Monday, 22 May 2017

Fears for the future of the black and minority ethnic housing sector

End of an era as BME umbrella group closes

Question marks loom over the future of the black and minority ethnic housing association sector, following the demise of its umbrella organisation after 25 years of activity.

The Federation of Black Housing Organisations is in the process of formally winding up, after funding streams started to dry up.

Leslie Laniyan, managing director of Shian Housing Association and the final chair of the federation, said board members had agreed the move last month. ‘We agreed to stop trading because we couldn’t see ourselves getting out of the financial situation that we were in,’ he said.

Mr Laniyan described as a ‘death knell’ the cancellation of this year’s FBHO conference due to lack of support. The annual event had been a significant source of income. Other blows were the demise of Ujima Housing Association, a substantial funder of previous events, and indications from the Housing Corporation that it would no longer provide financial support for the conference.

Mr Laniyan put much of the FBHO’s struggle over recent years down to a lack of understanding of the culture of BME associations among the people who had stepped in to run them.

Housing consultant and Ujima co-founder Tony Soares described the demise of the federation as the end of an era for the BME housing sector.

Community associations were struggling to survive under a regulatory regime in which mergers with larger organisations were prescribed as a catch-all solution to complex issues, he said. ‘I think the Homes and Communities Agency has to come up with a new strategy in respect of BME associations and BME communities.

‘Particular communities are suffering disproportionately in housing, and there’s a need for some organisations that will seek to address this.’

Meanwhile, the National Housing Federation has asked its 80-strong BME membership to explore the possibility of setting up a new representative body. A steering group is expected to report back in February.

Mr Laniyan said: ‘I found that perverse in a way, because if it’s led by the NHF, it can’t be an independent voice, but influenced largely by the mainstream.’

NHF policy officer Anna Dent said the FBHO’s troubles had made it more important to work with BME member organisations to see how they could ‘keep themselves on the agenda’.

From start to finish

The Federation of Black Housing Organisations

The FBHO is co-founded by Louis Julienne, the manager of a Reading hostel for young black rough sleepers. It began as a self-help group for similar hostels. It was later joined by Asian refuges and developed into an umbrella group for housing associations as the black and minority ethnic housing sector evolved.

Louis Julienne becomes the FHBO’s first employee.

The FBHO initiates the first black housing strategy with sympathetic backing from Housing Corporation chief executive David Edmonds.

Positive action training in housing schemes are set up to address the under-representation of BME communities in social housing management.

The FHBO closes due to lack of funding.


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