Wales moves closer to first BME association
Moves to create Wales' first black and minority ethnic housing association will be a key priority of a new organisation spearheading BME issues in the country. The BME-led umbrella body is to come into existence on 2 June, following a commitment by the National Assembly for Wales to address the under-representation of BME communities in social housing. It will review and monitor BME housing action plans submitted by all councils in Wales. The organisation, which is yet to be named, will be based within Taff Housing Association in Cardiff for a year before it splits away. Madhulata Patel, who will formally become director of the organisation next month, told Inside Housing a priority would be to look at the feasibility of setting up a separate BME-led housing association. ‘I'm certain that it is one of the aspirations of BME communities and organisations in Wales but. obviously, if we develop an organisation that has its own stock, we want it to be financially viable and a success in all senses of the word,' said Ms Patel. ‘It's one thing for those plans to be on paper, but what we very much want to see is for those plans to become a reality and translate into making a positive difference to the lives of BME communities living in Wales.' On the creation of the organisation she is to lead, she said: ‘I think the danger is that the new BME organisation is created and everyone thinks: “There we are, there's an organisation that can deal with the problems”, whereas the problems, if there are problems, belong to the organisations themselves. ‘It is important that it is seen as a partnership organisation rather than an island doing its own thing.' A shadow board of management was established earlier this year and funding of £400,000 over two years was secured from the assembly. Assembly research found that a disproportionately high number of people from BME communities live in some of the most economically deprived areas of Wales and have the highest dependency on benefit, lowest incomes and live in some of the poorest quality housing. A spokesperson for Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru welcomed the organisation as a major step forward in addressing the particular housing problems experienced by BME households. Meanwhile, the assembly's Welsh BME housing grant programme has been agreed for 2004/05. It includes £40,000 over two years for a refugee resettlement service in Swansea; £2,825 in 2004/05 to produce support information for refugees wishing to settle in Wrexham; and £20,475 over two years for a research project to investigate the factors affecting the employment of BME contractors and consultants in social housing.