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It has been a busy couple of weeks at IH towers. Over the past month, members of the team have been co-ordinating coverage as part of our new Racism and Housing series, which launched at the beginning of this week.
The series, which comes a year after global protests were sparked by the murder of George Floyd while in police custody in the US, will include content aimed at investigating instances of racism in housing and will look to challenge the sector in improving its approach.
Last year, in response to the protests, Inside Housing set up its race and housing editorial panel. The panel is made up of leading sector figures who will be regularly consulted by members of the editorial team, with the aim of improving our coverage on diversity, providing ideas for stories and research, and holding the magazine accountable for delivering the Inclusive Futures agenda.
Much of the content kicking off our series this week has been inspired by meetings with the panel.
This includes a piece looking at how race impacts the chances of people living in damp homes or experiencing fuel poverty.
The piece, which analyses the latest housing data, reveals that mixed white and Black Caribbean people are 13% more likely to live in properties with damp problems than their white counterparts. Bangladeshi (10%), Black African (9%) and Pakistani (8%) residents are also more likely to experience damp problems than white households.
Meanwhile, fuel poverty trends over the past two decades show that the rate at which people from ethnic minority backgrounds experience fuel poverty in England has risen by 22%, while it has reduced by 19% for those from white backgrounds.
These findings were backed up a day later by a report published by housing charity Shelter, which revealed that Black Britons are 70% more likely to be affected by the country’s housing crisis than white people, while Asian people are 50% more likely to be impacted.
But it is not only in those being housed where inequality exists, there are also issues for people working in the housing sector.
As part of our Racism and Housing coverage, Jitinder Takhar, chief executive of Homes for Lambeth and member of the Inside Housing race and housing editorial panel, shared a powerful insight into her career and revealed the injustice and challenges she has come up against because of the colour of her skin.
A particularly powerful passage outlines how “internalised racism” impacts people of colour in the workforce. She describes being told that “the lack of Black people at senior level is because there aren’t enough good candidates”, or another time where a recruiter said that it “may be better to apply for a chief executive role in the Midlands rather than in London”.
And we can see the prevailing legacy of these types of attitudes in the lack of representation of ethnic minority people in senior positions at the sector’s largest housing associations.
Latest statistics provided by the G15 looking at representation across the workforce of its members show that only one in five board members of the capital’s 12 largest landlords are from an ethnic minority background. Equally as stark is the fact that only 15.5% of staff at executive level are from an ethnic minority background and 24% at managerial level.
The figures show there has been a slight improvement from the time when the G15 Diversity Pledge was signed in 2019, with some initiatives, such as the ‘Rooney Rule’, having some impact. However, let’s be honest, it is still depressingly low.
As Ms Takhar says: “There is no reason why people of colour should not be employed in our sector at the most senior levels, especially in a place like London where non-whites make up 40% of the population.”
All of these pieces reaffirm what many of us already know: racial inequality and racism exist in housing.
Now the challenge to the sector is what steps can we take to stamp it out? And what can we do to address the shocking statistics listed above?
Elsewhere this week, Inside Housing published a piece in memory of some of those working in the social housing sector whose lives were lost as a result of COVID-19. The memorial includes a number of touching tributes to much-loved colleagues and brings home how devastating the pandemic has been.
The piece will be updated regularly online, so if there are any other staff members that have tragically lost their lives to coronavirus and you want to provide a tribute to them, please get in touch with email@example.com.
Jack Simpson, news editor
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