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It was a surprise when Leslie Laniyan was


It was a surprise when Leslie Laniyan was

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									interview                                                                                                                                                                                                        interview

A radical vision
Black-led housing associations          t was a surprise when Leslie Laniyan was          tants and lobbyists who want a bail-out for               ‘What impact? I wish I knew. What it’s done
may have lost their way but they
still have a key leadership role,
                                    I   appointed as chair of the Federation of
                                        Black Housing Organisations. The
                                    unassuming chief executive of London-based
                                                                                          BME associations.
                                                                                             BME associations are not simply about the
                                                                                          financial bottom line, and the social contribu-
                                                                                                                                                 is create a new industry in how to draw up
                                                                                                                                                 race strategies. I don’t think it’s had too much
                                                                                                                                                 of an impact personally. I read one race “strat-
says new FBHO chair Leslie          Shian Housing Association admits that he              tion they can make is beyond the means of              egy” the other day, and if I had a 10-year-old
                                    is not comfortable in the role of a public            sophisticated accounting, he says. As Mr               son I bet he could have done better.
Laniyan. Paul Hebden                personality.                                          Laniyan is himself a trained accountant, the              ‘There’s a saying: “until the lion can write its
spoke to him                           His style is in direct contrast with the           point is worth taking on board.                        own history it is always going to be the hunt-
                                    FBHO’s former chair, the effervescent Anil               ‘The BME directors’ forum in London was             ed”. At the end of the day, who is writing these
                                    Singh, who perfected the art of being vocal           very critical of the HACAS Chapman Hendy               policies and who is going to implement them?
                                    but consensual at the same time. Mr Laniyan           report because it failed to take account of fac-          ‘It will only happen when people start to
                                    is quieter, but more radical in his views – par-      tors beyond finance. There are other issues that       move up in society as a whole. Black and
                                    ticularly on the state of the black housing           have to be taken on board and that’s why we            white people are not strangers any more, if we
                                    movement and where it goes next.                      are more critical of things like that,’ he adds.       still have the same people that were there 30
                                       ‘We’ve lost our way to a certain extent, we’ve        But the black-led movement is not beyond            years ago then nothing’s going to change.’
                                    just become housing associations,’ he says.‘We        reproach. Financial mismanagement and dubi-               Measures to promote must be real – and led
                                    don’t beat our drum about the fact that we are        ous involvement in non-core initiatives have           from the top, he adds.
                                    doing something different. We do things               been the downfall of some BME organisations.              ‘Ten years ago we had a race industry, but all
                                    which are natural to us, but we don’t go                 Are BME associations badly run? Or are              of those people were phased out because it
                                    around saying we are doing it.’                       they singled out when they fail simply because         was basically just lip-service. Now we have a
                                       His apparent dismay at the sector’s lack of        they are black-led?                                    “diversity” industry, how long is it before
                                    progress is underpinned by a belief that black                                                               those are phased out too?
                                    people generally have lost their way.                 ‘We need to expand                                        ‘Change will be gradual. If there was true
                                       ‘I find it confusing, it’s difficult,’ he says.                                                           commitment from on high then people would
                                    ‘Everything seems to be breaking down,                beyond black housing. We                               change, but race is just one of many things
                                    people don’t seem to be as ambitious as they          want to look at providing                              the government is interested in. In one breath
                                    used to be and that doesn’t help black people.                                                               they talk about race equality, in the next they
                                    We need to get back to the reasons why we
                                                                                          services to BME members                                are talking about cracking down on asylum
                                    came here. We came to this country to build a         in white associations’                                 seekers; there are conflicting messages.’
                                    life for ourselves and to be successful. We’re                                                                  Mr Laniyan’s message is clear: it is up to
                                    not doing that anymore.’                                 ‘It is a perception,’ Mr Laniyan retorts.           black-led associations to show the way on
                                       So first in Mr Laniyan’s order of priorities is    ‘What happens, in my view, is that someone             race, to do what they do best and maybe even
                                    underlining the independence of the black             will highlight the fact a black housing associa-       to brag about it. Don’t join the growth rat race
                                    housing movement. He is convinced that the            tion has failed, then every other housing asso-        at the expense of your communities and
                                    underlying agenda of housing association rent         ciation is tarred with the same brush. How             remain committed to the black housing sec-
                                    restructuring is to curtail not just black-led        many white associations have gone into group           tor. On this analysis it is up to the black associ-
                                    RSLs, but all post-1988 housing associations.         structures? That’s never highlighted.                  ation movement to teach the rest of the hous-
                                       But this man would sooner give up the                 ‘It’s like mugging. All black people when           ing association sector how they should oper-
                                    ghost than join a mainstream housing associ-          they read the Sun, the one thing you’re look-          ate. A key feature of the FBHO’s forthcoming
                                    ation group. ‘You lose control, whatever type         ing for is to make sure the person that has            work will be on precisely this.
                                    of agreement you’ve got,’ he says. ‘Black and         done the mugging isn’t black. Being black                 ‘We need to look at new ways of working,
                                    minority ethnic associations are not just there       makes it a story. If a black association fails it is   we need to combine things like religion and
                                    for tenants, we are also a role model for BME         usually because of external factors, or they           housing. We found in America that that was a
                                    people, to show we can do it. We can run suc-         overstretch themselves because they want to            gelling factor that made things work.
                                    cessful organisations, we can be honest, be           give too much to the community.’                          ‘We also need to expand beyond black
                                    run for the long term and that’s what I see              The Race and Housing Inquiry heard                  housing. We want to look at providing ser-

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  PICTURE: DAVID GIBSON
                                    about Shian, we want to be around in 20 or 30         extensive evidence last year highlighting the          vices to BME members in white associations.’
                                    years’ time. If we expand at 10 units per year,       knife-edge financial situation most post-1988             Although a date has yet to be set, one
                                    great, if we don’t, that’s fine too. At least we’ll   BME associations face. And the call for sanc-          wonders, given Mr Laniyan’s quiet but radical
                                    still be here, we are not suffering.’                 tions against RSLs not performing on race              approach, how long it will be before the first
                                       It’s a point that many in the black-led            equality was a popular one. Surely the sector’s        FBHO hit squads start work on their main-
                                    movement feel has been lost on the consul-            collective soul-searching has had an impact?           stream partners.

18 inside housing 19 July 2002                                                                                                                                                                         19 July 2002 inside housing 19

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