Daily Mail twists housing figures to blame migrants for shortage
The Daily Mail have managed again to combine two of their obsessions, migration and housing, in a highly misleading article that suggests, yet again, that migrants are preventing existing residents from getting social or council housing. Luckily the Financial Times has journalists who know how numbers work and don’t trade in scare stories – I am indebted to @StatsJournalist Kate Allen for alerting me to the data behind Steve Doughty’s nasty little piece.
The claim is that nearly 500,000 council homes (the article clarifies in the text that this includes all social housing) have been allocated (“given” is the term inaccurately used) to “immigrants” (although as Kate Allen points out, the data relates to people born abroad, which stretches from Boris Johnson to many children of armed services personnel) in the past decade.
The real story about housing and migration is this. People born outside the UK are much more likely to live in rented accommodation than people born here, because they are poorer. Of those living in rented accommodation, most people born abroad are in the less beneficial private rented sector. And what we need to ease the waiting lists for social housing isn’t less immigration, it’s more social housing – we need to build more homes people can afford.
The Mail doesn’t point out that seven times as many people born in the UK live in social housing as those born outside, nor that the predominant form of housing tenure for those born in the UK (33 million to 15 million) is home ownership (among those born abroad, the ratio is 3 million to 4 million – they mostly rent.) One reason why people born outside the UK are more likely to be in social housing than people born here is because they’re poorer, and that’s why they concentrate in the least advantageous forms of housing. There are ten times as many native-born homeowners than foreign-born, eight times as many social renting natives, and just over twice as many native-born as foreign-born private tenants.
It’s also worth noting that the more recent the arrival, the more likely foreign-born people are to be private tenants. two thirds of those who arrived before 1981 own their homes (surprisingly similar to the domestic population), but nearly two thirds of those who have arrived since 2001 are private tenants. One in seven recent arrivals are in social housing, compared with one in six of the native born (again, exactly the same proportion for those who arrived before 1981). Not surprisingly, the longer people live in the UK, the more they behave just like those born here.
However, in one of those ironies of right-wing populist politics that gets people at the Mail chewing the carpet, part of the crackdown on immigration that the coalition Government is presiding over – by making private landlords less likely to rent to migrants – will force more recent arrivals into homelessness, thus triggering the requirement on local authorities to provide them with social housing. So a direct result of the Government crackdown on immigration will be an increase in the proportion of social housing going to migrants!