How diverse is England’s housing association workforce in 2023?

12 September 2023

The National Housing Federation (NHF) is committed to creating a more equal, diverse and inclusive housing association sector. We’ve been working with members, using data to better understand equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) of the housing association workforce in England.

In 2021, we published our report exploring diversity and representation in the workforce, using data collected from housing associations through our EDI data tool.

Two years on, we have repeated this exercise to give an updated picture and recommendations for driving change. The EDI national data report analyses data submitted by 177 organisations, representing 76% of homes owned by housing associations in England.

While gaps remain, we have more complete data on the characteristics of the housing association workforce, executives and boards than before. This updated picture shows where our sector has made small steps in the right direction but also where progress is still too slow.

The NHF and Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) published our action plan to tackle poor quality in housing in response to the Better Social Housing Review, and the EDI data tool was cited throughout as one of the ways to tackle structural inequalities.

This report provides a detailed analysis of where change is happening, where it has been slower, and what’s still required. Together, we can build a truly inclusive and representative sector. By maintaining momentum, sharing best practice, and working collectively, we want to see bolder action and accelerated progress across all areas before the next data collection in 2026.      

Key findings

Lack of representation:

  • Female representation in leadership positions has increased but is still not reflective of the workforce or residents. Only 47% of executives and 44% of board members are female compared to 54% of the workforce.
  • Only 9% of the sector’s workforce have a disability or long-term condition compared to 24% of the population and 29% of residents.
  • The ethnic diversity of the workforce is not reflected in executive positions. 10% of the workforce is Black/African/Caribbean/Black British but only 3% of executives. 5% of the workforce is Asian/Asian British but only 1% of executives.

Reluctance to disclose:

  • Staff are more likely not to disclose their religion (6.4%), sexual orientation (6%), marital status (4.2%) and gender identity (4%) choosing prefer not to say for these characteristics. This highlights the need to create more inclusive workplace cultures where people can bring their whole selves to work.

Data gaps:

  • Big gaps remain around data on socioeconomic background and caring responsibilities. We are missing over 90% of data on all these characteristics for the housing association workforce


Based on our findings, our recommendations are that housing associations in England should:

  • Review processes for collecting and storing EDI data. Engage staff to build trust and confidence.
  • Use the data to set targets and shape plans and strategies. Engage with staff with lived experience to understand the barriers they experience and how to overcome them.
  • Review recruitment processes and address barriers to progression and recruitment for ethnic minorities and disabled people.
  • Adopt sector-wide initiatives to drive change including Disability Confident Scheme, Leadership 2025 and HouseProud Pledge.
  • Join the NHF Chairs’ Challenge and use our resources to help increase board diversity.

Updated report

Please note the full report has been updated on 2 October 2023 with changes to data on page 20 and on 14 May 2024 with changes to page 18.

EDI regional data breakdown

The NHF has also published regional breakdowns of the data for housing associations to review and act on.

download Look at the regional breakdown