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  • Writer's pictureBME National

Giving a voice to the social housing community

So much change has taken place across the social housing industry recently that tenants as well as housing organisations have been left feeling rather bewildered. Cym D’Souza, new chair of BMENational and chief executive of Arawak Walton Housing Association, discusses which way the industry should turn in addressing the needs of residents and communities.

The social housing sector as a whole has reached a pivotal moment in its life with the impact of welfare reform, reductions in social housing grant and criticism of our residents by the media. That’s why, since being elected chair of BMENational in May, our membership agreed to form a partnership with the Human City institute (HCi) to undertake a range of research and to run a media campaign in the run up to next year’s general election.

The research will be extensive and will cover a review of BME housing’s legacy – a “shape of the sector” study. This is a major survey of BME residents and includes consultation with key stakeholders and a collection of human success stories arising from the work of BME housing organisations.

We aim to establish an evidence base around the value of the BME housing industry from a number of perspectives, including residents, communities and stakeholders. The stakeholder survey will provide others who work with us, or who would like to work with us, an opportunity to voice their views about our work. We intend to publish our first report in the autumn.

The research will help us to validate our core areas of work in a changing world and will no doubt help to identify new markets for BME housing organisations, as well as fresh work areas. We hope that more effective partnering might be developed with local authorities and other housing associations as a result. We are also keen to explore which emerging BME communities have unmet needs and those which might need further support. The recent Inside Housing article showed a dip in lettings to BME applicants and this made worrying reading.

We intend to run a full campaign off the back of this work to cement the role of BME housing organisations as big players in social housing and the social enterprise industry. We also want to show that we have a role in creating a more equal society and tackling some negative stereotypes of BME communities often presented in the media, enabling the rise of the Far Right.

BMENational intends to have a bigger say about the future of social housing. After all, collectively, we are one of the largest social landlords in the UK. BMENational is the representative body for more than 60 black and minority ethnic housing organisations managing around 60,000 homes and overseeing billions of pounds of assets across the country.

BME housing organisations are one of the major success stories in the European Union for BME communities controlling their own assets. As chief executive of Arawak Walton, a Manchester-based housing association, I see the beneficial effects for BME communities in having an influential, neighbourhood housing partner.

This local connectivity is becoming increasingly important as reduction of local council services gathers pace and some larger social landlords retreat to call centre management, exiting inner-city deprived areas where many BME communities live.

Our deep roots, long-standing support for diverse communities, deployment of our collective assets within the local community and our dedicated service delivery, are what we have to offer community-based housing.

To read the comments, please visit CIH website.

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