Towards a pluralistic ethnic housing policy

Richard Tomlins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The need for an ethnically sensitive housing policy has been highlighted by
academic research which has documented the differential housing outcomes
experienced between ethnic groups within national boundaries. A particular
cause of concern has been the housing inequalities of minority ethnic communities, who are often concentrated in parts of urban areas which are neglected by the private market, and where other social welfare goods face pressure from high demand. State intervention is often the response to these `problems’ , however,
it may take divergent forms. For example, the advocacy of the distribution of
additional state resources from the political left, and the advocacy of social
control from the political right.
These approaches often appear to be paternalistic majority ethnic `solutions’
on behalf of, and for `the other’ . An alternative approach is offered by
grass-roots activism within minority ethnic communities. Demands for greater
resources, but also signi®cantly for more community control over resources
provide an important challenge to the future construction of social policy. They
assert the primacy of empowerment and self-help over paternalism and question
the validity of the social engineering which may emanate from top-down policy
In terms of a pluralistic ethnic housing policy, a fundamental issue concerns
the right of minority ethnic groups to express identity through residence. Current
perceptions of ethnicity highlight the bene®ts for minority ethnic communities of
choosing ethnic residential segregation, and formulating a self-de®ned ethnic
housing policy. Modood (1990, p. 86) suggests that ethnicity describes a
ª group’s internal structure, values and understanding of itselfº . This provides a
potential which in the form of ethnic residential segregation offers group
resources (Boal, 1981, p. 235) which might otherwise be lost by spatial
dispersal, and particularly by forced dispersal.
Social policy has been slow to respond to the potential value of ethnicity as
a resource. However the growing acceptance of sociocultural and political
pluralism and the growing celebration of postmodernity offer the scope to
embrace diversity and provide the user-led perspective which the complexity of
ethnicity demands. Nevertheless Soja and Hooper’ s (1993, pp. 193±194) suggestion that postmodernism is revealing the resource of diversity, might be clarifed by the coda that it is demonstrating to majority ethnic communities that which
has long been known to minority ethnic communities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-175
Number of pages8
JournalPlanning Practice and Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 1996


  • Ethnicity
  • Pluralistic
  • social inclusion
  • Social Housing


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