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The Commission for Racial Equality has launched its new statutory code of practice on racial equality in housing

Building racial equality in Britain's housing market

The Commission for Racial Equality launched its new statutory code of practice on racial equality in housing on the 2nd October 2006 - a toolkit to eliminate racism from the housing market.

The code, which came into force on October 1, offers best practice guidance to everybody operating in the housing sector: from housing associations and estate agents to mortgage lenders and building contractors, as well as tenants and private landlords.

Trevor Phillips, CRE Chair said: "There is a long history of racial inequality in housing. Ethnic minorities are more likely to be homeless and to live in overcrowded conditions. Imposed 'segregation' through housing continues to pose problems for social integration in some parts of the country and for many people racial harassment is a continuing reality.

Today, the CRE is publishes new guidance to address these issues - drawn up in partnership with an advisory board of key organisations from the public, private and voluntary sectors. Following the code's guidance makes good business sense, will avoid potential for discrimination and bring an end to poor decisions which can lead to increased segregation, leaving communities isolated from the mainstream".

Peter Bolton King, Chief Executive at the National Association of Estate Agents represented on the code's advisory board, commented: "Designing the code to be a practical document with workable solutions was a priority for the board. We now have clear guidance which offers the potential to address racial inequality without being an additional burden on the sector."

David Butler, Chief Executive Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), said:"As the professional body representing people who work in housing across all sectors, and in all parts of the UK, CIH welcomes the new code of practice on racial equality in housing. CIH is committed to ensure that good practice is translated into common practice and the code provides practical guidance, examples and recommendations which will help housing organisations promote equality and diversity."

Key points of the code:

  • new sections on homelessness and partnership working
  • new private sector specific and general summaries
  • 50 examples illustrating good and unlawful practice
  • predicted outcomes following implementation of the code's recommendations

What's the aim of this code?

The Statutory Code of Practice on Racial Equality in Housing aims to explain the provisions of the Race Relations Act 1976 that are relevant to the provision of housing in England, Scotland and Wales.

It aims to:

  • set standards for achieving racial equality;
  • provide practical guidance that will help organisations and individuals involved in all areas of housing to avoid unlawful racial discrimination and harassment, promote equal opportunities for all, and encourage good race relations; and
  • help make sure that anyone who is considering taking a legal case, or who has concerns about the way decisions on housing matters have been made, understands the legislation, their rights, and what constitutes good practice in the field of housing

Who does it apply to?

This code will be useful to anyone involved in housing, as well as to those who make decisions about providing housing, opportunities for housing and services related to housing, including developers, tenants and residents.

It applies to all providers of housing and related services in England, whether in the public, private, or community and voluntary sectors, including landlords, 'arms-length' housing organisations, large-scale voluntary transfer organisations, planning bodies, house builders, housing advice providers, private sellers and estate agents.

The code covers all forms of housing tenure, including caravan sites as well as 'bricks and mortar' housing. It also covers housing provided as part of an employment contract, for example tied housing, or housing provided for nurses, police officers or prison officers by their employers.

What's its legal status?

The code is a statutory code. This means it has been approved by the secretary of state and laid before parliament. The code's recommendations do not have the force of law, but they will be used by the tribunals and courts in considering any questions arising in proceedings brought under the Race Relations Act.

Why was a new code needed?

The CRE's two previous codes of practice on housing were issued fifteen years ago. Since then, there have been several important changes in the way housing is provided and managed in England. For example, new social landlords have come into existence; the housing association and private rented sectors have grown considerably; the owner-occupied sector has continued to thrive, with many more organisations and individuals involved in this market; and the law on housing has changed.

The context of racial equality work has also changed. Since the publication of the original codes of practice, the Race Relations Act has had two significant amendments; firstly, the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, which introduced new statutory duties on public authorities, and then the Race Relations Act 1976 (Amendment) Regulations 2003, which incorporated the EU Race Discrimination Directive into UK legislation.

This new code also takes into account the many important social and economic changes that have taken place over the past decade and a half. For example, Britain's ethnic minority population is no longer the same, with the arrival of new migrants, including refugees. Integration and community cohesion have become increasingly important considerations for housing organisations and agencies. Also, while there have been improvements for some ethnic minority groups, significant differences still persist overall in the type and quality of housing available to people from ethnic minorities, who are more likely to live in inferior housing, and to have fewer opportunities to improve their circumstances than people from other groups

Background to the code:

  • The CRE carried out a three month consultation on a draft code of practice on racial equality in housing during the summer of 2005. We held eight events in England, Scotland and Wales and received 79 questionnaires and 40 written commentaries from separate organisations containing valuable feedback.
  • The CRE was encouraged to update its codes of practice in employment by the Audit Commission and ODPM.
  • The revised code of practice is a statutory document which will be admissible as evidence in cases of discrimination. It came into force in October 1 2006
  • The original codes of practice on racial equality in rented and non-rented housing came into effect in 1991 and 1992 respectively
  • For more information about the code or to download a copy Here

About the CRE- The Commission for Racial Equality

  • The Race Relations Act 1976 makes it unlawful to discriminate against anyone on grounds of race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins. The Commission for Racial Equality was established under the Act to work for the elimination of discrimination, the promotion of equality of opportunity and good race relations generally
  • The Commission can advise or assist people with cases before courts and employment tribunals and can conduct its own investigations when it has grounds to believe discrimination may be taking place.
  • Public bodies have a duty to eliminate discrimination in the way they work and to promote equality of opportunity and good race relations. The Commission is working to help them deliver this duty.

Information supplied by The Commission for Racial Equality

More information on the CRE at:Useful Websites

See also Pain Smith Solicitors Legal Update 24th October 2006 - Code of Practice on Racial Equality in Housing - Click Here


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