Race equality initiatives in housing provision: Organisational change and the role of gatekeepers

Richard Tomlins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines the implementation of radical race equality initiatives which were introduced at a junior organisational level within a large British housing association. It suggests that these strategies contributed to the increasing numbers of minority ethnic households housed by and applying to the association for accommodation. These successes, however, can be seen as having been achieved at the expense of the quality of the accommodation allocated to minority ethnic households. It is also argued that the strategy paid insufficient attention to ethnic diversity. The article also discusses the change processes which were observed. It suggests that organisations may have 'organisational power vacuums' caused by the conscious or unconscious withdrawal of formal authority from an organisational resource area. These are seen as offering 'opportunity spaces' for officers including those at a junior organisational level to become 'change activists', in essence the opportunity to act independently of the organisation to sponsor radical change in policy and/or practice. However, it is suggested that unless the strategies of change activists are sensitive to the boundaries of an opportunity space and the means of rooting initiatives in organisational custom, convention and/or authority they may not succeed in bringing about radical change. Instead their initiatives may result in 'static reassertion', the reversion of the organisation to historic practice and perhaps the creation of greater barriers to future organisational change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-132
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • Race equality
  • street-level bureaucracy
  • Urban managerialism
  • Social Housing
  • Discretion


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