The housing is another major issue in most of the ethnically mixed cities. The inability of the communities to live next to each other strengthens the process of segregation in the society. The aim of this chapter is to discuss the outcomes of the Ritchie Report in the question of housing in Oldham in 2001. Another task is to analyse the Cantle Report and its findings in this area during the next five years till 2006. The results from the latest 2001 Census are mentioned for an overview of the issue on the national level.
The fact that people from the same background, culture, and language want to live close to each other is understandable, however, it leads to the segregated society in Oldham. This is also caused by the phenomenon called ‘white flight’. According to the Ritchie Report, Asian Oldhamers do not want to live only in their community. But as they move to the white area, there is a tendency of white people to sell their houses and move out, “white people feel uncomfortable about living with Asian neighbours and fear that the value of their property, in which they have often invested heavily, will fall” (Ritchie 16).
As for the history of settlement, minority ethnic groups settled in the town centre in the 1960s and 1970s, it was mainly in the areas of Glodwick, Westwood and Werneth. They usually bought small old terraced houses, close to the textile mills where they worked. In the 1980s, Bangladeshis found out that local authority housing was more achievable for them than paying the mortgage and they asked the Council for the social housing. The Commission for the Racial Equality found out during their investigation into the Local Authority’s Housing Allocations in 1991 that “the Council were discriminating against Asian applicants by segregating them from white households into the centre of town and by placing them into lower quality housing in the Clarkwell and Waterloo Street estates” (Ritchie 17). Some estate agents also practised segregationist policies. The report released that the money available for housing was not divided equally among the communities, what is more there are many areas called no-go-areas for non-white groups, particularly of Asian origin.
The issue of private sector housing showed a similar situation. 73.4 per cent of properties were privately owned, many of them in disrepair. There was an oversupply of terraced houses, which needed to be renovated. Based on the research, one in ten households in Oldham were overcrowded and a fifth of the households in Coldhurst and St Mary’s lived in unsuitable housing. Areas further from the town centre (e.g. Hollinwood) revealed better housing conditions. The opportunity to improve the situation is to replace the owner-occupied houses, many of which are in a terrible state, rather than to repair them. This would according to the report also encourage the mixing of the communities. There is an extensive programme of demolition and replacement, “it was suggested that up to 9,000 houses need to be cleared at an average of at least 300 per year” (Ritchie 18). This will be the responsibility of the Government, Housing Corporation and the private sector.
TheRitchie Report recommends a clear strategy to accompany the replacement programme, including low cost home ownership, tenures, and social rented housing. Houses should be rented to people from different communities to assure ethnical mixing. Appropriate housing management is necessary and the people responsible for sales and working in allocation offices should be from different ethnic groups. As many inhabitants do not agree with the demolition, incentives for them to move to new houses must be found. The compensation they receive and the cost of a new house should be in balance, they should also be offered some options where they could find a new house. Their age, financial and family circumstances and their personal choice should be taken into consideration (Ritchie 21).
The Census 2001 analyses the issue of housing on the national level. According to it, from all the ethnic minorities, Indians were mostly likely to have their own homes (76 per cent). The White British and the Pakistani community were the next. On the other hand, the Bangladeshis were the least likely to own their house (37 per cent). The Bangladeshis mostly lived in socially rented accommodation; in 2001 it was almost 48 per cent of Bangladeshi households. Between 1991 and 2001 home ownership rates fell from 44 per cent to 37 per cent for Bangladeshi households. Crowding is also a usual feature of the Bangladeshi population. According to the Census, about two-fifths of the population were overcrowded in 2001. In that year, Bangladeshi households were the largest, having on average 4.5 members. Pakistani households were containing 4.1 people on average and 26 per cent were overcrowded (“Focus on Ethnicity and Identity: Housing”).
The Cantle Report
The Cantle Report recognises housing as one of the main priorities in Oldham. “Access to good affordable housing, which meets the needs of families and individuals regardless of their background and economic circumstances, is a fundamental element to achieving substantial progress in Oldham” (Cantle 31). The Cantle Report stresses the necessity to deal with the segregation as many black and ethnic minorities’ households are located in central Oldham, much of them of poor standard. These are in contrast with mainly white town peripheries, often called ‘no-go areas’. Dysfunctional housing markets are another problem as well as lack of larger accommodation and land availability for the new accommodation. All these discourage people to either stay or move to that area.
TheCantle Report suggests numerous housing projects, from which the Housing Market Renewal project is of the greatest importance. The programme will last for fifteen years and its main aim is to deal with segregation and poor housing conditions. The review analyses this project as a case study. Oldham & Rochdale Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder includes building new houses, demolishing some old and poor quality houses and improving the environment. The programme supports housing developments that “will facilitate the creation of communities which are more integrated in terms of people from different income groups, ethnic groups and family composition” (Cantle 34). The projects try to open the neighbourhoods as many of them are isolated from each other. It also encourages the inhabitants by organizing leisure and social activities to create relationships among residents from different areas and communities. According to the Cantle Report, the results of HMR programme are now visible in Oldham as many houses are under construction.
The recommendation emerging from the Cantle Report is to go beyond the Housing Renewal project and to develop a long-term strategy in the form of community cohesion programmes to integrate the communities (Cantle 35).