Housing has always been an important aspect of the fight for racial equality. In celebration of Black History Month 2022, at Generation Rent we are commemorating the work of black campaigners and their fight towards housing equality. However, it is also important to acknowledge how far we still have to go.
Black campaigners have made incredible strides in fighting for housing equality. Often, calls for housing equality were combined with campaigns to end discrimination in education and employment and for community cohesion.
Here are but a few examples of key campaigners in the UK's housing equality movement.
- Kathleen Wrasama (1917-Unknown) - Born in Ethiopia, Kathleen Wrasama was an influential British community organiser. She worked tirelessly to house members of the Black community, and was a founding member of the Stepney Coloured People’s Association which was established to improve community relations, education and housing for Black people in the UK. This organisation was instrumental in the foundation of today's social services. Read more about her here.
- Roy Hackett (1928-2022) - Best known for leading the bus boycott in Bristol, Roy Hackett was also a campaigner for housing rights. Across the country, housing was the most routine area in which a "colour bar" (racial segregation) was applied. Landlords routinely refused to rent properties to black people. Councils discriminated against migrants by refusing to give them houses. Roy Hackett fought against this discrimination and was one of the founders of the Commonwealth Coordinated Committee, which is still running today as the Bristol West Indian Parents and Friends Association. The group challenged Bristol Council, pressuring it to end its discrimination of migrants. Read more about him here.
- Bishop Wilfred Wood (1936-Present) - Bishop Wilfred was born in Barbados and was the first black Bishop of the Anglican Church. He served on the board of the Housing Corporation for an unprecedented three terms (1986-1995) where he supported local housing associations and promoted the creation of black housing associations. Read more about him here.
- Darcus Howe (1943-2017) - Darcus Howe set out the demands of The Black Eagles. These included the demand for decent housing for all migrants. He would later join the British Black Panther movement in order to campaign for the rights of migrants. Read more about him here.
- Altheia Jones-LeCointe (1945-Present) - Altheia Jones-LeCointe was a central and leading figure of the British Black Panther Movement. Her leadership saw the Black Panthers grow in size and influence. They led campaigns against police brutality and discrimination in employment, housing and education. Read more about her here.
Despite the extraordinarily brave work of black campaigners, and the strides they have made towards housing equality, the fight still continues.
Since May 2022, Generation Rent has run an ongoing a survey investigating racial discrimination in private renting. The initial results of the survey between May and September have indicated stark disparities between black and non-minority ethnic renters.
This initial survey received 105 respondents.
1 in 10 black respondents received NONE of the documents landlords are legally entitled to provide. Unlike non-minority ethnic respondents who had all received some or all of the documents. Moreover, 14% of the black respondents did not receive a written tenancy agreement, while every non-minority ethnic respondent meanwhile reported receiving one.
Black respondents were also 30% more likely (57%) to be asked for an employer’s reference before starting a new tenancy compared to non-minority ethnic respondents (44%). The more stipulations landlords and letting agents place on potential tenants, the more difficult it is for renters to find good quality, suitable housing.
Black respondent were over three times more likely (14%) than non-minority ethnic respondents (4%) to live in homes with EPC ratings of E-G, compared to 4% non-minority ethnic respondents. Homes with low EPC ratings are less energy efficient and so more expensive to heat.
It is not much of a surprise then that black respondents reported that their energy bills have increased on average by £91.93 per month compared to £59.44 in non-minority ethnic respondents. Energy bills for black respondents were therefore 55% higher each month than non-minority ethnic respondents.
There were indications that the cost-of-living crisis is having a disproportionate impact on black private renters. For example, black respondents were 38% more likely (33%) to report that they were struggling “a lot more than usual” to pay the rent in the last few months of completing the survey compared to non-minority ethnic respondents (24%).
Black respondents also faced more challenges in renting near essential services and amenities. They were 58% more likely (19%) to report that they had struggled to rent near to their child’s school compared to non-minority ethnic respondents (12%). And, they were also 50% more likely (24%) to report that they had struggled to rent near their GP or hospital than non-minority ethnic respondents (16%).
The survey also indicated differences in the quality of housing accessible to black private renters. Black respondents were 45% more likely to report experiencing infestations (29%) than non-minority ethnic respondents (20%). And, they were twice as likely to have experienced inadequate fire precautions (12%) than non-minority ethnic respondents (24%).
Treatment from landlords and letting agents
Finally, black respondents indicated disparities in how landlords and letting agents treat them. Black respondents were 71% more likely to have been threatened with an eviction (48%) compared to non-minority ethnic respondents (28%). They were 54% more likely to have been threatened with the refusal to do repairs (43%) than non-minority ethnic respondents (28%). And black respondents were over three times more likely (29%) had been threatened with court action compared to non-minority ethnic respondents (8%).
The fight continues
Everyone deserves a safe and secure home, and yet too many are denied this right. Moreover, black renters are clearly still being subjected to discrimination in the housing market. While it is important to applaud the work on black campaigners in the fight towards housing equality, we must acknowledge that there is still much that needs to happen before discrimination is kicked out of the market.
At Generation Rent we are fighting to end housing inequality. Can you join our fight? Sign up here.