Social landlords need to wake up to the needs of migrants in their communities
Time to get involved
Having done a lot of work in the past few years on issues affecting migrants and refugees, I’ve noticed that while many people in housing are sympathetic, they tend to think migrants are someone else’s problem.
The assumption is that migrants don’t qualify for social housing, but in fact one in eight people in Britain were born abroad. In inner London the proportion of those born abroad is more than 40 per cent. Surprisingly, the biggest recent increases in ‘new arrivals’ have been in places like Tyne and Wear, Merseyside and Scotland, outside the Glasgow region.
In other words, housing organisations across the UK need to be prepared to have migrants as customers, even if for the first few years they mainly find housing in the private rented sector.
It’s not surprising that many migrant community groups feel they are ignored by social landlords. As well as assumptions about housing eligibility, this also may be because the groups don’t fit the normal categories of black minority ethnic communities and aren’t in the same networks. Also, most migrant groups struggle with limited resources and depend on volunteers, so although they often need support, they don’t always have the time or experience to make links with formal bodies that might help them and who might already support similar kinds of community group.
But social landlords which aren’t engaged with their local migrant communities are ignoring a potential customer group and also, very likely, a proportion of their own customers. Migrants are often housed in the poorer end of the private rented sector and in low-income areas (Inside Housing, 8 June). They face exploitation and their arrival might bring tensions as well as benefits for poor neighbourhoods. They face multiple barriers in gaining access to social housing even when eligible for it. Social landlords can help tackle these issues.
Fortunately some councils and housing associations have excellent relations with migrant communities. They may provide premises or other support for emerging groups, support projects or community buildings that bring together new arrivals with established residents, or have made sure that migrants get relevant advice if they come to them for help. The Housing and Migration Network found more than 40 practical examples for the guide we published last week. If you aren’t included, please take a look at what other housing organisations are doing and check out whether you could pinch some of their ideas.
John Perry is a policy advisor at the Chartered Institute of Housing and a member of the Housing and Migration Network