Government denies immigration causes housing shortage

Government rejects claims that immigration is causing the housing shortage
Government rejects claims that immigration is causing the housing shortage

The government has dismissed claims that the recent increase in immigration is the main cause of the current housing shortage.

A new report from conservative think tank Migrationwatch says the government has seriously underestimated how many new migrants would arrive in Britain each year.

As a result, it says ministers failed to make proper allowance in their housing plans, leading to the current shortage of affordable homes in the south of England in particular.

However, the Department for Local Government and Communities (DLGC) has rejected this analysis, saying the surge in single-person households, and a drop-off in the amount of new homes being built, is the main cause of the country's housing problems.

The claims come as a council in south Lincolnshire warned that unless the government increased the number of homes in the area to deal with the influx of migrant workers wanting to settle, there would be social unrest.

A survey by South Holland district council found that despite tensions with local people and concerns about their employers, many of the migrants coming to the area - a number which has increased almost tenfold in the past three years - want to stay.

Terry Huggins, chief executive of South Holland district council, said the workers were needed but warned the lack of available housing "will cause tensions between people".

"Whenever there isn't sufficient supply of something, those that are competing for it tend to generate tensions between themselves," he told Today.

"We want the communities to work together and to live together in harmony, and that will only be achieved if we are able to provide for the whole of the population."

In today's report, Migrationwatch notes that the government's 2000 household projections were based on the 1996 population projections, which assumed net international immigration of 65,000 a year.

Plans for the number of new homes needed were worked out accordingly, but the think tank says net international migration between 1996 and 2004 has actually averaged 140,000 a year.

"Our report clearly demonstrates that the highest levels of immigration in our history have been deliberately encouraged without proper consideration of its consequences," said Migrationwatch chairman Andrew Green.

"We have failed to build the houses that we need to keep pace with immigration and, looking ahead, we shall have to build about 1.5 million extra houses in the next two decades simply in order to house the immigration now officially expected. Incompetence on such a scale is hard to believe,' he said.

However, a DCLG spokesman rejected the report's conclusions, saying: "Migrationwatch are wrong about the pressures on the housing market.

"While immigration is of course a factor in population growth, the biggest cause of rising demand is people living alone. The number of single person households has increased from 2,977,000 in 1971 to 6,447,000 now.

"A rise in people living by themselves will account for 72 per cent of annual housing growth to 2026. Alongside rising housing demand the level of new house building has halved over the last 30 years."


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