Did you know that there is an overrepresentation of black and ethnic minority people experiencing homelessness across the UK?

People from black and minority backgrounds face societal challenges that increase the likelihood of poverty, a key cause of homelessness. They also face racial discrimination that can prevent them from finding a place to call home.

The numbers don't lie

  • Black people are three times more likely to experience homelessness than white people in England and five times more likely in London. 
  • 11% of homeless people applying for support are black, despite making up only 3% of households in England.
  • Black and people from ethnic minorities are three to five times more likely to experience discrimination when looking for their current home.
  • 1 in 23 black households in England will become homeless or are threatened by homelessness, compared to 1 in 83 households from all other ethnic backgrounds.

(You can find all the stats in this Shelter article)

Historical housing policy

Racist policies and practices from years ago continue to have a significant impact today.

  • Post-War Consensus: many black and ethnic minority families were denied housing or ‘steered’ towards certain neighbourhoods with lower-quality housing due to the colour of their skin. Generations later, black and ethnic minority families are still living in the same neglected areas.
  • Right To Buy: This policy primarily benefited white people, who were more likely to have the income needed to buy their homes. This has created a significant wealth gap, with white families holding, on average, eight times more wealth than black families. Homeownership rates remain low for black people, with families unable to pass down wealth and climb the housing ladder.
  • Lack of Social Housing: The reduction in social housing supply, increasing reliance on housing benefits, and the private rental market, therefore driving up prices. This hits black people harder, as they are three times more likely to rely on social housing than white people.

Current Legislation

Even today, some housing policies unfairly discriminate against black and ethnic minority people.

  • Right to Rent: This law, introduced in 2014, means that landlords must carry out immigration checks on new tenants, or they could face significant fines or even imprisonment. For more than four in ten (44%) of those making letting decisions, they are less likely to rent to families that 'appear to be immigrants'. This has resulted in landlords often choosing to rent to white people with a British passport as it's perceived as lower risk.
  • No Recourse To Public Funds: Most people who move to the UK to work and live, and don't have UK immigration status, have 'no recourse' status, which means they are barred from welfare support. This means migrants who lose their job or home have no safety net to rely on and face the real threat of homelessness.

Broader societal issues

Black people are more likely to face discrimination in their everyday lives.

What can we do?

Ending systemic racism requires long-term collective action from everyone. Historical factors, specific policies, and social welfare drive inequality, and we need positive changes to address the balance.

BME housing associations, established in the 1980s, have helped improve access to housing for black and ethnic minority people. Nevertheless, further improvements are needed to increase staff diversity in the homelessness sector, particularly at the senior leadership level. These people can use their experience to better tackle the barriers faced by black and ethnic minority people when accessing housing and work to address them.

At Single Homeless Project, our expert teams work diligently to address housing inequalities, supporting our black and ethnic minority clients through complex and daunting housing and immigration processes.

Our staff-led Black and Minority Ethnic Network promotes equality and helps us improve the way we work as a charity, both to support our ethnic minority staff and Londoners experiencing homelessness.

Everyone deserves a safe, secure, and affordable place to call home.