How diverse is England’s housing association workforce? 2021

How diverse is England’s housing association workforce? 2021

In 2021, the National Housing Federation conducted research which examined Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in England’s Housing Associations’ workforce compared with their local communities. The report analysed a range of protected and unprotected characteristics, including ethnicity. Much like the Altair Reviews of 2017 and 2019, the study found that while broadly speaking, Housing Association teams are ethnically diverse with some representation of local communities, this diminishes drastically at executive level.

Missing Data

There were large data gaps across the different characteristics being examined. These gaps were especially wide around socioeconomic background, caring responsibilities and gender identity. Large cohorts of staff also chose not to disclose their religion or sexuality. These gaps make it difficult to explore intersectionality and precludes us from a more holistic understanding of the diversity of teams.

There was also more missing data for boards than for wider staff and executives. Ethnicity data at board level was missing for one quarter (26%) of all members. This was compared with 12% of the workforce and 6% of executives. As executive and board members are smaller in number, data gaps could have a bigger impact on the accuracy of findings.

To fully comprehend this report, we must also consider why colleagues are choosing not to disclose parts of their identity and what this means for inclusion.

Some key findings:

  • Housing Staff had almost twice the representation of Black ethnic groups and half that of Asian ethnic groups compared to the population in stock location.
  • Representation did not extend to executive level. 90.1% of executives identified as White compared to 83.2% of the population and 80.6% of staff.
  • Board members appeared to be more ethnically diverse than executives and the wider workforce. However, boards also had the biggest data gaps which could distort the findings.
  • There is poor representation of BME groups at executive level as 9.9% were from BME backgrounds compared with 19% of staff.


The report concluded that the sector had “more work to do to make their executive teams more ethnically diverse and reflective of wider staff and population.”

Some of the suggested actions and priorities suggested were:

-To ensure that leadership and future leaders are accessing all available talent that reflects the communities they serve.   

-That Housing Associations should review their workplace and recruitment practices to identify barriers to progression and recruitment from Black, Asian, Mixed and Other ethnic groups.

-For the NHF to repeat the data collection in 2023 to track changes and hopefully progress and to hold the sector to account.

You can read the full report here.