Social housing’s ‘racial satisfaction gap’

The Guardian’s recent research into the extent of racial bias in many aspects of British life underscores how racism has not disappeared from the national scene despite decades of equality and human rights legislation.

While the findings of the Guardian’s survey of 1,000 BME people are based on perceptions of racial bias by Britain’s BME, although direct and indirect racism aren’t discounted, perceptions are powerful and can significantly define the lived reality of beholders.

Forthcoming research by the Human City Institute offers corroboration to the Guardian’s study by exploring differing ethnic perceptions of social landlord services, including both local authorities and housing associations across the country.

The research identifies a ‘satisfaction gap’ averaging 10 per cent between how BME and white social tenants perceive a range of social landlord service elements, aspects of the social landlord-tenant relationship, and within opportunities for resident involvement.

This ‘satisfaction gap’ has become clear from fresh analyses by HCI of survey data arising from interviews with 6,500 social tenants, supplemented by the findings of focus groups with more than 300 tenants.

HCI’s analyses found that 66 per cent of white social tenants are satisfied with the overall social landlord service, but this falls to 59 per cent for BME groups. The ‘satisfaction gap’ for repairs and maintenance is 6 per cent.

For satisfaction with neighbourhoods it widens to 15 per cent, reflecting the greater likelihood of BME people living in the most deprived communities.

This ‘satisfaction gap’ may have contributed to differing ethnic perceptions of value for money of the rents tenants pay: 59 per cent of BME tenants say their rent is good value for money, which is much lower than the 73 percent recorded for whites.

Worrisome is the lower level of trust – at 55 per cent – BME tenants express in their social landlord. In contrast to whites – at 63 per cent.

Coupled with this ‘trust gap’, 63 per cent of white tenants indicate that their social landlords treat them fairly; but this drops to just 53 per cent of BME tenants. And asked whether social landlord staff are ‘friendly and helpful’, 53 per cent of BME tenants reply positively, but this rises to 64 per cent for whites.

The racial ‘satisfaction gap’ for resident involvement opportunities is 10 per cent, although satisfaction scores for both whites – at 49 percent – and BME tenants – at 39 per cent – are relatively low compared with other social landlord services.

This finding should be of major concern to the social housing sector given recent government focus on the potential for the creation of a ‘Tenants Voice’ in its Social Housing Green Paper to represent tenants’ interests more effectively.

That real or perceived racial biases exist in the social housing sector is not a new discovery, as studies of ‘race and housing’ going back to the 1960s reveal. Nor can such biases be decoupled from wider disadvantage and discrimination experienced by BME communities in the nation’s housing system.

Housing is just one of the many areas of the economy and society where BME people perceive they are treated unfairly and where public, charitable andand private organisations need to bear down continually to eradicate racial bias.

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