quality and size etc?
6. To what extent are the specific housing needs of minority ethnic groups currently being met?
7. What is being done, and what more can be done, to meet the specific housing needs of minority ethnic groups?
8. What impact has the new private residential tenancy (PRT) had on minority ethnic tenants in the PRS?
The evidence base
The literature on the housing needs of minority ethnic groups was largely made up of qualitative literature, often focusing on the needs of a diverse population in specific geographical locations. Some studies adopted a mixed methods approach, using quantitative methods to establish the population size and to gain insight into the demographics of minority ethnic groups across Scotland. This report focused on academic and grey literature on the housing needs of minority ethnic groups in Scotland published between 2001 and 2020. References have also been made to some UK-wide studies.
Several patterns emerged across the literature with relevance to the research questions. These themes are summarised below.
RQ1: What are the trends in housing for minority ethnic groups?
Multiple trends in housing for minority ethnic groups were present across the literature. Minority ethnic highest income householder (HIH) households were more likely to be living in the private rented sector (PRS) than white Scottish/British HIH households and on the whole, minority ethnic HIH households were less likely to be living in the social rented sector or in owner occupation. People from minority ethnic groups were more likely to be living in relative poverty after housing costs than people from the white Scottish/British group, and some ethnic groups such as 'African', 'White: Polish' and the 'Other ethnic' group, were much more likely to be living in some of the most deprived areas in Scotland. There is also evidence that a sizeable proportion of the Scottish population hold prejudiced attitudes towards people from a minority ethnic background, and that minority ethnic groups face appreciable levels of discrimination and harassment.
RQ2: What are the specific housing experiences of minority ethnic groups?
Secondary analysis of the SHCS found that minority ethnic HIH households have mixed outcomes on key housing condition indicators compared to white Scottish/British HIH households, with some results showing similar outcomes and other results showing slight differences. A higher proportion of minority ethnic HIH households were living in housing with a higher EPC rating than white Scottish/British HIH households, while outcomes for both groups were found to be statisitcally similar in terms of fuel poverty. However, there were indications that occupancy levels in minority ethnic HIH households were much higher than in white Scottish/British HIH households and as a consequence, these households were more likely to be overcrowded.
Poorer house condition was suggested by several studies in the literature as a possible implication of living in the PRS. Secondary analysis of the SHCS indicates that although there is no difference in rates of disrepair between minority ethnic HIH households and white Scottish/British HIH households within any individual tenure, there is a difference for both groups in rates of disrepair between the PRS and owner occupied sectors, with the PRS having significantly higher rates of disrepair. The higher rates of disrepair in the PRS combined with the higher prevalence of PRS tenure for minority ethnic HIH households is likely to contribute to the higher rates of disrepair found amongst minority ethnic HIH households overall.
A few studies reported that a possible implication of living in the PRS may be relatively higher rents for ethnic groups that were over-represented in private renting.
Some minority ethnic households contained larger families, with 3 or more dependent children, or engaged in extended family living. For these families, a lack of affordable larger properties in the PRS often meant living in housing which didn't meet their need for space.
For some ethnic groups, the risk of experiencing homelessness may be higher. Factors that increased the risk of experiencing homelessness were experiences of domestic abuse and recent arrival in the country.
RQ3: What barriers, if any, do minority ethnic groups face in finding and securing housing in Scotland?
Evidence from the literature identified a number of barriers limiting minority ethnic groups in finding and securing housing. In the PRS, experiences of discrimination by landlords or agents and a lack of affordable accommodation restricted access to private renting. The experience, or fear, of racial harassment was reported by some minority ethnic HIH households in the social rented sector.These experiences and fears influenced housing decisions and impacted on the attractiveness of the sector, with some reporting difficulty in finding social housing in areas perceived to be free from racial harassment. Multiple barriers were identified which led to low levels of uptake and use of mainstream housing services by minority ethnic groups.
RQ4: To what extent does ethnicity interact with other protected characteristics and how does this affect housing experiences and outcomes?
Studies show that minority ethnic women and older people face particular challenges in accessing and securing housing. For minority ethnic women, isolation, language difficulties and experiences of racism, may increase their risk of experiencing homelessness or prevent them from escaping domestic abuse. With regards to older people, a lack of language skills, low awareness of housing services and mobility issues often meant they stayed in accommodation which was unsuitable and did not fully meet their needs.
RQ5: What are the specific housing needs of minority ethnic groups, in terms of tenure, quality and size etc?
The minority ethnic population in Scotland is not a homogenous group and each ethnic group has practical and cultural needs, which vary within and between groups. Evidence suggests that, in respect of tenure, the PRS can offer greater flexibility and choice for some minority ethnic groups. For others, private renting has become the only viable option, due to the inability of social housing to fully meet their needs, in terms of size of property, location and safety from racial harassment, and the relative inaccessibility of owner occupation. For all groups, the anticipation and experience of racial harassment, particularly in social housing, was a major factor in housing decisions.
RQ6: To what extent are the specific housing needs of minority ethnic groups currently being met?
There are indications that the specific housing needs of some minority ethnic groups are not being fully met. Secondary analysis of SHCS data shows that on key housing condition indicators, outcomes for minority ethnic HIH households vary when compared to white Scottish/British HIH households. In terms of energy efficiency, outcomes for minority ethnic HIH households are slightly better. However, there is some evidence that a higher proportion of minority ethnic HIH households had some level of disrepair to the dwelling and overcrowding for minority ethnic HIH households was a particular issue. This accords with some older qualitative studies, which found evidence of low quality housing, including unsafe living conditions, poor furnishings and inadequate heating. There are suggestions in the literature of over-representation in homelessness statistics. However, without current population data the extent of this is uncertain.
RQ7: What is being done, and what more can be done, to meet the specific housing needs of minority ethnic groups?
There is very little in the literature that directly addresses this question.
RQ8: What impact has the new private residential tenancy (PRT) had on minority ethnic tenants in the PRS?
There is not enough evidence to assess the impact that the new PRT has had on the housing experiences of minority ethnic tenants. Indeed, many tenants may not yet have moved to the PRT. Evidence from one study suggests that minority ethnic tenants are less confident in dealing with disputes and less likely to challenge their landlord than white tenants.
Key gaps in evidence include:
- the cultural needs and housing aspirations of specific ethnic groups, particularly post-Covid-19
- whether minority ethnic people with other protected characteristics, such as gender, disability etc. have different housing experiences
- the current demographic and geographic profile of the refugee population
- how poor housing outcomes are currently being addressed
- how and to what extent minority ethnic people are experiencing racism in social housing, and how this impacts on their housing decisions
- ways of facilitating greater engagement between mainstream and specialist housing services
- the impact of the PRT on specific minority ethnic groups
- the housing needs and experiences of specific ethnic groups over time