Social Housing in London: What is the True Story?

January 01, 2013

There have long been suspicions that the public have not been told the full story about the impact of immigration on the queues for social housing. Research by Migrationwatch into the situation in London, published today, confirms that there are important questions to be answered. It finds that less than half the new lets by London councils included the nationality of the tenant.

The housing crisis that has developed in London means that the waiting list is ten times the number of new lets each year. That means that many, especially those with smaller families, will never get into social housing. One fifth of all social housing in London is occupied by foreign nationals yet there has been little public debate on who should get social housing. Only a small proportion of the people that apply will get social housing. That is why it is vital there is an open debate and transparency about who should get it.

It is important to be clear that the debate should be about foreign nationals, not the foreign born. Many of the latter have become British citizens and, of course, should be treated like any other British citizen. However, foreign nationals are those who have not even been in Britain long enough to qualify or who do not wish to become citizens.

There can be no debate without the facts yet there are serious gaps in the information available. One third of new lets by London’s Local Authorities are not even recorded in the official CORE data [Continuous Recording of Sales and Lettings] while others submit data but without the nationality of new tenants. Indeed, four London councils who, together, own a quarter of London’s local authority owned stock do not submit any information at all.

It is particularly striking that, when two other London Councils were challenged by Migrationwatch, the nationality data virtually disappeared in the returns that they submitted to the government the following year. Councils are legally obliged to submit data to CORE but can get away with omitting nationality on the claim that this particular question is not compulsory.

Commenting, Sir Andrew Green, Chairman Migrationwatch UK, said “It is deeply unsatisfactory that the information on new lets should be so chaotic given the huge importance of this issue to so many families. The government must make the nationality question compulsory. This could provide the basis for a renewed debate on the criteria by which social housing should be allocated”.

Commenting on the Migrationwatch report, Frank Field MP and Nicholas Soames MP, Co-chairmen of the Cross Party group on Balanced Migration, said “This is a huge issue for many people. The government must now launch a full enquiry into what is going on in the allocation of social housing in London.”

See Briefing Paper No 7.15

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