Question #6 – Did the arrival of Eastern-European migration cause our housing problems?
Britain’s housing crisis began long before the expansion in immigration, although it may have exasperated housing problems to a degree; it has not ’caused’ them. The Housing Act in 1980 allowed more than five million council house tenants the right to buy their home, it also disallowed local councils from using the money from the sale of council houses to build new homes. By 1998 over 2 million council houses were sold under the Right to Buy and related policies. Today, a third of ex-council homes sold in the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher are now owned by private landlords.
Also contributing to the housing shortage and rising rents was: the abolition of rent controls, a choice by successive governments to subsidise private landlords, a lack of investment in affordable social housing, foreign investors buying properties to use as a safe haven for their money/ to profit from its increasing value, vast amounts of property being left empty, and huge a release of house purchase credit – which has left many families unable to buy; forcing them into the renting sector.
The EHRC study found that of newly arrived migrants between 2003 and 2009, including those from Poland and other Eastern European countries, more than 60% were living in privately rented accommodation, 18% were owner-occupiers, and only 11% had been allocated social housing homes. In terms of the overall proportion of new lettings, out of 170,000 new council or housing association tenants in 2006/07 in England fewer than 5% went to foreign nationals and less than 1%went to east Europeans.