Saturday, 26 July 2014

Time for change

Last week shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper gave a speech on immigration setting out New Labour’s immigration policy plans following their humiliating fourth place in the Eastleigh by-election and criticism of their stance on migration during their years in office. The census clearly shows that the decade preceding 2011 saw the greatest rise in the population in England and Wales in any 10-year period since census taking began growing by 3.7 million or 7.1 per cent. Some 55 per cent of this growth is due to immigration, immigration that primarily occurred under New Labour’s watch. Thus it is no surprise that the party want to demonstrate a clear break with their previous approaches. Concerns about access to social welfare, and impact upon housing markets are at the forefront of fears about immigration.

Pressure on housing and neighbourhoods tends to be concentrated in already deprived urban areas. Described by Tony Travers (academic and journalist) as escalator areas these are the places where new migrants arrive when first in the UK knowing that they can source cheap accommodation, find their feet with the help of co-ethnic groups and stay for a short period until they source better housing elsewhere. Certainly there is evidence that in some areas heavy concentrations of new migrants have restricted the availability of entry level housing, led to the development of unregulated HMOs, and pushed rents and house prices up. It is also clear that some landlords have been quick to cash-in on migrant housing demand by inflating rents, overcrowding properties, and neglecting fire safety and routine maintenance.

Some rural areas have also seen extensive changes. Rural Lincolnshire has seen some of the largest rises in the numbers of migrants of all of the UK with increases outstripping those in London and other cities. Again these increases do impact on house prices while lack of housing availability contributes to an explosion in the use of non-standard accommodation with migrants sometimes living and working in sheds and greenhouses or crammed into caravans and mobile homes. Migrants are often the victims of these problems rather than the cause but the net result is increased population density and a deteriorating environment and housing stock.

As Yvette Cooper is at pains to point out this exploitation of migrant workers requires strong action against rogue landlords and perhaps an increased role for environmental health officers or the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, both of which have experienced austerity cuts.  But like her coalition colleagues much of the emphasis in the shadow home secretary’s speech is upon greater controls and limits, strong action against ‘illegal’ migration and short and long-term action on intra-EU migration – the latter a clear attempt to pander to UKIP voters.

Cooper fails to acknowledge that not only has the UK already become a country of immigration but, like the rest of the EU, we have entered an era of superdiversity where we have already witnessed unprecedented global movement and increase in diversity. In the 21st century mass migration is not a British problem but a global trend. We are part of this flow with 1 in 10 our population living overseas. Our purchase of property in areas such as the Spanish Riviera and lush hills of the Dordogne have impacted upon local housing markets in the same way they have in rural Lincolnshire and inner-city Birmingham. Movement and change are the new norms.  While we might want to slow these movements down by strengthening our borders we cannot turn back the clock. 

We need to acknowledge, understand and plan for change. In urban escalator areas this may mean working with the private sector to provide transition accommodation that is safe, secure and short-term. In rural areas we might work with farmers who are highly dependent on seasonal migrant labour to develop decent temporary accommodation. Embracing and planning for change means we can provide good quality accommodation for migrants and plan proactively, rather than reactively, developing solutions that help reduce overcrowding and maintain the quality of both housing stock and neighbourhoods.

Dr Jenny Phillimore is director of the Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS) at Birmingham University’s School of Social Policy

Readers' comments (41)

  • Progressive Solutions Required

    Well done for recognising the global and modern realities in this.

    1 in 10 British now residing abroad - an astonishing statistic those demanding repatriation of all foreigners need to grasp, considering reciprocal expulsions would need to be catered for. It is not just the glitzy stereotypical locations for these ex-pat either. High numbers of Brits buying property in Bangladesh for instance have priced out the locals from their own communities. Across the ascending European nations, Brits are gobbling up cheap properties. Yet in none of these nations do Brits encounter the negativity of the JackBoot UK mentalists.

    But back to the global perspective.

    Rather than dressing the symptoms how about addressing the cause of the social problems indicated.

    1. increase the supply of socially rented housing so that the indigenous and qualifying population (as per current regulation) have sufficiently available housing.

    2. increase the basic wage so that those same people can have more choice and options so that they do not have to fall prey to the abusive employers and private landlords.

    3. work with our global partners to stabilise and level up incomes so that fair pay is as global as the free market opportunities available to those with more economic power and choice.

    4. avoid the knee jerk leaving Europe bandwagon and instead use the power and scale of the community to achieve fair incomes and affordable homes across the whole of the community - let's equalise upwards instead of racing to the bottom for once.

