Sign up to SHARP and support anti-racism in social housing

Kate Henderson, 27 October 2022

As a SHARP ambassador, I’m using Black History Month as an opportunity to highlight the importance of anti-racism work in the social housing sector. Social housing is rooted in addressing inequalities, and as a sector, we provide millions of homes for people and diverse communities across the country.

Earlier this year BME London Landlords (BMELL), in partnership with BME National, and the Housing Diversity Network launched the Social Housing Anti-Racism Pledge (SHARP).

The pledge provides a framework for social landlords to implement a series of actions within their organisations and promote an anti-racism stance.

By developing an anti-racist strategy, we’re sending a clear message that we have zero tolerance towards any form of racism. We want this to set the standard that housing associations operate by.

Why anti-racism matters

Social housing is a movement grounded in a commitment to tackle injustice and inequality. These are our roots and continue to be the values that motivate us today. But strong values are not enough to lead to fair outcomes.

The NHF’s equality, diversity and inclusion national report highlights a lack of representation across all levels within the sector. We see this lack of representation a lot in leadership roles. Only 9.9% of sector leaders are from non-white ethnic groups (Black, Asian, Mixed, and Other minority ethnic groups), compared to 16.8% of the population.

As a SHARP ambassador and chief executive in the housing sector, I support the need, now more than ever, to improve ethnic diversity in leadership. We can and we must work together to address this inequality.

I recently attended BME National’s Conference centered around addressing some of the key challenges faced by organisations in tackling racism. I had the great opportunity to be part of a panel discussion on how to develop an anti-racist approach in housing.

At the NHF, our work to create change is all about collaboration: with our members; with BME National, a collective of BME housing associations in England; and with BME London, a collective of specialist housing organisations in London. BME housing associations have played a huge role in society, pushing issues of race and equality into the mainstream and changing the housing landscape.

Why was the pledge created?

In the last two years, longstanding social inequalities have been further exposed by the coronavirus pandemic, alongside the death of George Floyd. This has created a watershed moment for all of society to address racial inequality and discrimination in the UK and across the world.

Now is the time to ensure equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) is at the heart of governance and operational models with social housing.

To be anti-racist is to acknowledge the permanence of racism through organisations, industries and communities in the UK. As housing associations who operate as change makers and place shapers, we must set the highest standards. We should be listening and learning from a variety of voices as we seek to become zero-tolerant anti-racist organisations. Our practices and processes can set clear examples that can impact and influence society.

By signing up to SHARP, organisations can make the commitment to taking the necessary action required. The SHARP pledge framework will support you to build an ongoing culture of accountability.

How does the pledge work?

SHARP provides the framework for social landlords to commit to and implement a series of actions within their organisations on their journey to becoming anti-racist organisations.

By working through three SHARP Award levels, organisations can demonstrate and gain recognition for addressing the challenges that racism presents in society.

  • Level 1 - The SHARP Commitment Award
  • Level 2 - The SHARP Assessment Award
  • Level 3 – The SHARP Accountability Award

This anti-racism pledge allows organisations to reflect on their own operational processes and procedures as they complete each level of the SHARP award framework. The scrutiny given to the pledge actions helps members to shape their organisational culture and value system to align with being anti-racist.

All housing associations are invited to sign up to SHARP and engage with their stakeholders to develop an inclusive culture. As a sector, we must be committed to tackling inequality and demonstrate the necessary leadership to become zero-tolerant anti-racist organisations.

At the root of this pledge is the need for social housing to lead societal change. For me, being a leader in the social housing sector is both a privilege and a responsibility to change things for the better.