Take action to address ethnic inequalities in Scottish social housing, calls new report

10 July 2023

A new report has called on Scottish social landlords and the housing sector to make key changes to improve the experience of social housing for people from minoritised ethnic groups.


Researchers looked at access to social housing in Scotland among adults from minoritised ethnic communities at key transition points in their lives, such as marriage, divorce or getting a new job.


The research spoke to 30 people from some of the largest minoritised ethnic backgrounds in Scotland, as well as ten white people living in Scotland, to capture and compare their experiences. A survey was answered by 28 Scottish landlords to explore current practice on racial equality. It is a partnership between charities Shelter Scotland and CEMVO, with researchers Heriot Watt University, funded by abrdn Financial Fairness Trust


Findings included:

  • The shortage of social housing in Scotland impacts everyone, but the lack of larger social homes can particularly restrict options for some minoritised ethnic groups
  • Little evidence of progress on equality of access of housing for all for minoritised ethnic groups, as required in Scotland’s policy and legislative framework
  • The Scottish social housing sector does not yet respond effectively to the needs of ethnically diverse groups: landlords need to collect the right equalities data and do more to help people navigate the housing system and access safe and decent homes
  • The occurrence and fear of racial harassment was common for people from minoritized ethnic communities living in social housing. At worst, this had resulted in a small number of participants leaving their tenancies, because they did not feel able to report the abuse to social landlords, or that their landlords would support them sufficiently to stay safely in their homes;

A minoritized ethnic group research participant said:

“I had to move out of this area, you know I never reported, and I should have actually… I said, ‘I’m not having this, I’m leaving, there’s no way I can live in this,’ but I didn’t complain.”


  • Gender, low income and disability can combine with minoritised ethnic backgrounds to create more barriers to suitable housing: for example, when women from minoritised ethnic groups wanted to leave domestic abuse. The report calls for actions for improvement, urging Scottish social landlords, the Scottish Government, local authorities and others to take action. These include:
  • Calling on senior management at all organisations to adopt an anti-racist culture, engaging with research into race and housing, and committing time and effort to create and sustain organisational culture promoting equality of opportunity and outcome, starting with good data collection processes
  • Ensuring the right affordable housing stock is supplied and is reflective of the needs of an ethnically diverse population, learning from good practice elsewhere in the UK.
  • Social landlords need to initiate reaching out to and working with minoritised ethnic communities across Scotland, drawing on the expertise and learning that already exists there.
  • More effective zero tolerance approach against perpetrators of racial harassment should be developed by social landlords, supported by the Scottish Government, the police and other organisations.
  • Increasing ethnic diversity at all levels of organisations to make sure services can properly support people from minoritized ethnic backgrounds, and that the strategic development of organisations is inclusive.
  • Improving the collection, use and evaluation of data on equalities, in particular around ethnicity: a gap that showed up in survey responses from social landlords. With such data, social landlords will be better equipped to understand who lives in their homes, be transparent, and accountable to all their residents.

Alison Watson, Director of Shelter Scotland, said:


“Scotland has some of the most progressive housing legislation in the world, but these rights mean nothing if people can't access safe, secure and affordable homes. That anyone feels they need to leave their social tenancies in Scotland because they don’t feel confident to report racist abuse is shameful.The research is an opportunity for the housing sector to make sure that action is taken to address the specific needs and aspirations of minoritised ethnic communities.”


“The Scottish Government, social landlords and other key organisations need to take urgent additional action to address longstanding and persistent issues which continue to hinder access to suitable social housing among minoritised ethnic communities. The report is yet another timely reminder of the urgent need to address racial equity and the need for more social housing that is appropriate for an ethnically diverse population. We can’t address structural racism unless we address appropriate housing.“


Professor Gina Netto, Principal Investigator on the research project, from Heriot-Watt University, added:

“Persistent racialised inequalities in access to, and the outcomes of engagement between minoritised ethnic communities with social housing providers in Scotland have been highlighted through this research. While pockets of good practice in the sector in Scotland exist, the evidence indicates that the pace of change towards a more inclusive sector has been slow, calling for urgent anti-racist action.”


Colin Lee, Chief Executive of CEMVO Scotland added:


“This research clearly shows, and as evidenced by the COVID pandemic and Black Lives Matter, that institutional and structural racism is embedded within our society with decades of racism in housing remaining unchanged. We have become tired of hearing the same issues highlighted in this and other past research and call on the housing sector and other stakeholders to implement actions that address structural racism rather than merely spouting out anti-racist rhetoric.”

Download the report