Scottish Government Equality Outcomes: Ethnicity Evidence Review

This evidence review was prepared to support the production of the Scottish Government's Equality Outcomes, with regard to ethnicity.

7 Housing

7.1 This section looks at housing tenure, overcrowding, and homelessness.


7.2 The Joseph Rowntree Foundation's report on Poverty and Ethnicity in Scotland (2011)67 finds that non-white households are less likely to be in social rented housing, with only two-thirds the rate of white households. Non-white households are much more likely to be in private rented accommodation, with a rate of 25% compared to 5.6% for white households. This will be partly explained by their younger age profile, and in some cases more recent arrival or student occupation, but it does also raise the question of access to social housing. Ethnic minority communities remain under-represented in the social rented sector, which is of concern given high rents in the private rented sector and the high costs of home ownership. The report further suggests that, although home ownership is higher in some ethnic minority groups than in the population at large, this should not be uncritically viewed as an indicator of financial success: it is thought that some individuals may have been forced to buy their own homes because of the lack of viable alternatives in other tenures.

7.3 The EHRC Review of Research68 (2009) gives a finer breakdown of this issue, citing tenure data from the 2001 Census. It reports that 67% of white Scottish people aged 16 years and above were living in homes that they owned either outright or with a loan or mortgage, compared with over 70% of people who were Pakistani, other white British or Indian. The rate fell to less than 50 % for people in the following groups: African, black Scottish or other black, and other ethnic groups69.

7.4 The EHRC points out a lack of recent research into the housing choices of ethnic minorities in Scotland. Netto et al's (2001) review of research on race, while now quite old, highlights issues that affect how ethnic minority people engage with housing decisions and barriers. They found that ethnic minority groups had different requirements of housing, with the Pakistani community in particular needing larger accommodation. Being close to local amenities, and being based in communities with lower risk of racial harassment, were also recognised as important factors in the housing decisions made. The central explanation offered by the authors for higher rates of owner occupation, is the inability of the social rented sector adequately to meet the specific housing needs of ethnic minority households.

7.5 Communities Scotland commissioned several research studies to explore the housing position of ethnic minority people in a local context. Two localised studies, focusing on the Forth Valley70 (2007) and on North and South Lanarkshire71 (2006), highlight similar trends to those noted above: for instance, that higher levels of owner occupation among Indian, Pakistani and Chinese communities were driven by the inability of social rented housing adequately to meet their housing needs. A study on housing needs, preferences and choices of ethnic minority people in Aberdeenshire and Moray72 (in 2003) suggested that issues such as a shortage of affordable housing, lack of larger accommodation, and long waiting times for accommodation in the social rented sector, were central to the experiences of both the ethnic minority and the majority population in these areas.


7.6 According to the Rowntree report on Poverty and Ethnicity in Scotland, overcrowding is a common problem for ethnic minority households, particularly Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, and among refugees. Overcrowding, as defined by the Bedroom Standard, affected 9.2% of non-white households in Scotland in 2001-5, a rate that is 3.8 times higher than that among white households. This is thought to be partly related to demographics, as there are more large households. It may also indicate hidden homelessness, and reflect both material and social deprivation.

7.7 In contrast, the EHRC Triennial Review73 estimates a figure of 11% for ethnic overcrowding in Scotland, not dissimilar to its figure of 10% across Britain as a whole. (The EHRC's own caveat should be noted, that in Scotland, sample sizes permit only a limited analysis of overcrowding in terms of ethnicity.)

7.8 In terms of the quality of accommodation, the Triennial Review found that the difference between all white and all ethnic minority groups was not great: using the Scottish House Condition Survey measure, just under 4% of all white households occupied poor condition dwellings, compared to 5% for all ethnic minority households.


7.9 The Rowntree report, Poverty and Ethnicity in Scotland, describes homelessness as an extreme form of housing need. It is significantly higher among ethnic minorities than in the population as a whole, though over-representation varies considerably between individual ethnic groups. The report suggests that homelessness services provided for the general population are often inaccessible and inappropriate for individuals from these communities, suggesting reliance on services provided by ethnic minority organisations or informal support.

7.10 The EHRC Review of Research presents figures to illustrate the Rowntree claim of over-representation of ethnic minorities among the homeless. Although the EHRC warns that the annual reports on homelessness offer no systematic analysis of the ethnicity of people who apply for housing as homeless, it does cite a study by Netto et al (2004)74 using data collected by local authorities in Scotland on the ethnicity of people who reported as homeless. Of the 36,898 homeless applications fully recorded by local authorities in 2002/03, 2.4 % were from people who were Indian, Pakistani/Bangladeshi, Chinese, black or other. Given that 2001 Census figures have the Indian, Pakistani/Bangladeshi, Chinese, black and other population standing at 1.4% of resident households in Scotland, ethnic minority households appeared to be over-represented among homeless applicants during this time-period.

