Black Members & Housing

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2019 National Black Members' Conference
12 September 2018

A decent and affordable home is essential for all. It provides shelter, enables people to put down roots, raise their families, find employment and contribute to society. It’s also a prerequisite for good health, the best education chances and a decent quality of life.

Working people need access to decent and affordable homes near their work. It’s essential to health and economic well being.

Politics and the Government’s austerity policies over the last seven years have played a major role in reducing the amount of decent and affordable housing and are a contributor to the current housing crisis in London and across the UK.

These policies, including ongoing privatisation of services, have resulted in lower wages and higher rents due to less spend on Public services year by year.

This was all done under the name of Austerity and justification to cut the deficit. It was just an excuse to reduce services for the poor and provide more profit for owners of Private Sector.

Housing is one area which has suffered most under the austerity agenda. We face a chronic shortage of affordable housing, which means the majority of workers on modest incomes (many of them UNISON members) are unable to afford a decent home – to rent or buy. As a result many face long commutes.

It is well documented that the housing crisis disproportionately impacts on Black Members.

An article in the ‘Evening Standard’ dated 17th October 2016 reported that Black Londoners are nearly five times more likely to be homeless than white people. The research showed African and Afro-Caribbean British people are 4.6 times more likely to have been accepted as ‘homeless and in priority need’ by their local authority compared to white Londoners, according to a race equality think-tank. The Runnymede Trust, which analysed homeless figures from all 33 London boroughs, said the data showed how London’s housing crisis was ‘disproportionately’ affecting Black People.

It called on Mayor Sadiq Khan and councils to devise policies to tackle the ‘ethnic housing penalty’ and not act in a ‘colour-blind’ way. Farah Elahi, research and policy analyst at the Runnymede Trust, said: ‘These shocking homelessness figures show that beneath London’s multicultural image the capital is riddled with stark racial inequalities. The report shows the three worst London boroughs are Haringey, where Black People are 9.5 times more likely to be homeless, Kingston-upon-Thames (9.2) and Harrow (7.5) but the housing crisis is nationwide.

The housing conditions where Black Members are forced to live are often cramped conditions with overcrowding and sharing of amenities. Standard of management in these accommodations tends to be very poor with no safety checks carried out.

This has resulted in divisions in communities with Black Members often getting the worst housing deal. When it comes to Local Authorities their excuse has been due to lack of resources.

The horror of the Grenfell Tower fire on 14 June 2017 exposed the true conditions faced by Black People living in social housing in London. At least 80 people were killed in this incident with large numbers made homeless and majority of them being from the Black Community.

This National Black Members Conference calls on the National Black Members Committee to:

1)Work with UNISON Labour Link for decent and affordable housing to be a key policy commitment from Labour;

2)Use the information and experiences from the recent Grenfell Tower fire as this exposes all the inequalities mentioned in this motion faced by Black People living in housing. This needs to be done immediately and should be top priority;

3)Take the lead with other trade unions to highlight the housing crisis and its impact on Black Member’s. This will also unite all workers and increase trade union membership;

4)Team up with the UNISON National Health & Safety Committee to campaign to help bring in changes in legislation to make housing safe for all;

5)Work with Sadiq Khan as mayor of London, and other stakeholders across the UK, to set targets for new and affordable homes for those worst affected by the housing crisis.