Research finds no bias in allocation of social housing

by Richard on July 7, 2009

A central plank of the BNP’s recent electoral success has been their claim that immigrants to Britain get a better deal on social housing than British citizens do. Claims of asylum seekers jumping the housing queue and getting special treatment from housing officials have served to stoke up resentment and hatred in communities where immigrants have settled, exactly as the BNP intended. Fear and hatred are their stock-in-trade. Here’s a quote from their website by way of illustration. If you feel the need to read it in situ, Google is your friend.

It is equally important that the burden of foreign scroungers be dealt with vigorously. Britain has become a land where foreigners come first and decent, hard-working Britons are exploited. Immigrants come here and are immediately given council homes while Britons are pushed further and further back in the queue.

There’s a teeny problem with their rhetoric, though.

It isn’t true.

A study by the Equality and Human Rights Commission has demonstrated that there is no evidence that immigrants are able to jump the housing queue.

The research shows that within UK-born and Foreign-Born communities the proportion of people living in social housing is similar at around one in six people. It also reveals that many more recent migrants, those who have arrived in the past five years, have bought their own homes (17 per cent) than live in social housing (11 per cent).

Most new migrants to the UK over the last five years, particularly from the newer European Union member states such as Poland, have been ineligible to claim entitlement to social housing as they do not meet the criteria set by national legislation. Only new migrants who are a European Economic Area worker, have been given ‘settled’ or ‘refugee’ status by the Home Office, or have leave to remain in the UK, are eligible for social housing.

Despite the evidence, the public has a different perception of who gets priority for social housing. Focus group discussions held as part of the project exposed widely-held fears that the allocation process puts white British families at a disadvantage and that migrants are ‘cheating the system’. This myth is often at the core of discriminatory behaviour and contributes to tension and violence in many areas.

Of course, a little thing like ‘truth’ won’t put the BNP off their stride.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }


Kim 07.07.09 at 10:55 am

That’s the biggest problem in trying to persuade the ignorant: they are ignorant of their own ignorance, and they aren’t going to let awkward little things like facts get in the way of parading their ignorance as truth.


Earl 07.07.09 at 1:25 pm

Just a few quick questions. Is this report saying that 16% of the legal residents of England live in a subsidized apartment? Are these apartments complexes or are these apartments smaller constructions, ie., quad/duplex structures sited among more traditional private housing? Is there a limit to how long one may reside in such housing? What are the determining factors for being permitted to live in such housing?


Beth 07.07.09 at 3:24 pm

Is this report saying that 16% of the legal residents of England live in a subsidized apartment?
No, it’s saying that 16% of the legal residents of the UK live in a subsidized apartment.

“Are these apartments complexes or are these apartments smaller constructions, ie., quad/duplex structures sited among more traditional private housing?”
Some will be big blocks of apartments, some will be row houses, some may be semi-detached houses. Depends on how many people are in the household, what kinds of structures the local council has built or acquired, etc.

“Is there a limit to how long one may reside in such housing?”
I believe not - not when it comes to housing that’s run by a local authority, at least. As I understand it, the only grounds upon which a tenant can be asked to leave a council housing once it’s been allocated to them is breaching the tenancy requirements. This often comes down to anti-social behaviour.

“What are the determining factors for being permitted to live in such housing?”
I believe it’s open to anyone who cannot afford to buy or rent their own accommodation. But there’s a hierarchy of priority based on such factors as current or incipient homelessness, current poor living conditions, medical need, necessary ties to the area (e.g. you are the sole carer for a relative, or your child has to go to a special school), and risk of violence in your current accommodation.


Earl 07.07.09 at 3:43 pm

Thank you. My experience has been in New Orleans, LA and Atlanta, GA. I have had some limited time in Boston, MA. I have had some limited experience helping individuals and families find suitable housing. Base on limited experience, I have been concerned with what seems to be a “warehousing” of dependent persons. This is especially a problem with the very large high rise housing complexes.

