Equality and Diversity rise up the social housing agenda

E&D, and greater inclusion, cover who is housed by the social housing sector, as well as the roles of staff and governance of social housing providers.

The growing importance of E&D issues is partly thanks to the determination, campaigns and initiatives of several sector-wide agencies, and a number of social housing providers, including Housing Diversity Network members.

HDN organised the highly successful #housingdiversityday in March this year, which made E&D concerns even more visible, and we will be doing so again next year.

Together with much-needed housing and service provision to four million tenants, tackling inequality, disadvantage and exclusion are central concerns of, and a significant element in, the social purpose of the sector.

The sector can also benefit from a more diverse workforce and board. But there is still much more to do in this area.

The sector’s social purpose incorporates offering affordable housing and better life chances to those in greatest need, including BME communities, women, disabled people and those with limiting long-term illness, LGBT groups, the economically and socially disadvantaged, and the stigmatised and stereotyped.

That’s why the Housing Diversity Network, the National Housing Federation and BMENational have organised a conference on 2nd October entitled ‘Diversity, Equality and Inclusion in Housing’.

As the first such joint endeavour, the conference will challenge the sector on the current lack of diversity in social housing leadership, how to break down barriers, diversity succession planning, and lessons for social housing providers.

At the conference we’ll be launching the development of a Housing Diversity Manifesto. This is because at a sector level, we all need to recognise that we need more progress on E&D issues as in the past.

The Manifesto will function as both a statement of principles and a bold call to action. By causing people to evaluate the gap between those principles and their current reality, the manifesto will challenge assumptions, fosters commitment, and provoke change. If we want to be the change we need to see, we have to commit to what these changes are.

HDN has been committed to such principles for many years and. They contribute to:

  • Organisations and their board and staff being confident and proactive about equality, diversity, and inclusion
  • The policy environment demanding and supporting effective equality, diversity, and inclusion.

As a major social enterprise that aims to inspire and empower people, organisations, and systems, HDN is a key driver of this agenda.

We work collaboratively to support organisations to improve how they confront inequality, and deliver diversity, getting the most from their staff and meeting the needs of the communities with whom they work.

Our expertise in E&D helps social housing providers develop their effectiveness, supporting them to attract and grow the best talent, deliver appropriate, accessible services, and to build inclusive communities.

At the conference, a few findings of a forthcoming report by the Human City Institute, which we’re supporting, will be provided to delegates and online. HCI’s full report will be published a week or so later.

HCI’s research looks at the E&D characteristics of social tenants and asks whether the sector has become more diverse over time. The early answer seems to be ‘yes’.

The proportion of BME households accommodated by social housing providers has risen from 13% to 17% over the last two decades. Further, women-headed households account for 58% of tenants, whereas it was 45% two decades ago.

Social housing providers also cater for marginally more young people than the societal norm, but slightly fewer old people. Around half of social tenants have a household member with a disability or limiting long-term illness, compared with 29% in home ownership and 23% in private renting. And about 4-6% of the sector’s tenants are from a LGBT background.

While there’s still a way to go on the diversity of social housing staff – especially at senior levels – the sector has made considerable gains in accommodating a more diverse tenant group.

We acknowledge, however, that those on housing waiting lists and the growing number of homeless, are even more diverse, pointing to an even greater effort needed by the sector.

And so, we hope our conference and Manifesto guide the next steps forward.