The government’s race disparity audit presents some basic facts about ethnic minorities and their position in the housing market. But incredibly, it says almost nothing about why the “disparities” with white British people occur. For example, the problem of discrimination is mentioned only once in the report, and then in relation to jobs. You can find statistics on whether people are “stopped and searched” by the police, but there is nothing on whether they feel discriminated against by private landlords, despite evidence that ethnic minorities pay higher rents, have poorer conditions and are more likely to be made homeless.
While there are a few mentions of ethnic minority groups’ use of benefits, there is no audit of the impact of the social security cuts made by this government and its predecessor, nor of the changes still in the pipeline. The review seems to ignore outside evidence, such as that by the Runnymede Trust which showed how ethnic minority women in particular have suffered heavily from benefit cuts.
In a single paragraph, the audit points out (as again we already knew) that Pakistani and Bangladeshi people are more likely to live in deprived neighbourhoods, but there is nothing on the evidence of why this is the case, much less on what might be done about it. It is well established that speaking English is vital to successful integration, and the audit shows that Pakistani and Bangladeshi people have most difficulty in this respect. But the cuts to English-language teaching since 2011 are officially documented, and Louise Casey’s 2016 review of integration called for urgent action, promised by government ‘in the Spring’ of this year.
The government says that public services now have “nowhere to hide” but the audit is silent on how ethnic minorities are treated by the Home Office, when arguably this is the department that gives ethnic minorities most concern. The “hostile environment” it creates for migrants means that – just looking at housing – the sector is expected to make passport checks on housing applicants, to root out ‘rogue landlords’ (which often also means displacing their tenants), to check whether those on waiting lists have a local connection and to collaborate in deporting rough sleepers who aren’t British.
Perhaps the most pernicious effects result from “right to rent” document checks by landlords. As doctors have just warned about the prospect of ID checks in the NHS, there is a high risk of “racial profiling”, in which busy administrators only ask those who look like migrants to show their passports, possibly discouraging many from seeking help. Yet the government extended “right to rent” to the whole of England in February, despite evidence of just that kind of discrimination, which was even accepted by landlord bodies themselves.
Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, was one of the first ministers to respond to the audit. He says that DCLG will publish a new integration strategy and that “where there are injustices, we are doing everything we can to tackle them and reveal them.” Of course it is right that the government should challenge the housing sector to put its house in order, but it must also address the inequalities caused by its own policies. If all public services now have nowhere to hide, that applies to the government too.
Original post and comments: Inside Housing