James Brokenshire has praised BME housing associations for their work in “promoting equality and diversity within the housing market” and “helping build the strong, integrated communities that we all want to see.”
The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government was speaking at a special reception in the House of Lords to celebrate the positive role played by BME housing associations in England over the last three decades.
Mr Brokenshire told the more than 100 BME housing association representatives present: “You confronted racial prejudice and discrimination head-on and Britain is a better country for it. You have also underlined our country’s values as a confident, tolerant democracy in which our diversity is one of our greatest strengths.”
He acknowledged that diverse communities still face “particular challenges” and BME housing associations had “done much to meet their needs and provide culturally sensitive housing and support services.” He added: “You are to be highly commended for this and the wider work your housing associations do to drive innovation and good practice on community issues and to provide diverse role models at a senior level.”
The Housing Secretary said that the role of BME housing associations was vital to building more homes, “but equally to help us build thriving, diverse, cohesive communities.” He continued: “And this, perhaps, is your greatest achievement - and the greatest lesson for the wider housing sector, which can learn from your insight and experience to ensure that, in the services it provides and the leaders it chooses, it fully reflects the society it serves. I want to see all parts of the sector bringing people from different backgrounds together to break down barriers and combat isolation.”
Guests, including MPs and peers, were shown a short video reflecting on the experiences and achievements of the BME housing sector. Short speeches were also delivered by Lord Patel of Bradford and Lord Morris of Handsworth.
BME National Chair Cym D’Souza ended proceedings by reminding attendees of the purpose of the event.
She said: “We came here to celebrate 30 years of challenges in meeting the needs of the BME communities we all serve. Discrimination is a hideous thing. It’s always there and it always threatens the vibrant communities that we seek to live in and the vibrant communities that we want to deliver for.”
Paying tribute to Mr Brokenshire for delivering a “rousing speech,” Ms D’Souza said that BME National has recently met with officials from the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government. She told the Housing Secretary: “We were really pleased by the level of support and interest shown and hope to continue that relationship.”
BME National Secretary/Treasurer Ali Akbor, who organised the reception, said it was a fitting celebration of the ground-breaking work done by BME housing associations since the mid-1980s.
But he added: “As Mr Brokenshire highlighted in his excellent speech, BME communities still encounter significant hurdles on the path to achievement. It is imperative that BME housing associations continue to deliver high quality affordable homes and other services to enable them to fulfil their true potential.”