Study 'ends myth' of housing for immigrants

By Daniel Bentley,Press Association
Sunday 23 October 2011 05:39

Claims that immigrants are given priority access to social housing have been dismissed as a myth by the equalities watchdog.

A study for the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found that only 1.8 per cent of social tenants had moved to the UK within the past five years.

Some 87.8 per cent were UK-born and 10 per cent foreigners who had been living in Britain for more than five years.

The study, based on previously published figures from the 2007 Labour Force Survey, was conducted by the centre-left Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) think tank.

Its report, commissioned by the EHRC, comes amid heightened concern about gains in recent elections by the British National Party (BNP).

The far-right party spread rumours in target seats that immigrants were given precedence in the queue for social housing accommodation.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown last week announced plans to allow local authorities to give priority to local people, in what was seen as an attempt to head off BNP claims.

The IPPR found no evidence of queue jumping or abuse of the system by immigrants but warned that those perceptions were widespread in certain areas.

EHRC chairman Trevor Phillips said: "We have to recognise that people's perceptions are powerful, so it's vital that social housing providers and policy makers work to foster understanding about what is really happening on the ground.

"Much of the public concern about the impact of migration on social housing has, at its heart, the failure of social housing supply to meet the demands of the population.

"The poorer the area, the longer the waiting lists, therefore the greater the tension.

"Government and social housing providers need to work with the communities they serve to address these issues."

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