David Cameron’s plan to limit the availability of social housing for non-EU immigrants will be ineffectual and fuel intolerance, campaign groups and housing bodies have warned.
In a speech on Monday, the prime minister said the government will impose tougher rules on councils to force them to write allocations policies that prevent people going on their waiting lists unless they can prove they have lived in the area for at least two years. Exceptions will be put in place for British nationals who have moved from another area.
Communities secretary Eric Pickles later said government figures showed 9 per cent of social housing lets went to foreign nationals in 2011/12. But housing professionals argued the lack of housing means waiting lists are long and that immigrants don’t get special treatment.
John Perry, policy advisor at the Chartered Institute of Housing, said: ‘It’s already impossible for a new migrant presenting themselves at a housing office just to be given a house, so it’s difficult to know what [Mr Cameron] had in mind, given how difficult the housing situation is and how long it takes to get a home.’
Under current guidance councils are encouraged to include local residency tests within their allocation policies, but the new rules will introduce a requirement that all councils should have such policies.
The Local Government Association said councils should decide how to meet housing need.
Habib Rahman, chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, dismissed the move as ‘rhetoric’. He added: ‘The real effect of this speech will be to further increase the intolerance and the hostile reception that immigrants are facing from some sections of society.’