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article imageReview: Asian letting agents blacklist black tenants Special

By Alexander Baron     Oct 15, 2013 in Politics
London - An undercover investigation by the BBC has turned up what appears to be a scandalous practice by Asian letting agents in London.
This investigation was carried out by a team reporting for the BBC's Inside London programme, which presented its results as rampant racial discrimination by letting agents. The team acquired "a plush three-bedroom flat in north Kensington". Then they made contact with letting agents from no fewer than ten firms, and all ten said they were prepared not to show it to Afro-Caribbeans, many saying they had done this before.
Clearly this is prima facie evidence of plain, old-fashioned racial discrimination, but there is a twist. To begin with, all the letting agents shown here were Asians, who as members of a minority, albeit a large one, might just be opposed to this sort of thing.
Curiously, presenter Matthew Wright did not mention what might just be construed as a most significant fact.
The inspiration for this report is revealed as the Runnymede Trust, a fact that should come as no surprise to anyone who is familiar with the broad subject of race relations in the UK. This august body, not, also campaigns against homophobia, although there was no mention of cottages here.
The BBC programme was limited in scope, as must, but even allowing for the usual selectivity, there was clearly evidence of bias here, but is it racial bias?
The Asian letting agents concerned were shown on the hidden camera laughing openly, and they were clearly not putting on an act, which again is not what one would expect. So is this overt racism, or something else?
A clue to what is really going on here can be gleaned from one of the agents who said that 99% of landlords didn't want to let to Afro-Caribbeans "or any troublesome people".
The reference was not to Africans, nor to Chinese - who are never any trouble, and certainly not to Asians. So clearly it is Afro-Caribbeans who are regarded as "troublesome people". One suspects this problem would not arise if say roving reporter Trevor McDonald were to turn up in Kensington looking for a place to rent. And here is another clue, the letting agents contacted were acting for landlords in expensive areas of London. Areas where most property to let and certainly to buy is beyond the reach of most ordinary people and indeed most of the top 1%.
So has nothing really changed since the 1950s? This letter was published in the London Times of August 3, 1963. It sees a landlord setting out his case; do working class whites discriminate like this today?
Again, the problem is not of race, but of perception; the real question that has not been addressed is why is it only black, in particular Afro-Caribbeans, landlords don't want in this upmarket area of London? The crime statistics, particularly street crime and gang culture are undoubtedly largely responsible. How many Asians took part in the so-called English riots of August 2011? Barely a handful, to a man it was almost all blacks and lower class whites, with the dishonorable exception of poor little rich girl Laura Johnson.
At the lower end, in particular council and social housing, discrimination in any form is neither a problem nor an issue. There is also the seldom acknowledge fact that more often than not, anti-discrimination laws do more harm than good. An employer who takes on a useless worker might be expected to fire him, but if said useless worker is black, he is liable to find himself facing an allegation of constructive dismissal by racial discrimination, however baseless such a claim may be. Best not to take the chance by not hiring black workers in the first place. A landlord who finds himself lumbered with a tenant who does not pay the rent on time or who trashes the property can find himself in a similar position. With both rising rents and swingeing cuts to housing benefits, this situation is likely to grow even worse, and it is wrong to victimise landlords and other business people on account of it.
If there is a real problem here then there is a market solution rather than a legal one; instead of a programme of Quantitative Easing which involves giving free money to the banks, the government could make a series of grants to those interested in providing services to specifically black tenants, of which there is clearly no shortage in the capital.
More about runnymede trust, Racial discrimination, matthew wright
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