Numbers don’t add up
First Published 12 January 2017
Immigration is not a cause for concern. What matters is its scale -and the lack of social housing, says Andrew Green
No-one challenges the right of refugees to housing. What we are concerned about is the present scale of immigration -defined by the UN as people who change their place of residence for a year or more.
We are not opposed to immigration -its benefits to industry and commerce are self-evident. Our concern is not about the principle of immigration; it is about the scale. We believe it should be controlled in the interests of our society as a whole.
This is not an issue of race. Half of our ethnic communities were born in Britain, so they are as British as the rest of us, and we should not be implying that they are not.
One third of all immigrants who come to Britain are white. And the whole immigration system of this country is based on nationality. If you’re black and you’re French, you come in freely because you’re in the European Union. If you’re white and American, you need a visa.
Large-scale immigration is a new phenomenon that barely started until the mid-1990s. During the next 20 years, however, immigration is expected to add to our population some seven million people -seven times the population of Birmingham.
Those are the government’s own figures, but government has no response to this -it is in denial.
The summary of the latest household projections makes no mention of immigration. You have to go to page seven to discover the difference between the principal projection and the projection that assumes balanced migration. The difference is 99,000 households a year -39 per cent of all new households.
This 39 per cent is a key figure, so let’s not duck it. Let’s absorb it and consider what to do. There are many other factors such as divorce, increase in single households and more pensioners. But the bottom line is incontestable. Immigration is the major factor in new households.
One of the most emotive areas is immigration and social housing, in part because the BNP places such a lot of stress on it. It’s critical to put in context the supply and demand for social housing. The fact is that supply has not risen to meet the demand.
The number of social housing completions in England has fallen to around 20,000 a year during the past 10 years and the total stock of social housing has gone down from 4.4 million to 3.9 million.
During the past seven years, the waiting list for social housing in England has risen by 70 per cent to almost 1.8 million. The National Housing Federation has suggested that figure will approach two million in 2011.
Based on myth
It’s undeniable that the failure of the government to increase the supply of social housing in line with the level of migration means that some immigrants have been given social housing that would otherwise have been available for British-born applicants. Had there been a proper debate about immigration, this might have been foreseen, and even dealt with.
For if you increase demand for housing but not supply, then some people will not get housed. So what do you do about allocation? Are allegations that there is a bias in favour of immigrants correct?
A recent study by the IPPR thinktank attempted to show that such allegations were based on a myth. The headline was that less than 2 per cent of social housing residents are people who have moved to Britain in the past five years. However, most of those people don’t qualify for social housing. The only ones who do are the 72,000 granted asylum or humanitarian protection.
The fact is that between 1999 and the end of last year, the number of foreign-born tenants in social housing increased from 800,000 to 1.1 million -a rise of 38 per cent, according to the Office of National Statistics.
At the same time, the number of UK-born social tenants fell by about 1.2 million. As a result, the proportion of foreign-born social housing tenants rose from 7.2 to 11.1 per cent -an increase of 54 per cent. And that is without taking account of the 1.5 million migrants who arrived in the past five years.
So, what about allocation? We suggest adjusting the rules so that only in exceptional circumstances should new immigrants move ahead of UK-born applicants who have close connections with an area and have been on the waiting list for years.
This is broadly the policy in the Netherlands and it looks as though the government has come around to that view itself, given its most recent local guidance.
Sir Andrew Green is chairman of Migration Watch.