Black people in England and Wales three times as likely to live in social housing

Census data shows 44% are in social housing compared with 16% of white people

Black people in England and Wales are almost three times as likely as their white counterparts to live in social housing, new census data shows, while people of mixed race backgrounds are 1.6 times more likely.

The data showed that life outcomes varied considerably between ethnic groups in education and employment, health, disability, home ownership and overcrowding.

While 16% of white British people lived in social housing, 44% of black Britons, including Africans and Caribbeans, said they did so on the 2021 census, with 27% of people of mixed race backgrounds living in social housing.

Overall in England and Wales, British Asians were least likely to live in social housing, but there were significant variations within this group. About 34% of British Bangladeshi people lived in social housing, which is seven times higher than the number of British Indians, which had the lowest number of people in social housing, with 5% saying they did so on census day. The data also showed that 13% of British Pakistanis and 8% of British Chinese lived in social housing.

About 44% of white people of Gypsy or Irish Traveller backgrounds said they lived in social housing.

The census took place in England and Wales on 21 March 2021 and results are being published in stages by the Office for National Statistics. Everyone who took part in the census was asked to indicate which group best described their ethnic identity, along with a range of questions on housing, education and health.


The data also showed variations between different ethnic minority groups on overcrowding and home ownership.

Bangladeshi Britons in England and Wales were the specific ethnic group most likely to live in overcrowded households, with nearly two-fifths (39%) living in this situation on census day. That was significantly higher than the average of all British Asians, 23% of whom reported living in overcrowded housing.

For the whole population of England and Wales, that figure was lower than 1 in 10 people.

When looking at ethnic categories as a whole, black Britons in England and Wales reported the highest rates of living in overcrowding households, with 27% of the respondents, almost six times the rate of the white population, saying they did so.

White people were most likely to live in houses they owned (68%), followed by the Asian community (61%). However, within the Asian grouping, home ownership rates were higher among those who identified as Indian (71%). British Indians had the highest rates of home ownership of any specific ethnic group.

Of those living in their own homes, white Britons in England and Wales had the highest rates of “owning outright”, with 85% saying they did so on census day. That was almost three times the average rate of all ethnic groups (30%). Home ownership was significantly affected by age, and the higher rates of white people owning their home outright could partly be explained by this cohort being older.

Cym D’Souza, chair of BMENational, said: “These figures show that black and minority ethnic communities are at the forefront of the housing crisis.


“The over-concentration of black people in social housing is because of over-representation on waiting lists and in official homelessness statistics. In addition, ethnic minority households are more likely to live in older and fuel-poor accommodation, and in flats and terraced homes in the most deprived neighbourhoods and worst living environments, including lack of access to green space, which means that social housing is a way of addressing these issues.”

D’Souza added: “However, as we have been saying for some time, the real problem is the lack of housing supply, and despite government commitments only a small proportion of the homes needed, across all tenures, have been built over decades.”

Dr Shabna Begum, head of research at the Runnymede Trust, said: “The right to safe, affordable and secure housing is a fundamental right that should be enjoyed by everyone in Britain. And yet, in 2023, nearly six years after Grenfell Towers, where 72 people from mainly black and minority ethnic, working-class backgrounds died, we had Mizanur Rahman, a 41-year-old Bangladeshi man, lose his life to a fire that broke out in his two-bedroom flat. This flat was shared with 17 other people; 18 men were paying their private landlord £444 a month each to live together in a two-bedroom council flat in east London. Neighbouring residents warned about overcrowding and the local council, Tower Hamlets, failed to act on these very just concerns.

“We also remember, all too sadly, little Awaab Ishak who, at just two years old, lost his life to the mould which made his home unsafe. Again, Awaab’s parents were ignored, despite pleas that their housing conditions were making their child sick. Each scenario is different, but each one reiterates how working-class, Black and minority ethnic communities experience housing that is making them sick and which deprives them of the ability to feel safe or secure.”


Aamna Mohdin and Carmen Aguilar García

The GuardianTramp

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