7.11 Netto et al (2004) further found that the relative incidence of homelessness varied substantially between different ethnic minority groups. Chinese households, for example, were far less likely than the general population to apply as homeless. Those classed as black and other were more than three times as likely to be homeless as the average for all ethnic groups. The authors found, from qualitative data analysis, that a range of factors affected the risks of homelessness for different ethnic minority communities:

  • Some groups lacked awareness of the services and advice available.
  • The authors reported a lack of robust and locally available information on the housing experiences and standards faced by different ethnic groups, which could make it difficult for service providers to offer a full and comprehensive range of services to this diverse client group.
  • Ethnic minorities wished to live near to religious or cultural centres, and in areas where they had less fear of harassment; this issue was not well understood by mainstream service providers at the time of the report.
  • There was limited provision for older ethnic minority people, and for older (and younger) ethnic minority women wishing to escape domestic violence.

7.12 The report of the Scottish Refugee Policy Forum policy conference in 201275 identifies initial asylum support accommodation as a barrier to integration, but also observes that some "initiatives by local community groups and integration networks have contributed to positive relations between refugees/asylum seekers and their receiving communities".


7.13 The EHRC report on Gypsy Traveller Accommodation in Scotland76 (2010) reports the findings of a survey of all 32 local authorities in Scotland, exploring the steps that they had taken since 2006 in meeting the accommodation needs of Gypsies/Travellers:

  • Seventeen out of the 26 local authorities responding to the survey said that they had completed an assessment of the accommodation needs of Gypsies/Travellers.
  • Only five of those 17 said that it gave them a numerical assessment of present and future pitch needs.
  • A total of eight local authorities were able to provide an estimate of the number of additional residential pitches required in their area over the next five years: this ranged from none to 50 pitches.
  • Seven local authorities were able to provide an estimate for transit or short stay need for the next five years: this ranged from none to six pitches.
  • Just one local authority making an estimate for additional pitches - either transit or residential - thought that these requirements would be met.

7.14 This report also observes that - in comparison to England, where widespread Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessments have identified and quantified requirements - Scotland is potentially less advanced in preparing for additional site provision both nationally and locally. The majority of local authorities did not have approved formal planning policies on Gypsy/Traveller site provision, either because they did not consider this to be a priority, or because they felt that there was no need for specific policy.

7.15 The EHRC Gypsy Traveller Accommodation survey data show that there has been a net decrease in the number of pitches available to Gypsies/Travellers since 2006 among authorities responding to the survey. The majority of local authorities responding to the survey reported that some pitches were currently vacant on their sites, and some saw vacancies as evidence of a lack of demand from Gypsies/Travellers for site places - even though they had limited quantitative data on the number of Gypsies/Travellers and their consequent accommodation needs. Local authorities noted a number of barriers to moving forward with the provision of Gypsy/Traveller accommodation, including:

  • finding suitable land,
  • resistance from local communities,
  • lack of demand from Gypsies/Travellers for accommodation,
  • finance,
  • opposition from Gypsy/Traveller community members to development of existing sites,
  • complexity of the issue.

7.16 The overarching conclusion from this EHRC study is that more work needs to be done at both a local and national level in order to better understand the current use of sites and to determine what need (if any) there is for further site/pitch provision.

7.17 Whereas the EHRC Gypsy Traveller Accommodation in Scotland report sought information from authorities, the next report explores the experiences of the Gypsies/Travellers themselves. In Inequalities Experienced by Gypsy and Traveller Communities77 in Britain (2009), the EHRC considers accommodation to be the key to understanding the barriers to service access that are experienced by Gypsies/Travellers, as access to appropriate accommodation (whether on sites or in housing) is fundamental to enabling people to avail themselves of health, education and other public services. The report observes that the estimated one in four Gypsies/Travellers living in caravans, who did not have a legal place on which to park their home, were homeless under the Housing Act (1996)78 79; the presence of Gypsies/Travellers at unauthorised locations can lead to tension with the settled community80. In their review of equality, site provision and good practice (in England and Wales), the Commission for Racial Equality (2006)81 found that 67% of local authorities reported they had had to deal with tensions between Gypsies/Travellers and other members of the public, arising from unauthorised encampments, planning applications and enforcement, and general public hostility. Although living on sites can be associated with problems, there is also considerable evidence of poor outcomes for Gypsies/Travellers in "bricks and mortar" housing, including family breakdown (due to severance of links with the extended family that would normally be resident on the same site82), domestic violence83, and discrimination by settled neighbours.


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