BLACK people are more than three times as likely to experience homelessness in Reading as all other ethnic groups, figures suggest.

Housing charity Shelter criticised "deep inequality and systemic racism" within the housing system, and warned the legacy of the coronavirus pandemic must not be one of rising homelessness.

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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government data shows 973 households were assessed as entitled to help from the council in Reading in the year to March.

Of the lead applicants from these households, 17 per cent (165) were black, while black households are estimated to make up only 6.9% of the area's population, according to the latest census.

It means black people were 3.1 times more likely to experience homelessness, with roughly one in 26 black households in Reading becoming homeless or being threatened with homelessness last year, compared to one in 83 households from all other ethnic groups combined.

The ethnicity of 93 of the 973 applicants was not recorded or unknown.

Across England, around 10.7 per cent of lead applicants from households entitled to council help were black, while black people comprise roughly 3.6 per cent of the country's population.

Shelter chief executive Polly Neate said it is "appalling" that black people and others from BAME backgrounds are disproportionately impacted by homelessness.

“We must act fast, because the pandemic we are now enduring is only intensifying the housing emergency and its destructive inequalities," she said.

"We can’t allow the legacy of Covid-19 to be one of rising homelessness and shattered lives."

Figures show that overall in England, white and Asian households were less likely to be homeless last year, with 69.8% of homeless households with a white lead applicant, while white people make up 84.6per cent of the population.

Asian lead applicants accounted for 6.3 per cent of the homeless applications, despite making up 8.1 per cent of the population.

David Renard, housing spokesman for the Local Government Association, said: "Councils are doing all they can to make sure everyone gets the housing support they need, however it is clearly a concern BAME people are disproportionately affected by homelessness and we would encourage the Government to review why this is the case."

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An MHCLG spokesman said the Homelessness Reduction Act is ensuring more people get the help they need to prevent them from becoming homeless.

He added: "We’re committed to breaking the cycle of homelessness and ending rough sleeping for good, and the Government has allocated over half a billion pounds this year to protect some of the most vulnerable people in society."