Housing association sets out commitments to tackle racism | Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Network news

Housing association sets out commitments to tackle racism

Octavia Housing has outlined several commitments it is making to tackle racism in response to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Written by Sandra Skeete, the organisation's Chief Executive, the association says it is "committed to being an anti-racist organisation".

She adds: "Driven by our values of being respectful, responsive, reliable, and resourceful, and by our mission to provide homes, care and support for the common good.

"Tackling social injustice is fundamental to what we stand for. We will therefore play an active role in tackling racism and calling it out.

"We will use our influence and purchasing power to deliver change, leveraging social value for the benefit of our residents and communities. Best practise on race equality will be adopted across all our activities."

Half of Octavia Housing's staff are from a black or minority ethnic background and Sandra herself is one of just a handful of black chief executives. 

But Skeete says this is not enough.

"However, we are not complacent and recognise we have more to do. We need to open up pathways into leadership roles that address the glass ceiling for underrepresented staff including our Black colleagues.

"Also, our Board, though diverse, does not currently reflect the communities we serve. We are determined to address this as future opportunities arise on our Board and we are committed to taking action that ensures that talented individuals are able to progress their careers."

Another area the organisation is looking to focus on is through its responsibility as a landlord.

"We know that Octavia’s Black tenants are more likely to be living in overcrowded housing or to have been served a notice. We need to better understand the reasons for these disparities and take steps to address them," Skeete says.

"We also wish to fully understand the impact of recent events on the communities we serve to help shape our response.

"Supporting our communities to document and share their experiences, hopes and aspirations will be a priority, and we will work to raise awareness of the disparities that individual BME communities face in relation to housing."

The commitments the organisation is setting out are:

Increasing our awareness and understanding

  • Build the knowledge and capability of our leaders and allies to support our EDI ambitions
  • Create a learning hub providing resources that help increase knowledge and awareness of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI). Starting with the lived experiences of racism globally and in the UK
  • Engage with residents to understand any disparities relating to our service
  • Connect with external networks to share ideas and identify best practice on being anti-racist

Tackling inequality head on

  • Launch an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Task Force to support the development of our EDI strategy and lead on monitoring progress against the strategy to evidence our commitments

Supporting our BME colleagues

  • Support the establishment of a Black staff network to create a safe place for sharing and mutual support, as requested by staff. This group will sit alongside other affinity groups and feed into the EDI Task Force
  • Ensure our Wellbeing Project addresses our role in supporting staff to deal with trauma and the mental health effects of racism

Taking affirmative action

  • Develop a talent progression program to open up pathways to leadership roles to improve the representation of BME staff at leadership level
  • Increase the diversity of the Board to better reflect our communities

Amplifying voices within our communities

  • Amplify the voices of BME people in our communities
  • Follow up on the Grove Roots and Herstories films to promote the lived experience and positive contribution of Black people in our communities

Supporting our communities

  • Leverage social value from our suppliers, contractors and consultants to access opportunities for employment and training
  • Fund, support, partner and amplify the voice of local charities and other non-profit organisations supporting BME people in our communities
  • Explore how our procurement activity can open up opportunities for black-led businesses


HQN's Equality and Diversity Network is the key place for organisations who need help with driving diversity policies and sharing best practice with others in the sector.