Myths about migrants

On Red Brick we’ve taken an interest in trying to test out and bust a few of the myths in housing.

One area where there are more myths than most is in migration policy and the access that ‘foreigners’ have to social housing.  It’s interesting that social housing is often portrayed in the media as being the lowest of the low, except when it is occupied by immigrants, in which case it is a wonderful national asset that should only go to ‘British people’.

Migration Watch gets a lot of sympathetic coverage in some parts of the media and their latest use and abuse of statistics comes in their ‘study’ on social housing and migration in England, in which they claim that the social housing requirements of new immigrants will
cost the taxpayer £1 billion a year for the next 25 years.  They say that 45 additional social homes would have to be built everyday, or nearly 1400 a month, over that period to meet the extra demand” and “The impact of immigration on the availability of social housing for British people has been airbrushed out for too long. Either the government must cut
immigration very substantially as they have promised or they must invest very large sums in the construction of extra social housing”.

At least I can agree with the last 13 words of that quote.

John Perry, who blogs at the Migrant Rights Network, has analysed Migration Watch’s claims and the Migration Observatory has published a detailed briefing on the real facts about migrants and housing.

Perry demonstrates that there is no automatic link between the number of new households that are projected to be formed by migrants and the provision of social housing.  On current government spending plans migrants would have to take virtually all of the funding available and new homes provided for the claim to be true.

Yet few if any new migrants will actually get these homes.  The percentage of new social lettings going to foreign nationals is 7%, most of whom have lived here for many years in
order to qualify.  The Migration Observatory points out that 75% of new immigrants go into the private rented sector, and that is probably where the serious issues around migration and housing lie.

The veracity of Migration Watch’s analysis can be summed up by the graph they include which shows the ‘cumulative stock of migrants’ and ‘households on waiting lists’ on the same chart, as if they were correlated in some way.  You might as well correlate Newcastle United’s league position and the frequency of cyclones in south east Asia.

With his Chartered Institute of Housing hat on, John Perry has also written a helpful guide on the role of housing providers in relation to UK migration and how to handle national policies and trends, published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The paper comments that “Migration policy often focuses on the number of new migrants entering the UK, but little is done to support neighbourhoods where migrants already live. Central government is withdrawing from these issues at a local level, placing more
importance than ever before on regional and local leadership
”.

It then highlights the ways in which housing providers have already taken steps towards better neighbourhood cohesion and integration and suggests ways in which they could do more because they are well placed to do so.  It also explores the perceived and actual
competition between migrants and host communities for housing.

Migration is a complex and emotive topic where exaggeration is rife and ‘facts’ are often exploited by the media to promote a particular political agenda.  The housing world generally and many individual providers have a terrific record in promoting community coherence, work that is needed more than ever after the events of the last few weeks.  There is an appetite in the sector to do even more and the CIH/JRF guide and the MO briefing are invaluable and highly recommended tools.

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