Black and ethnic minorities face a disproportionately high risk of homelessness in the UK

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The Black Lives Matter movement has raised awareness of ethnic inequality in the UK. Despite some recent studies on housing conditions in the context of the pandemic, little attention has been paid to the intersection of racial inequality and homelessness.

Even before the current livelihood and energy crisis, homelessness was on the rise across the board. Since 2009, the growing housing shortage has led to an increase in most homeless numbers. In England in particular, the numbers have risen, although the special arrangement has temporarily reduced some measures during the pandemic.

A 2005 study found that ethnic minority households were over-represented among households classified as homeless by local authorities in all regions of England. To gauge how things have evolved since then, we recently performed a statistical analysis. We found that black and minority ethnic communities in the UK as a whole are disproportionately affected by homelessness.

disproportionate levels

We have used a broad and comprehensive definition of homelessness. Core homelessness refers to the most extreme and immediate forms, including poor sleep, staying in hostels/shelters or inappropriate temporary housing, or couch surfing. Statutory homelessness, on the other hand, is the term local authorities use for those who are currently or at risk of homelessness and are applying for assistance. Hidden homelessness refers to people who deal with homelessness in informal ways (including in severely overcrowded households). Finally, there are people who are at imminent risk of homelessness (e.g. people faced with unaffordable private rents).

Our analysis is based on ten data sources. These include 2011 censuses, large-scale official and research surveys, and administrative data from the UK and devolved governments. We have used the standard ethnic minority categories used by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and other government agencies and we compare these groups primarily to the white UK-born population.

The first key finding is that, taken as a whole, black and minority ethnic groups experience disproportionately high levels of homelessness in the UK. The relative risks of homelessness vary between different ethnic groups and between different forms of homelessness. Black and mixed race people face the highest risks – three and a half times higher than white people born in the UK – especially from statutory and basic homelessness.

Asians are generally at lower risk of these forms of homelessness. However, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis face greater risks than Indians, Chinese and other Asian groups.

In addition, there are geographic differences in the extent of these ethnic disparities. London shows more extreme disparities, with blacks being five times more likely to be homeless than whites. In Scotland, this ratio is about 1.5 times.

Evidence of the broader, more hidden forms of homelessness paint a more unfavorable picture for Asian households alongside black and other groups. Pakistani, Bangladeshi and black households are more than four times more at risk of overcrowding and unaffordable rents than white households. Asian-headed households are twice as likely as white British households to share a home with other households or live with other adults (apart from their own adult children).

Racial discrimination is at play

The most recent English Housing Survey showed that people who faced racial discrimination, harassment or abuse were at a higher risk of becoming homeless. This is particularly true for blacks, with a third reporting discrimination from social or private landlords.

The UK Government’s official 2021 report on racial and ethnic disparities argued that differences in outcomes in education, health and other areas largely reflect factors other than racism or discrimination. The report, which drew much criticism, did not take into account housing or homelessness.

However, our research shows that ethnicity, immigrant background and discrimination actually increase the risk of homelessness. This is especially true for black, mixed-race and “other” groups, as well as Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. (Here “other” is the standard ONS categorization, which includes Arab/Middle Eastern groups).

We found that there are important indirect ways in which ethnicity and discrimination-related factors affect homelessness risk. These include poverty, private renting and housing insecurity. Once these indirect effects are accounted for, the relative risk for black and other ethnic minority households is significantly higher.

This supports our inclusion of risk groups in our overall assessment of the evidence. To our knowledge, there is no other research that has analyzed homelessness in the UK in this way using mediation models.

Since 2011 we have been publishing the Homelessness Monitor report on trends and drivers of homelessness (annual for England; semi-annual for Scotland and Wales) in partnership with UK charities Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. This ongoing research points to several short-term actions that could reduce core homelessness, which could significantly benefit Black and other minority ethnic groups.

These measures include raising local housing allowances (to match private rent levels) and ending no-fault evictions. Reforming Universal Credit to end the five-week waiting period, halt debt withdrawal and remove the benefit cap would also help.

In the long term we need to build more social housing. We need to level the land to relieve the London housing market. We also need better support for homeless people with complex needs and more humane policies towards asylum seekers.

However, without action, the current crises, combined with rising rents and dwindling housing stocks, will only result in more people becoming homeless. And black and other minority groups will continue to be disproportionately affected.

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Citation: Black and minoritized Ethnic Communities at Disproportional Risk of Homelessness in the UK (2022, 3 December), retrieved 4 December 2022 from -disproportionate.html

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