Housing conditions, homelessness
and social housing
173. Many local authorities giving evidence to
usBelfast, Slough, Westminster as well as the LGAexpressed
concern about the increased vulnerability of A8 nationals in poor
quality overcrowded homes sometimes with a high fire risk (pp 404,
274, 278, 259). One authority, according to the LGA, put the costs
of inspections to tackle this issue at £400 per property
174. Slough Council told us that it has evidence
of a rapid increase in the number of households with multiple
occupations. Currently, it has 1,050 such homes on its records.
The council calculates that it will take over £400,000 of
new funding to make these homes meet legal requirements"
(p 274). Mr Sampson of Shelter suggested that, in the
short term, overcrowding could have negative spillover effects
for other properties in the area (QQ 357, 358).
175. Given the evidence that some immigrants
have moved into properties suffering from a poor state of repair
and/or overcrowding, the Government should assess whether its
housing standards are being compromised and whether more inspections
176. So far, demand from immigrants for social
housing has been relatively low, partly because many immigrants
are not eligible for social housing upon arrival (NHF p 224).
The NHF reported that, from April 2006 to March 2007, 4.3% of
a total of 150,522 housing association lettings were taken up
by non-UK nationals including 1% by A8 nationals. A8 nationals
were more likely than others to report a loss of tied accommodation
or racial harassment as the reasons they needed help with housing.
The NHF said that overcrowding in previous accommodation was also
often cited as a problem (p 224).
177. Although many immigrants are renting accommodation
privately, there is a knock-on effect for local authorities' social
housing provision. Westminster City Council told us: "There
is a considerable degree of competition for rented housing accommodation,
in which pool the city council also fishes for its own social
housing provision. So it makes it much more expensiveit
is an indirect effect, not a direct cost" (Q 449).
178. As A8 immigrants do not have the right to
social housing until they have been employed in the UK for one
year, many A8 nationals without a home are not formally classed
and counted as homeless. Only a few hundred A8 immigrants were
recorded as homeless in 2006. Mr Sampson said: "That
number of people who are formally accepted as homeless is likely
to increase over time as those new economic European migrants
gain rights" (Q 360). Hammersmith and Fulham Council
said a minority of new immigrants have found themselves unemployed
and living on the streets, placing a burden on publicly funded
hostels and day care centres. The largest local homelessness project
in the borough has recruited Polish-speaking workers (p 467).
179. According to a survey carried out by Westminster
Council in 2006, around half the rough sleepers in central London
are A8 immigrants (p 279). A survey by Homeless Link found
that among rough sleepers in Greater London, 18% were from the
A8 countries, Bulgaria or Romania..
Mr Sampson said that in Hammersmith and Fulham about 50%
of recognised street drinkers are European immigrants. "The
vast majority of shelters that are on offer to them can only be
paid for by housing benefit" (Q 360).
180. The present and likely future scale of
homelessness among A8 and non-EU immigrants should be thoroughly
assessed as a first step to determining the implications of recent
immigration for social housing provision.
Wider welfare issues
181. In addition to its direct impact on the
housing market, increasing population density raises wider welfare
issues with consequences for the living standards of UK residents.
For example, the English countryside is an environmental amenity
of great value and a substantial rise in population, however caused,
is likely to diminish it. Rising population density will also
increase the demand for infrastructure including roads and airports,
decrease the per capita living space available to residents, and
reduce the space available for public parks and green fields.
Although some of these developments can be opposed on environmental
grounds, many of the wider welfare consequences of rising population
density are highly subjective and difficult to measure. Different
people will have different views about whether or not an increasingly
crowded environment is desirable.
182. It is also clear that, given the uneven
distribution of net immigration and population density across
the UK, some of the issues arising from increasing population
growth are of greater concern in more crowded areas of the country
such as the southeast of England. As Mr Portes of the DWP
pointed out: "If everybody wanted to live in London and the
South East that would have quite different implications to a much
more even spread" (Q 524). Scotland, which is considerably
less crowded than England, has set a policy of attracting immigrants
to work and live there to stem the decline of the population and
reduce its dependency ratio(pp 501-02).
183. Despite their partial subjectivity and regional
concentration, the wider welfare consequences of rising population
density need to be considered in a serious manner, as many of
them will involve economic consequences. For example, Lord Turner,
in his LSE lecture, explained how a home owner, faced with a new
noisy motorway or rail line nearby, would often be compensated
for the loss in value of their home. Such compensation costs will
rise as population density increases, creating a clear economic
impact. Failure to compensate fully for the loss of individuals'
welfare in such cases will, according to Lord Turner, lead to
more "Nimbys" (Not In My Back Yard), who attempt to
block public infrastructure and transport developments. Lord Turner
argued that Nimbys are more prevalent in Britain than France or
the US due to the much higher population density in the UK. It
is thus the UK's higher population density, rather than its planning
system, which often makes it much slower and more costly to build
large infrastructure projects compared to other countries.
184. Lord Turner also suggested that a higher
population density makes trade-offs more difficult, for example,
between the need to build more roads to cope with the transport
needs of larger population and the environmental damage, such
as noise and loss of countryside. Although such trade-offs exist
everywhere, Lord Turner argued that they become even more difficult
in countries with higher population density.
185. In addition to its direct impact on the
housing market, rising population density creates wider welfare
issues and consequences for the living standards of UK residents.
These wider welfare issues are potentially significant but in
practice difficult to measure and, in part, highly subjective.
They do, however, involve economic impacts on, for example, the
cost and speed of implementation of public infrastructure projects.
It is therefore important to include them in the debate about
the economic impacts of immigration. Yet the Government appears
not to have considered these issues at all. These wide-ranging
impacts should be assessed urgently and the conclusions reflected
in public policy as appropriate.
64 Statement by the Prime Minister on Draft Legislative
Programme, 11 July, 2007, Hansard, Column 1449. Back
New projections of households for England and the regions to 2029,
Department for Communities and Local Government, 16 March 2007
Also see The Impact of Recent Immigration on the London Economy,
London School of Economics and the City of London, July 2007,
p 33-35 Back
Goldman Sachs Global Economics Paper No. 159, Europe's Immigration
Boom: Causes and Consequences, July 26, 2007, p 11. Back
Homeless Link, Central and Eastern European Rough Sleepers in
London: Baseline Survey, February 2008. Available at: http://www.homeless.org.uk/policyandinfo/issues/EU10s/basesurvey Back
Lord Turner of Ecchinswell, 'Do we need more immigrants and babies?'
London School of Economics, 28 November 2007. Back