Another issue with which I have had concern is the problem of how people move out of dependency on such housing and achieve self-sufficiency. Again, from personal experience, generational dependence on such housing does not seem to help children grow up with any idea that they have a better way of life. Then need for such housing is not debatable. But should such housing be permanent? Should dependence be encouraged? Should dependence be expected? Should there be time limits on such dependence?


PamBG 07.07.09 at 4:32 pm

The average cost of a house in the UK is £224,000 or $365,000 at current exchange rates. Of course this will vary widely by region and by type of accommodation.

A very small one bedroom apartment in the area of London in which I used to live costs about as much as the very large 3-bedroom condo we just bought in Northeast Ohio.

Where I live now - not a particularly expensive area of the country - you could get a standard 3-bedroom semi-detatched house (about 1100 square feet) for about £180,000 (about $293,000)

*I* think that the UK has a structural problem with the price of housing.


Earl 07.07.09 at 5:07 pm

In any market, the cost of housing is driven by supply and demand. If the price of the housing stock in England is above normal market expectations, it may be a result of speculation (bubble), or it may simply reflect the willingness of persons to pay higher prices than was previously the accustomed norm. Certainly such high prices are good for property owners in England. And if such high prices are sustainable, it will be good for purchasers of such property. The stratification that results is problematic. The realities of what wages are paid for what employment is available as well as what persons are available for work serve to limit how far people can travel between where they dwell and where they work.

The current slump in the U.S. housing market reflects overbuilding and speculation driven by unsupportable govt. homeloan policy. The result is that a great deal of property is now available at attractive prices. It is a good time for homebuyers who have cash available. It is not a good time for those who need to sell a home.


DH 07.07.09 at 6:11 pm

Earl you are on a roll. Perfectly said. Keep up the great analysis. :)


Earl 07.07.09 at 6:25 pm

What is really interesting is to move into a housing market where demand is increasing. My daughter is currently pursuing her under-graduate degree. Upon enrolling, rather than opting for a campus apartment, she went off campus and rented the top floor of a old Victorian home. She is now sub-letting one bedroom to another student. The rent from that room almost pays the rent for the entire apartment. Both my daughter and her friend are happy with the arrangement as it benefits them both financially. I think my daughter may have a developing understanding of how to deal with supply and demand.


PamBG 07.07.09 at 9:33 pm

Gosh, Earl, your daughter is just so enterprising.

And the fact that there are more people in the UK who want land than there is land available is not a structural issue. It’s all about speculative bubbles and supply and demand. I see that now. How could we be so stupid? We should be investing somewhere that’s going to be up and coming. Northern Finland, perhaps.


DH 07.07.09 at 9:50 pm

Pam, I’m glad that you have seen the light. Why should the daughter be forced to live on campus and pay higher prices when off campus housing is lower? It makes no sense to “force” students to do something that hurts them in the long run. We all know students have a tough time already financially than to all of a sudden “force” them to live on campus. I say hogwash.


Tony Buglass 07.07.09 at 10:02 pm

“Why should the daughter be forced to live on campus and pay higher prices when off campus housing is lower? ”

Force? Who said anything about force? My youngest son did his law degree at Lancaster University. He chose to spend the whole three year course living on campus. It was convenient, so he was prepared to pay the cost. That was his choice. Others moved off campus and lived in town - it may have been cheaper, it may have suited their other social needs, whatever.

You’re jumping the gun a little. People choose to pay for what they want, as far as they are able. I could afford a bigger car than I do, but I choose not to - I like my 1.4 turbo-diesel, in terms of performance, fuel consumption, and low emissions. I see lots of gas-guzzlers, show-off 4×4s, who will use twice the amount of fuel as my car and cost about twice as much as my car. Those drivers aren’t forced to buy them - they choose, because of the status symbol (ie show-off status) they want. I think they’re idiots. They don’t care.

As far as student costs are concerned, it’s partly what they’re prepared to pay, partly what they’re able to pay. Student loans don’t go too far, and parents may not be able to help out - mine certainly couldn’t when I trained. It’s also about market forces - what landlords think they can charge. It’s all a bit more compicated than you suggest - and not always to the benefit of the students’ education.


