12 Jul 2023

Barriers faced by people from minoritised ethnic groups trying to access a social home

Shelter Scotland have published details of a research project on the barriers faced by people from minoritised ethnic groups trying to access a social home. In this blog Alice Tooms-Moore highlights the evidence given, #InTheirShoes, and research findings. 

Background to the report 

The Scottish Government carried out an evidence review in 2021 into the housing needs of minority ethnic groups in Scotland. They concluded that there were several key gaps in the available evidence and a need for further research.

To understand more about the barriers minoritised ethnic groups face when accessing social housing Shelter Scotland has carried out a research project led by Heriot-Watt University, in partnership with CEMVO Scotland and the abrdn Financial Fairness Trust.

The researchers spoke to 30 people from minoritised ethnic communities to understand their experiences of the housing system and carried out a survey of 28 social landlords.

Social housing – too little and not the right kind

The findings highlighted that a shortage of social housing makes it difficult for people from all ethnic groups (including white Scottish people) to access a home – something which is already well documented. A particular lack of larger social homes means that bigger families’ options are constrained even more. The research found that this had an impact for some of the people from minoritised ethnic groups that we spoke to, leading to overcrowding.

anonymous  |  female, 54, from a sample of minoritised ethnic people.

So, I'm still on the list, their list for a bigger house… I blame myself for not keeping, pushing, and pushing, and pushing. I still hope that I'll be able to get a bigger house, but my kids are now growing up.

The report calls on local authorities and the Scottish Government to consider the needs of minoritised ethnic groups when making decisions on social house building: for example, making sure that enough larger social homes are built.

Racial abuse - a common occurrence

People from minoritised ethnic communities living in social housing often both experience and the fear racial harassment.

Sakhina  |  female, 55

We had our four years of history of racial harassment, verbal, car breakdowns, cars then house windows. To be honest, the downstairs windows I never had to clean. The kitchen window and sitting room windows were replaced every week. We had our TV stolen.

This experience sometimes led to victims of racial abuse having to leave their homes.

Abiba  |  male, 54

Yes, I had to move out of this area actually, you know I never reported, and I should have actually… I said, 'I'm not having this, I'm leaving, there's no way I can live in this,' but I didn't complain.

The people who shared their experiences of racial abuse had often received inadequate support from their social landlords and the police. There is a need for zero tolerance approaches against people who perpetrate racial abuse, as well as better support for victims to remain in their homes.

Diverse needs – a lack of understanding

People from minoritised ethnic groups shared the difficulties they face when trying to navigate the housing system and access social homes.

Tene  |  male, 57, from a sample of minoritised ethnic people.

There is this online bidding, so a continuous, very annoying and frustrating experience. They ask so many questions that sometimes are not helpful at all - and I've been on the waiting list for ages and ages.

anonymous  |  female, 34, from a sample of minoritised ethnic people.

How they speak sometimes, they just read it like a paragraph, but you need time to digest it and to think about it, so then I said, 'Please, I sorry from me to ask you step by step, but this is difficult for me to understand all this.'

People’s ethnicity can interact with other parts of their identity such as their gender to complicate the challenges faced in accessing a social home. This can lead to long periods of housing insecurity, as illustrated by the experience of Saya:

Saya's story

Saya (40) is a mother of two who lived with her husband since her arrival in the UK ten years ago. Saya’s husband is a perpetrator of domestic violence. Following a violent incident, Saya called Women’s Aid who worked with the council to move her into emergency accommodation. Since then, Saya has moved a total of four times and still remains in temporary accommodation with her children.

Report recommendations for change

The report urges social landlords to take a number of measures to develop their expertise and capacity to support people from minoritised ethnic backgrounds to navigate the housing system and access social homes. These measures include:

  • Proactive engagement and collaboration by social landlords with minoritised ethnic communities
  • A program of capacity building in the housing sector. CIH offer an EDI framework which can be used by individuals or housing organisations to evaluate and improve their practices in this area
  • Increased ethnic diversity in the workforce at all levels. Lara Oyedele's In my shoes CIH presidential campaign is advocating for this
  • Improvements to the collection and use of data on ethnicity.

For more details on the report’s recommendations you can read Shelter Scotland’s summary of the research.

Written by Alice Tooms-Moore

Alice is a senior advocacy officer at Shelter Scotland. 

In my shoes article

This article was written as part of a series for Lara Oyedele’s 2023/23 CIH presidential campaign advocating the importance of racial diversity in the housing sector.

A key campaign objective is to amplify conversations and awareness by sharing a wide variety of lived experiences, #InMyShoes, to create a momentum where racial and ethnic diversity are consistently on the agenda to drive forward positive change.