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To reduce racial inequality, we need a housing market that works for all

To reduce racial inequality, we need a housing market that works for all

If the Government would like to make an immediate impact on the inequality of housing relating to ethnicity, it would immediately invest in London’s social housing, says NFB | Credit: PA Images

Rico Wojtulewicz, Head of Housing and Planning Policy | National Federation of Builders

4 min read Member content

Responses to the housing crisis have been woeful at best. From Labour’s obsession with flats, particularly in the capital, to the Conservatives’ fixation with home ownership, which has decreased. Nobody is getting it right.

The House Builders Association (HBA), the housebuilding division of the National Federation of Builders (NFB), has always maintained that without detailed and regional analysis of the key challenges, we cannot solve the housing crisis.

This comes out most strongly when we talk about affordable housing, which is a too often a London based narrative and ignores house prices in other regions. Despite our insistence that we must understand how policies are failing populations outside London, today we want to focus on why the capital is a barrier to equality.

The country has been gripped by discussions on inequality and those issues extend to people’s homes, yet few have put forward any workable solutions to address those disparities and make sure that the housing market works for all. Therefore as housing experts, the HBA would like to start that process with an uncontroversial recommendation.

If the Government would like to make an immediate impact on the inequality of housing relating to ethnicity, it would immediately invest in London’s social housing.

The 2011 Census shows that when looking at ethnic groups by area, 58.4% of the Black community live in the capital. The next largest regional Black population is 9.8%, in the West Midlands.

This fact is not lost on the Black and Black British home ownership statistics (as so defined by the Office for National Statistics), which shows that between 2001 and 2011, Black and Black British home ownership dropped by 9% and between 2011 and 2016, 1%. In fact, every other ethnicity saw home ownership drop between 2001 and 2011, except Asian and Asian British, and Mixed, which increased between 2011 and 2016.

Affordability is the key reason for the drop in home ownership. The fact that Asian and Asian British ethnicities managed to reverse the decreasing trend in home ownership is most likely because there is a greater population distribution across the UK.

With Asian and Asian British populations being more than double the Black and Black British population in places like Yorkshire and The Humber, the North West and North East, where according to propertydata.co.uk, average house prices are £162,344, £163,602 and £125,053 respectively, non-Black communities have been more able to get onto the housing ladder.

In London, the average house price is £476,972

In the same 2001-2016 period, Black and Black British access to social housing has risen from 216,000 to 344,000, with private renting up from 63,000 to 151,000. In the LFS Housing Dataset, 48% reported to be in social housing.

Every ethnicity has seen an increase in all types of rented housing, apart from in social housing, where White ethnicities experienced a decrease.

It is therefore clear that the majority of Black and Black British people are confined to a dysfunctional housing market.

Unfortunately, it will be very difficult for the Government to considerably increase home ownership in the capital. This is due to the high land prices and accusation of tax giveaways for a region which already sees a disproportionate amount of funding compared to the rest of the UK.

However, it could invest directly in the capitals social housing, with Right to Buy caveats, such as social rent in perpetuity if the home is ever rented.

Such a move would also help all other non-white ethnicities, of which more than 30% live in the capital and in the case of Other, 49.9%.

Recent announcements on planning reform, zoning and a greater ability for the Government to intervene in delivery though its housing body, Homes England, should provide ample mechanisms to invest and change our dysfunctional housing market.

The NFB has always enjoyed a close working relationship with the Government and were part of a coalition of organisations that lobbied for the borrowing cap on council homes to be lifted. As discussions turn to restarting, resetting and reinventing the construction industry, the NFB will be using its seat at the table to ensure social housing is part of that debate and will ensure this is fed into the Governments new task force on reviewing racial equality.

We have made one uncontroversial recommendation backed up by the reality of the situation but there are many more which need exploring, such as employment and home ownership.

The last decade has seen racial inequality shrink to the lowest level in our history but there is still much more to do if the Government wants to improve on that and cement its legacy at fighting injustice. It must ensure that part of its levelling up agenda understands what it has done well, what it can do better and where opportunities to be more responsive are. It should start with housing and it should do it today.

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