Kim 07.07.09 at 10:34 pm

I think my daughter may have a developing understanding of how to deal with supply and demand.

I’d get that seen to. Does your private health insurance cover it?


Earl 07.08.09 at 12:53 am

We are proud of our daughter. In many ways she demonstrates a great deal of common sense. Many young people would be so much better off if common sense really were common. Regrettably such common sense is actually rather remarkable.

My knowledge of real estate is specific to my area. Here land is not difficult to obtain, unless one wants a premium location. In buying any property one should buy based on what one wants to accomplish, ie., purchase of a primary home, rental property, retirement income, vacation/summer home, etc.

Regarding student housing, my daughter began with campus housing which was required of first-year students. The dorm and later the apartment were chaotic. The pricing was also unrealistic given the age and quality of the facilities. Prior to her second year of school, my daughter located the off-campus apartment, negotiated the price with the landlord and then called to tell me what she had done. I think that such practical life living skills will serve her well in whatever field she enters.

The days are long gone when women can expect a man to take care of them. The ability to exercise critical judgment and make wise decisions is something everyone needs to have well in hand. My daughter has managed to learn from some sad mistakes made friends and acquaintances. She is not unique. But we are thankful that she has managed to gracefully transition to responsible independent adult living as she pursues her undergraduate degree. Until she graduates and is employed, we are fully responsible for her healthcare needs.


Kim 07.08.09 at 7:47 am

Common sense is overrated. Einstein said that “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.” It is nonsense and foolishness that save (cf. I Corinthians 1:18ff.). If Jesus were prudent, there would be no gospel, which releases us from the tyranny of utility and effectiveness. “Prudence,” wrote Blake, “is a rich, ugly old maid courted by Incapacity.” Blake, of course, was considered mad.

Speaking of my own kids, if they had any sense, my son, at thirty-one, wouldn’t still be living in a crappy flat in Bristol and trying to make ends meet as he struggles to be a writer, nor would my daughter, at thirty, be making a pittance as a lawyer doing child protection work for a city council.

Of course, Earl, I wish your daughter every blessing as she pursues her studies and her career. But I pray that, at least occasionally, she won’t make it to the top floor on a Saturday night but rather wake up on Sunday morning at the bottom of the stairs with a hangover.


PamBG 07.08.09 at 3:57 pm

My knowledge of real estate is specific to my area.

Thank you. Now we’re getting somewhere.

If we don’t assume that what pertains in our own market and environment and if we don’t assume that other people are being lazy or foolish because it doesn’t make sense in our environment, maybe we can actually have a conversation.


DH 07.08.09 at 4:25 pm

‘Tony, you said students aren\’t \”forced\” and you rebuked me for implying that. However look at what Earl said about student housing for his daughter: \”…which was REQUIRED of first-year students.\” That sure does sound a whole lot like \”forced\” to me. If people choose to pay higher and have a smaller room to be on campus that is fine but schools forcing or requiring students to live on campus I think is really ridiculous. If a school pursues this \”forcing/requiring\” then at least don\’t charge higher than the market for the housing.’


Earl 07.08.09 at 5:55 pm

Ever how it is defined, common sense has often been not well received by those who do not appreciate its conclusions. Thomas Paine found this to be the case with his little publication. So did King George. But common sense was not threat to government legitimately founded in freedom and liberty

Our children are more than the sum of their behaviors and choices. We celebrate them in love and hope. We pray for them and seek to encourage them. In the end, it is not unlike when we take the training wheels off their bicycle, help them get a running start and then turn loose and watch as they ride away. May God bless both your son and daughter in the pursuit of their chosen careers.
In any market, local issues impact how one proceeds. I am not aware of how anything I wrote stated or implied that anyone was lazy or foolish.

