One in three black people who have become homeless have also experienced racial discrimination from a landlord, six times more than the general population of those who have struggled for shelter, a study reveals.
Academics at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh found that black-headed households reporting discrimination also face a risk of homelessness nearly 50% greater than that of a white-headed household, even controlling for their socioeconomic characteristics . Housing campaigners said the findings “should put our country to shame” and showed that racial inequality is “entrenched in our housing system.”
The study comes days after the parents of two-year-old Awaab Ishak blamed the racism of a social landlord for his death from black mold in a rented flat in Rochdale that went untreated despite complaints. Housing minister Michael Gove said the family was “victims of prejudice” and warned of “a significant problem with people from black and ethnic minorities not being treated with the respect they should be”.
Over the weekend, when Awaab’s landlord director was sacked, Gove ordered all councils across England to carry out an urgent assessment of damp and mould. He also told social housing companies to “drastically raise the bar on the quality of social housing and empower tenants to really make their voices heard.” Raising concerns about mold was “not treated with sufficient seriousness,” he wrote, and instructed local authorities to swiftly repair any homes that fall short of decent housing standards and stop blaming the problem on “lifestyle issues”.
After a senior coroner found that persistent black mold caused Awaab’s death, his parents, who are from Sudan, told Rochdale Boroughwide Housing to stop discriminating, stop being racist. [and] stop unfairly treating people who come from abroad and who are refugees or asylum seekers”.
The Rochdale case has echoes of the Grenfell Tower fire: Families of the victims of the 2017 fire, 85% of whom belonged to an ethnic minority, have urged the public inquiry to establish that there is institutional landlord racism.
The Heriot-Watt study of racial bias in housing comes 60 years after apartment hunters reported seeing signs in front of rental properties that read “no coloreds” or “no blacks.”
Prof Glen Bramley, a co-author of the report, which used data from the UK government’s 2016-2018 housing surveys, said: “What is particularly troubling about the findings is the clear link between homelessness and racial discrimination.”
More than one in ten Asian people who had been homeless had also reported being discriminated against by a landlord, twice as many as the general population.
The report said the high number of black people who have experienced homelessness and racist treatment at the hands of private and social landlords “may indicate that experiences of discrimination increase the risk of homelessness and/or that black and other minority ethnic communities are becoming homeless. exposed to higher risks of discriminatory behaviour”.
Bramley is now planning more statistical analysis and will collect quality evidence “to address these major disparities in the most extreme forms of housing need”.
Dr. Halima Begum, the CEO of the Runnymede Trust, a racial equality think tank, said the findings were “extremely difficult to read”.
Matt Downie, the CEO of Crisis, the homelessness charity, said: “Every day we see across our services that black, Asian and minority ethnic groups are more likely to be homeless. But this research puts beyond doubt the reality and magnitude of the problem. It is appalling that people are exposed to harassment and abuse in their search for a safe place to live.”