A social housing policy introduced in an attempt to build sustainable, ethnically mixed communities in the wake of the North of England riots a decade ago has had the opposite effect, new research has found.
A study led by Centre for Housing Research at the University St Andrews found that Choice Based Letting (CBL) has effectively segregated communities.
After the 2001 riots in Bradford, Oldham and Burnley, the UK government promoted the creation of ethnically and socio-economically mixed neighbourhoods as a way of defusing tensions. It is argued that mixed neighbourhoods are more sustainable than segregated neighbourhoods.
Around the same time, Choice Based Letting was introduced by local authorities as the preferred way to let social housing. CBL allows housing applicants to bid on properties in neighbourhoods of their choice while under the old letting systems dwellings were allocated by social landlords. CBL was designed to empower people in social housing.
Dr David Manley and Professor Maarten van Ham of the Centre for Housing Research at St Andrews examined data on all new social housing lettings in England since 2001.
Their analysis suggests that, rather than achieving sustainable mixed communities, the change in social housing policy has itself become a major cause of ethnic segregation in England.
Despite the intent of CBL, the findings suggest that a lack of real choice has forced ethnic minorities to move to deprived neighbourhoods and frequently to neighbourhoods with high concentrations of other ethnic minorities.
Dr Manley said : “Our study suggests that this process is not necessarily a result of free choice. Many ethnic minorities have very limited choice of neighbourhoods and often end up in deprived and ethnically concentrated neighbourhoods. This is because no other options are available to them.
“Traditionally, CBL has been focused on dwellings in the harder to let areas and so the degree of choice available is actually much more restricted than the policy suggests.
“Creating neighbourhoods with an ethnic and socio-economic mix of residents is a common strategy to tackle segregation.
“It is difficult, however, to influence where people choose to live. Especially because those most vulnerable in society often have no real alternatives to choose from. They simply have to accept the first dwelling available.”
The study is published by the Urban Studies journal: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0042098010394685
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Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews
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Ref: Communities 310311Public interest stories