It was and remains the policy of the school that first year students are required to live in the on-campus dorms. The only exceptions are students who immediate family lives within 15 miles of the campus. The stated purpose of the policy is to enhance the learning experience by building a sense of community among the students. In their second year, most students leave campus housing to go off-campus. The cost, amenities, parking, location near places of employment and quality of apartments are the main issues cited.


fatprophet 07.09.09 at 6:34 am

I have been trying to comment on this post for a number of days but have been having problems with a number of blogs I comment on from time to time. I am conscious that the comments have gone off in a slightly different direction to the original post which was about supposed unfairness in the allocation of social housing.
I have worked in social housing for almost 30 years and in all that time there have always been suggestions that one group or another do better in getting properties that another. The reality in one sense is that this has never been the case as systems are in place to as far as possible ensure fairness and equity in allocation of housing.
In the case of the organisation I work for we used to operate a points system where points were awarded for the month and year you registered with this number reducing by one point per month and then extra points were awarded for shortage of bedrooms and other amenities. If a person came to the top of the list for a property it would be offered to them and they could refuse it. Three refusals meant their application would be frozen for twelve months.
The system changed some years ago to a choice based lettings system where again applications are prioritised according to circumstances of the applicant and there are three bands. The top band include people who are homeless or have a medical need, the middle band will be for people with lack of bedroom or amenities and the bottom band will be for others with no high priority. Properties are advertised and people express an interest in the property and if they are the applicant with the highest priority and earliest registration date they will be offered the property.
In respect of actual tenancies of properties there are different types of tenancy depending to some degree on the organisation offering the tenancy. Local authority tenants may have either a secure tenancy which would mean they could live in their property almost forever unless they breach the conditions of tenancy, or they may have an assured tenancy which is similar but has fewer rights (right to buy is not a feature of these types of tenancy). Housing association tenants may have an assured tenancy in cases where the organisation was formerly a local authority housing department or they may have a shorthold assured tenancy which can be for a fixed term or on a weekly/monthly basis. Tenants of private landlords will normally have and assured shorthold tenancy of a fixed period (usually six months).
There are also now starter tenancies where a landlord can offer a twelve month tenancy to see if the tenant behaves in accordance with the tenancy agreement – this can then be converted to an assured tenancy. There are also demoted tenancies where troublesome tenants can have their tenancy demoted which removes some of their rights.
I hope this gives you a feel for the situation and makes what is a very complex area a little clearer.


Richard 07.09.09 at 8:26 am

Always good to hear from someone who knows what they’re talking about, FP.


Tony Buglass 07.09.09 at 8:36 am

DH: ” If a school pursues this \”forcing/requiring\” then at least don\’t charge higher than the market for the housing.’”

Well, possibly, but it isn’t as simple as that. What it costs a university or college to maintain its plant (including halls of residence) may be very different from what it costs a local landlord to maintain a terrace house as student flats. It may also be that the pressure for places in town means he can charge a higher rent than would otherwise be supported by the market.

As to compulsion, well, I stand corrected following Earl’s clarification. It isn’t uncommon to have first-year students on campus, so they can get themselves established, then for them to move out and make room for the next intake. But most British universities do not compel it.


Earl 07.09.09 at 12:59 pm

Substantial taxpayer provided support gives the state university system a very real competitive advantage in building and maintaining its stock of housing. These new and existing housing units and the income which they produce are not subject to taxation, affording the university a competitive advantage in the operation of its housing stock, which of course is not the case with commercial housing. The university housing stock is priced parallel to commercial offerings of similar quality. Yet the majority of students leave university housing as they opt for commercial and private offerings. The only recently instituted requirement that first year students reside on campus is considered a strategy to bring more students into the university housing system. It is thought that these students will develop a preference for on campus living. One has to wonder why the university would think this an important concern.


Richard 07.09.09 at 2:21 pm

I read this, and an old proverb springs to mind: “When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail”.


fatprophet 07.09.09 at 4:13 pm

Thanks for the comment Richard, at least this is an area where I did not feel any degree of inadequacy when commenting. Sometimes I feel a little bit of a simpleton as I try to put forward what I always hope is a measured viewpoint on topics without the knowledge at times to quote lots of sources like some commenters. I could have mentioned relevant legislation but didn’t think that was necessary.

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