Reflections on 30+ yrs of BME Social Housing

The BME Housing Sector started out as a campaigning movement of community leaders seeking to address the abject poverty and social exclusion suffered by the people they represented. It’s a story of how a collective conscience, sought to organise and transition groups of people from BME backgrounds into civic service to build the foundations of organisations that are still flourishing today. Against all the odds these groups successfully negotiated the organisational development process and made good of substantial public investment to create sustainable community facing social business that have had a massive ripple effect on social housing and impact on the society we live in today.

Here’s the short video film we produced for BME National capturing reflections on the BME social housing sector. First shown at BME Nationals House of Lords reception June 20th 2018 celebrating 30+yrs of BME Social Housing, hosted by Lord Patel of Bradford with Speaker James Brokenshire Secretary for State -Housing, Communities and Local Government #BMEhousing

The emergence of BME Social Housing Sector as we know it today is a direct as a result of The Housing Corporation’s initial 5 year BME Housing strategy in 1986 to establish BME led registered social landlords. It is this strategy that brought into the most dynamic, and well funded structural positive action initiatives in Western Europe. The BME housing strategy saw the development of over 60 BME led housing organisations receive capital public investment for development of new homes to the tune of £661 million in a ten year period ending in 1996.

The background to the strategy was a watershed moment in modern British history. The 1981 riot’s and subsequent riots the followed in the next few years, centring around, Brixton in London, Chapeltown in Leeds, Handsworth in Birmingham and other cities in the UK would effect how race relations was to be viewed in UK society forever more.

Lord Scarmen’s report into reasons behind the riots, called for a policy of “direct coordinated attack on racial disadvantage”… and that to see that… “people are encouraged to secure a stake in, feel a pride in, and have a sense of responsibility for their own area.”

The BME housing strategy was unprecedented and sought to build on examples of less than a handful of registered Black led organisations that had already made the case for a more specialised provision, who were successful demonstrating they could provide housing, employment opportunities breaking new ground, for those who had been socially excluded.

Organisations like Harambee, Ujima and Presentation had been operating from the late 70’s addressing equalities issues in housing provision where local authorities and other housing organisations had been failing to recognise and meet the difference between how white, black and asian communities were systematically being treated.

At an annual the National Housing Federation conference in 1983 Gurbux Singh, chief executive at the Commission for Racial Equality (who had investigated a number of local authority housing departments, found serious discrimination and discharging their legal remit) challenged, the senior leadership at The Housing Corporation and in the Housing Association movement about what they were doing to improve the situation.

Louis Julienne founder/director of the Federation of Black Housing Organisations says that David Edmonds The Housing Corporation Chief Exec attended an early FBHO conference in 1984 where delegates demanded 10% of then annual capital development funding for the sector. On leaving the conference shocked he said he was unaware of how bad things were for BME communities. He then went to partner the FBHO to develop the BME housing strategy in 1986 that within 10 years saw over 50 BME led housing organisations being responsible for over developing and managing over 17000 homes.

The Human City Institute/BME National research, Deep Roots, Diverse Communities, Dedicated Service in 2015 estimated that the BME Social Housing Sector has now been responsible for the development and management 65000 homes and £1.8bn worth of assets.

The following pages highlight some of those associated with the BME housing journey acknowledging the tremendous amount of work that has taken place over the past three decades to establish the BME Housing Sector.

Khalid Mair – Chair, Imani Housing Coop Ltd.