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  • Melvin Bone

    'we have entered an era of superdiversity'

    We've been here for a while...Where have you been?

    'They don't moan about us we should not moan about them' is not a great argument.

    Do you know anyone with a holiday home in Romania?

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  • Where is Gavin Rider ?

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  • Progressive Solutions Required

    Not personally Melvin, although I could make enquiries of former colleagues who are Romanian and have mentioned Brits buyinh property in their home town (a perilous activity if you are not up to speed of the rather odd land ownership laws in that country!)

    But I could put you directly in touch of people with available property in Bulgaria, Turkey and Poland if you are really interested Melvin.

    The British attitude of seeing foreigners as a sub species against the more human attitude of our EU partners seems an accurate argument at least!

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  • Gavin Rider

    P Righteousness - I was off scanning the Bangladesh equivalent of RightMove for a hot property to buy.

    (not)

    "High numbers of Brits buying property in Bangladesh for instance have priced out the locals from their own communities."

    Really Chris?

    These "Brits" wouldn't perhaps be Bangladeshi ex-pats by any chance, would they, who have made loadsamoney in the UK and are now going to "export" it back where they came from (thus not helping the UK economy quite as much as it is claimed they do)?

    "The British attitude of seeing foreigners as a sub species"

    PMPL!!!

    What a crock of proverbial! You love inventing extremist views in others, don't you Chris?

    "Yet in none of these nations do Brits encounter the negativity of the JackBoot UK mentalists"

    What the heck does that mean?

    Do you mean that these nations have not yet had their property markets inflated beyond the reach of normal locals by the investment activity of Buy-To-Letters and second home owners the way we have here? They have plenty to look forward to then.

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  • Gavin Rider

    Chris says "Well done for recognising the global and modern realities in this."

    ...realities such as...

    "the decade preceding 2011 saw the greatest rise in the population in England and Wales in any 10-year period since census taking began growing by 3.7m or 7.1%. Some 55 per cent of this growth is due to immigration... Concerns about access to social welfare, and impact upon housing markets are at the forefront of fears about immigration".???

    Is this the same impact of immigration on housing that I have previously been talking about, only to be harangued mercilessly by Chris over it?

    Methinks there is a little inconsistency in Chris' position. Fancy that.

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  • Gavin Rider

    "Our purchase of property in areas such as the Spanish Riviera and lush hills of the Dordogne have impacted upon local housing markets in the same way they have in rural Lincolnshire and inner-city Birmingham."

    Errrrr... I think not. People who retire abroad and generally go to live in rural or coastal areas, often buying up derelict buildings to redevelop them or simply buying land in a scenic spot where they can build their retirement home DO NOT have the same impact on the housing market for local people that immigrants moving into city centres in the UK have.

    Immigrants moving to rural Lincolnshire are, in general, NO WAY equivalent to the British people who move to the Dordogne from the UK. They are poor peasant farmworkers who, as this article points out, often end up living in caravans and sheds at the mercy of the gangmasters who exploit them and bus them from farm to farm doing work in the black economy.

    The argument that emigrants from the UK have an equivalent impact in their destination countries, implying "we are just as bad in terms as our impact on housing for local people as they are" is absolutely hilariously stupid!

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  • Gavin Rider

    It would be more appropriate to compare the impact of British emigrants on the local housing market in their destination country with the impact of retirees and second home owners on the housing markets in rural and coastal areas of England.

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  • If any change to NMW is needed - given global economy that we are stuck with - it's more likely we need to cut UK wages.

    Same applies to whole of EZ - as any levelling will need to be downward - if the zone is to compete with wages in the east - which currently are a sixth of UK adult NMW - or 1/12th of average UK wage.

    Essentially that translates to progressive fall in UK living standards for the foreseeable future.

    We also have the imminent horrendous upheaval from July when OBC is rolled out nationally. Likely that will lead to mass transfer of low/nil income families away from SE.

    Thereafter it is difficult to envisage anything other than workless ghettos in the cheaper ares which already suffer higher than average unemployment.

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  • Progressive Solutions Required

    If Realist is correct it will come as no surprise that the usual suspects queue up to agree that other people are earning too much and their living standards must be reduced, because of course our own incomes are never too high, nor our own living standards to lavish - it is only all those other people, the undeserving lot, who are to blame.

    Instead of arguing for a downward spiral we need to be campaigning for lifting up our fellow workers across the world, otherwise, just what is the point!

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