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Sunday, May 29, 2022

Manningham Housing Association has scooped up another award – what makes it so different to social housing organisations in the district?

“We know that the housing needs of Asian and Black people weren’t met by the council or other housing associations in 1986 and still aren’t now, which is why we are here." - Assistant Chief Executive MHA.

Manningham Housing Association (MHA) has gained another award, this time for achieving the highest standard of customer service excellence and being reaccredited for its work in promoting equality, diversity, and inclusion after becoming the first housing association in the country to receive both accolades in 2019.

The housing association prides itself in both providing fair, safe, and suitable homes for Black and Asian people not just in Manningham, but across Bradford and Keighley, as well as being a diverse employer from the board of trustees to the office and community staff.

MHA is a registered social landlord that provides quality housing with affordable monthly rent. However, it is not a charity and runs as a business with an annual turnover of around £8.2 million.

Ulfat Hussain has worked in the housing industry for almost thirty years.

The organisation was established in 1986 after research found that the housing needs of Black and Asian communities were not being met.

Ulfat Hussain, assistant chief executive of MHA, has worked at the association for around ten years and has been in the housing industry for almost three decades. He believes that the secret to their success is by providing homes for people that need them and being a voice for people in the community, helping tenants to access help or services when needed.

Mr Hussain said: The housing association was set up in the mid-80s after research by the Bangladeshi Youth Organisation found that the needs of South Asian and Black families were not being met.

“We are not any different to other housing associations in Bradford, we are a business and are regulated the same as any other housing association in the UK. The only difference is that we meet the needs of the Asian and Black community through providing homes and providing extra services.”

The biggest need that was not being met was the provision of homes that has comfortable space for multigenerational families, a common type of living arrangement for South Asian families.

Currently, more than two-thirds of their 1,400 properties have three-or-more bedrooms and over 80% of residents are Black, Asian, or from a Minority Ethnic group. However, it is not exclusive to Asian and Black families, they cater to anyone who has housing needs.

“Almost all our houses have three bedrooms, but some of them go up to five or six. In Bradford and Keighley, we still have a lot of families who want to live with their extended families, some spanning three generations”, Mr Hussain said.

Mr Hussain is so passionate about delivering this type of service because he has been in the same place as some of the tenants. He said: “I am passionate about working and providing a better quality of life to people because I have been there. I left school with nothing; I didn’t have any role models when I grew up. The only option for me was to drive taxis.

The MHA head office employs a diverse group of people from different ethnicities, ages, and backgrounds.

“An apprenticeship cropped up at a local housing association near me and I took it. 28 years later I now have one daughter who is a pharmacist and another who is training to become a lawyer. If I wasn’t given a chance back then, then my daughters wouldn’t have theirs now.”

When asked whether he believes housing associations specifically for people from an ethnic background should still exist, he said yes, but only because they need to be.

Mr Hussain personally believes that an organisation like this shouldn’t have to exist and that mainstream housing associations should be inclusive of addressing the needs of everyone, but for various reasons, they don’t and so MHA was created to fill the gap.

He said: “If you ask me ‘should an organisation like this exist?’ I would honestly say no. However, we know that the housing needs of Asian and Black people weren’t met by the council or other housing associations in 1986 and still aren’t now, which is why we are here.”

Despite being short-listed and winning several awards over the year, Mr Hussain and the team are not striving to collect accolades. Instead, they are focused on providing excellent customer service for local people. “For me, winning awards is not important”, Mr Hussain said. “What’s important to us is that we are an organisation for Asian, Black and Minority Ethnic people. When you are a business like this, you have a particular social purpose and so I like to think of the awards as an extra, what we need to focus on is the communities in which we operate.”

The mayor for West Yorkshire visited the housing association earlier this year.

The association also proudly boasts a diverse team of 41 people, from different ethnicities, ages, and backgrounds. Mr Hussain said: “A lot of people say it is like the United Nations in here as we have people from everywhere and we are proud of this.

“I believe all housing associations should be representative of the communities that they serve. We as an organisation make sure that we give employment opportunities to people who otherwise aren’t getting those opportunities from elsewhere.”

Mr Hussain goes on to mention that: “When you look at other housing associations you often see that the employees are not a reflection of the communities where they work. I can’t understand that because we can find wonderful people that represent our communities.”

Describing the business as a “place shaper” the association does not see itself as “just a landlord.” Instead, they try to tackle some of the issues that people from across Bradford and Keighley face, such as mental health and domestic abuse.

In May 2020, almost half, 47%, of the working population were on furlough, the Government’s job-retention scheme that guaranteed 80% of wages for people whose jobs were shut down due to the strict lockdown. Furlough and job losses particularly affected working-class South Asian people in Bradford and Keighley’s inner-city that relied on working in restaurants, factories, and warehouses to pay rent and bills.

“It is no hidden secret that the Asian community was much more affected by the Coronavirus. People who live in multigenerational homes are more likely to contract the virus as there is more chance of spreading the disease.

“We knew that job losses and furlough will impact a lot of our tenants which is why we invested in providing financial advice to people in need. We helped around 700 families, which is around half of the houses we own.”

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