Headlines: April 11th, 2008

There is no evidence that foreign migrants are being given precedence over local people in the allocation of social housing, according to new research. The findings in an interim report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Local Government Association are based on data from the Labour Force Survey which gives a snapshot of local authority housing allocation.

The report was commissioned from the Institute for Public Policy Research to help to establish whether the system for granting tenancies was prone to systemic bias. Full results will be published later this year but the report shows that while new migrants represent about three per cent of total population they make up less than two per cent of the number of people in social housing.

The authors say that neither qualitative analysis of local authority policies, nor an examination of patterns of tenure give any evidence to support claims that recent migrants get preferential treatment. In fact 90 per cent of people living in social housing were born in the UK. Most new migrants, particularly from new European Union member states such as Poland, cannot claim entitlement to social housing. The report also dismisses suggestions of queue jumping or abuse of the system.

The study found that more than 60 per cent of people who have come to the UK in the last five years live in private rented accommodation. At the same time a Local Government Association survey of housing managers found two thirds of them blamed the shortage of social housing in their areas to high house prices with only six per cent seeing new migration as the reason for the problem.

Trevor Phillips, Chair of the EHRC, said the findings were an indication that the system was working fairly for all groups broadly speaking. “What’s clear is that there is a gap between supply and demand of social housing of which the presence of immigrants is a relatively small element, but often a highly visible one,” he said.