Shocking revelations about housing discrimination revealed

A housing emergency in the UK means that Black, Asian and disabled tenants are more likely to face discrimination while looking for a home and they will often end up living in shoddy, unsafe and unsuitable accommodation, according to one of the country’s leading campaigning organisations.

The charity Shelter surveyed 13,000 people about their housing experiences and if the results are applied to the whole UK population, they suggest that 17.5 million people are living in housing that is substandard or hazardous, unaffordable, or unfit for their needs.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Decades of neglect has left Britain’s housing system on its knees. A safe home is everything, yet millions don’t have one. Lives are being ruined by benefit cuts, blatant discrimination and the total failure to build social homes.”

The survey’s results are published in a 35 page report, ‘Denied the right to a safe home’. It’s headline findings are:

  • Black and Asian people are almost five times more likely to experience discrimination when looking for a safe, secure and affordable home than white people (14 per cent against 3 per cent);
  • More than one in 10 disabled people, and 7 per cent of those earning under £20,000 a year, found it hard to find a safe and secure home;
  • Twelve per cent of black people and 14 per cent of Asian people reported safety hazards in their homes, such as faulty wiring and fire risks, compared to just 6 per cent of white people;
  • Fourteen per cent of black people and 16 per cent of Asian people reported living in a property with significant defects with walls or roof, compared with only 8 per cent of white people; and
  • Overall, 56 per cent of black people are affected by the housing emergency, compared with 49 per cent of Asian people and 33 per cent of white people. 54 per cent of disabled people are affected compared with 30 per cent of non-disabled people and 58 per cent of single parents are also being affected.

New homes and law changes needed

In response, Shelter is calling for 90,000 new social homes to be built every year to stem the crisis of affordability and to cut the estimated 1 million people on council waiting lists.

High housing costs and specifically the failure of housing benefit to keep pace with rising rents means that for 20 per cent of people housing was a source of stress, while 14 per cent admitted they cut back on food or fuel to prioritise paying the rent or mortgage.

Shelter says the pandemic shone a stark light on the state of Britain’s housing, with poverty and poor and overcrowded accommodation recognised as a key factor in many areas where Covid infections and deaths were highest.

Structural racism and discrimination meant black, Asian, and disabled people, gay people, people on low incomes and single parents are overwhelmingly more likely to experience poor and inadequate housing, the charity said.

As well as being more likely to be on low incomes, racial minorities are more likely to be offered poorer homes or “steered” into certain neighbourhoods, Shelter said. So-called “No DSS” discrimination and the ineligibility of some migrant workers for housing support further diminished the housing chances of marginalised groups.

Despite big changes in the housing market in recent decades, Shelter says that housing laws have changed little since the 1980s, trapping many in a series of short-term private lets and creating a “permanent state of stress and instability” for many tenants.

An estimated 1.5 million people are bringing up children in the private rented sector (twice as many as 15 years ago) while hundreds of thousands of older people are likely to be renting privately in years to come, “facing unaffordable rent increases at a time when most owner-occupiers are starting to be mortgage-free”.

By Patrick Mooney, Editor