Impact of immigration greatly understated in housing projections

July 20, 2003

'Building more homes is not a panacea and the impact of such a housing programme on the environment could be unsustainable.'

House of Commons Committee, ODPM: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the regions, April 2003

Estimates of the number of new homes required in England over the next 20 years have been seriously underestimated because they do not take into account the current levels of immigration, says a new report out today.

The report, from think-tank Migrationwatch, says that a detailed analysis of household projections for England from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for the period 1996 -2021 reveals that the figure of 65,000 for net migration included as part of their calculations has now almost trebled.

By 2001 the figure for England was above 172,000 a year, excluding illegal entrants, leading Migrationwatch to conclude that in the period 1996-2021 a total of 1.8 million new households will be required - attributable solely to inward migration - or 1.1 million more homes than the Government currently predicts.

Using the same methodology as the government, the report finds that, as a consequence, for every four existing homes one new home will be required in London and the East, South East and South West of England by 2021 - a significantly higher percentage than these regions had anticipated, resulting in further pressure on greenfield sites and the infrastructure.

Even using the Government's assumption of net migration of 65,000
people a year, immigration will account for 700,000 new homes in the period 1996-2021.

There is currently great concern about the Government's plans for development in the South East, particularly its plans for developing Ashford, the Thames Gateway, the Stansted-Cambridge corridor and Milton Keynes - the so-called "development areas".

But the number of dwellings planned for these areas by 2031, at 800,000, only just exceeds the number of households created by 2021 through net migration of 65,000 a year. A Commons committee has estimated the cost of infrastructure for these development areas at £20 billion and questions the viability of the plans.

'The government is sleepwalking into a massive housing crisis. We will have to build nearly 4000 new houses a week just to meet the additional demand. Great concern has already been expressed over the effects that the original plans would have on the environment and on our quality of life,' said Sir Andrew Green, Chairman of Migrationwatch. 'Indeed the House of Commons Committee recognised that even on the original figures the effect on the environment could be unsustainable.' (See above quote)

Sir Andrew said that, irrespective of asylum seekers, the Government has opened up a number of other avenues, notably a massive expansion in work permits and an open labour market for new East European members of the EU. These make it very likely that the present rates of net inward migration will continue, or even increase, and with it the pressure for development.
On present patterns ¾ of migrants settle in London or the South East.

Thus the development will take place in areas which currently have the lowest number of empty homes, the highest house prices and the least supply of previously developed sites. London and the South East are already the two most densely populated regions of England - and amongst the most densely populated regions in Europe, he said.

These housing pressures exacerbate the problems for the public sector workers, by increasing demand for housing, and making homes unaffordable - thus making it even more difficult to recruit and retain key public sector workers in London and the South East.

'The Government has clearly failed to consider the huge cost of providing infrastructure when calculating the economic impact of migration,' said
Sir Andrew.

'Continued immigration on this massive scale will have serious consequences for our quality of life and, eventually, for the whole nature of our society... It is time for an open debate and for the views of the public to
be heard,' he said.

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