Guest article

UK housing system is built to cause worse health outcomes and housing insecurity for Black people

Guest article by Black Homeless Labour Campaign

The UK housing system upholds and perpetuates structural racism that causes worse health outcomes and housing insecurity for Black people.

It prioritises private-sector profits over affordable housing. Gentrification forces Black people from their homes, breaking apart communities and disrupting support networks. Right to Rent legislation allows estate agents and landlords to check the migration status of renters. This plays a key role in creating the Hostile Environment and the courts have ruled this legislation to be racially discriminatory, making it harder for Black people to rent. 

Shelter found Black people in the UK are more likely to be homeless and six times more likely than white households to live in overcrowded accommodation. Black people make up 10.7% of applicants needing support from their local authority in 2019/2020 compared to 3.6% in the general population. In London 32.1% of Black applicants were “owed a prevention or relief duty” compared to 12.4% of the capital’s population. Black, mixed and other ethnicities made up 17.3% of applications for temporary accommodation, while accounting for 7.3% of the population.

Additionally, Black Households are disproportionately exposed to higher levels of toxic air. Black people make up 15.3% of people exposed to high levels of nitrous oxide that breaches EU limits.  

The Black Homeless Labour campaign was set up in December 2020 after the Shelter report was released. The aim of the campaign is to fight against Homelessness within the Black community. The campaign has created letter templates for  Councillors and MPs urging them to support the fight against systemic racism within the Housing sector, as well as a motion for Labour members to put through CLPs to support the campaign. Download them here.

The group started a petition demanding the Government : 

  • Fund local authorities to build more council homes to meet demand of affordable housing. 
  • Increase Housing Benefit to cover the true cost of rent so people can afford to stay in their homes. 
  • End deportations of migrant and asylum-seeking rough sleepers. 
  • Provide housing support vulnerable people, including those with no recourse to public funds
  • End Right to Rent and scrap Section 21 eviction notices. 
  • Enforce landlord licensing requirements to protect renters from discriminatory and predatory leasing practices. 
  • Prioritise strategies  to bring down  toxic air levels in Black communities, such as low-emission neighbourhoods, traffic reduction schemes, and greening public spaces. 

Below, a regional tenants’ group and a London councillor give their take:

Greater Manchester Tenants Union offer our full support for the Labour Black Homelessness Campaign demands to government for funding and services for homeless black people.

In Manchester we have the second highest rate of deaths amongst the street homeless in the UK, we have around 2300 people placed in temporary accommodation by the city of Manchester, and around 5500 either rough sleeping, or in temporary accommodation across Greater Manchester.

Refugee and asylum seeker populations are being served with eviction notices during the winter, and throughout the pandemic by SERCO. Manchester City Council believes there are upto 2000 destitute people living in Manchester with no recourse to public funds.

These are major issues, which began to be tackled by the ‘everyone in’ policy, as a result of the pandemic. We call on the government to act now to permanently solve this crisis by meeting the campaigns demands:

– to fund local authorities and their agents to build more social housing
– to increase Housing Benefit to cover the true cost of rent in the private sector
– to end the deportation of migrant and asylum-seeker rough sleepers
– to end ‘no recourse to public funds,’ and guarantee a place to live, welfare benefits, and NHS healthcare to all, regardless of immigration status.

Councilor Maurice Mcloed ROTA CEO says:

I have lived in Wandsworth my whole life and am incredibly lucky to have a council flat where I have lived for almost 30 years. My council home has meant that despite the ups and downs of my life, I have always had a secure, affordable roof over my head.

Too many people, especially from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities are not able to say the same and find themselves in poor quality, overpriced, over crowded, insecure housing. This combined with the precarious, low paid work that many people from these communities are forced to do means that it is very easy to fall into rent arrears which puts housing at risk.

We have been living through an appalling housing crisis and even before this pandemic, black and minority ethnic people have been massively over-represented in the homelessness figures.

We need more council housing, we need benefits which reflect the actual cost of housing, we need leniency when dealing with people who are in dept through no fault of their own, we need councils which look at a property and see a home rather than a profit.

Institutional racism has left black and minority communities facing the brunt of the housing crisis and it will need targeted interventions to solve the problem and give black, Asian and minority ethnic people the security that should be everyone’s right.

Remember: download the letter templates and/or Labour motion here to support the fight.

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  1. Again absolutely EXCELLENT spot on article.

    This is THE basic crucial stuff on which we need laser sharp SUSTAINED assertive focus.

    Everyday and every where


    1. For clarification, the problems identified are dreadful for ALL of the poor, ALL of “the many”. As posted here b4, atomisation of society = divide and rule. That only suits the one percent bandits. article rightly focuses on the basic problem much neglected by the “Left” in a tangible / granular way.

      Amounts of money ie who spends more are bandied about. Where the money ends up is never discussed … eg British Virgin Islands and other tax havens. Also, the quality and appropriateness of the housing is not discussed in as clear a way as this article.

      Well done and well done this group. They shared their well observed URGENT foundation points. We collectively can and must build on that. … URGENTLY.


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