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Immigration: Housing

Volume 778: debated on Thursday 19 January 2017


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their estimate of the number of new homes that will be required for migrants in England in each year up to 2039 on the basis of the most recent high migration variant of the population projections published by the Office for National Statistics.

My Lords, the higher migration scenario of the department’s household projections shows that there are projected to be an average of 243,000 new households forming each year between 2014 and 2039. Net migration accounts for an estimated 45% of this growth. In the main scenario, there are projected to be an average of 210,000 households forming per year, of which 37% is attributable to net migration.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response. These are projections, not forecasts, but does he agree that the difference between projections can give you quite a good idea and that the other projection to look at is the one based on zero net migration? The difference between high and zero migration is 110,000 households being formed every year. That is 300 every day. To put the point slightly more dramatically, that would mean building a home every five minutes, night and day, for new arrivals until such time as we get those numbers down. I know there is a strong view in the House that there is a lot to be said for migration. All I am pointing out is that there are also costs.

My Lords, as I have indicated, just over a third of the growth in the main scenario is attributable to migration. It is a two-year cycle and we review the figures every two years. The next review will be at the end of this year, when some of the scenarios may well change because of the impact of Brexit over the period. But the noble Lord is absolutely right about the challenge of building more houses. That is certainly true, but most of it is not to do with migration.

Would the Minister not agree that, if we are going to be able to build enough houses for British people as well as migrants, we will need labour—and that most of that labour will come from the European Union?

My Lords, as I have indicated, there is a massive challenge. We are in regular contact with BEIS and the Construction Leadership Council, looking at the importance of skills in this regard. The Prime Minister has indicated that, regardless of leaving the European Union, we will still have a need for the best and the brightest in terms of work and apprenticeships. I absolutely agree with the general point that the noble Lord is making about the need for that to continue.

My Lords, people will recognise that many immigrants and refugees end up living in some of the poorest parts of our country. Can the Government tell us what steps they are taking to make sure that local councils have sufficient resources to support infrastructure in their communities, and also the special resources that people need when they are trying to acclimatise to a very different environment?

My Lords, the noble Baroness addresses a broader point. Some of that will be addressed by the Neighbourhood Planning Bill, which I know she is participating in, and some will be addressed in the housing White Paper that is expected shortly. We have of course committed money to infrastructure, which she refers to, but the Controlling Migration Fund also allows money for some of the challenges that local communities face.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that there is an unfortunate perception that migrants take our social housing, as it were, whereas the majority of migrants—over 74% of them, I believe—live in the private rented sector?

My Lords, the noble Baroness brings up a valuable point. Let us be clear: migration has contributed massively to the quality and diversity of life in this country. It is certainly not true to say that immigration has led to a drain on our resources.

My Lords, do the Government believe our National Health Service and our social care arrangements can survive—

My Lords, I have never denied that we need migrants; it is just that we do not want to go on letting in Bulgarian and Romanian gangsters at their will. Do the Government believe our NHS and social care can survive this sort of increase with their present funding arrangements, or do we have to consider something more radical for the longer term?

My Lords, if I may try to address the joint question asked by the noble Lords, Lord Pearson and Lord Foulkes, it is certainly the case that across broad sections of public life, certainly including the NHS, we are heavily dependent on people from the immigrant communities. There is no doubt about that. Net migration will probably fall as a result of Brexit, but it will be some time before that happens. Still, we face all sorts of challenges in seeking to address that.

My Lords, no Question Time is complete without a question on allotments. I know my noble friend feels very strongly about this. Unfortunately, I am blindsided on the particular impact of this issue on allotments, but I will ensure that she has a detailed response and I shall copy it to the Library.

My Lords, will the Government review the contracts with organisations such as G4S relating to the housing of asylum seekers and refugees? Under the Labour Government, those contracts required more than simply housing; they required an element of support for the tenants of those organisations. That changed under the coalition Government, and that is now imposing considerable pressures on local authorities and communities because there is not that visible support which formerly existed under previous contracts.

My Lords, the noble Lord raises an important issue in relation to asylum seekers and housing and services for them. I have experienced this in going around the country and visiting particular communities. I will write to the noble Lord, if I may, on the particular point about G4S, and again I will ensure that that is copied to the Library.

My Lords, given what the Minister has said about the continuing need for migrant labour in this country and the dependence, as recognised by the Government, of our health and social services on that labour, is it not time that noble Lords stopped blaming those who are suffering from the housing shortage and actually focused on the remedies for what has been a long-standing problem in this country?

My Lords, I assure the noble Baroness that I am not part of that blame culture: I do not do that and I am very committed to ensuring that we address the existing housing shortage. As she will know, we are committed to building 1 million homes in this Parliament and a recent National Audit Office report indicated that we are on target for that. As she and other noble Lords will know, there remains beyond that a massive problem to address, but we are seeking to do just that.

My Lords, my noble friend is right: there is a housing shortage, whether we focus on immigrants or first-time buyers. Can he assure the House that, in a new housebuilding programme, attention will be paid to last-time buyers as well as other groups in our ageing population?

My noble friend is absolutely right to address that issue and speaks with great experience. She may not be aware that in the Neighbourhood Planning Bill we intend to bring forward amendments to deal with that housing issue in local plans.