Monday, 1 January 2018

Don't blame migrants for lack of homes


The Liberal Democrats​ have published a shocking report revealing that 60,000 homes across the UK have been empty for over two years.

The information was obtained by the LibDems through Freedom of Information Requests to 276 councils across the country.

Their research also discovered that over 23,000 homes across the UK have been empty for over five years, and over 11,000 homes have been empty for an astonishing ten years or more.

LibDem leader, Vince Cable said today that it’s a "national scandal" that so many homes are being left empty when the country is in the middle of a worsening homelessness crisis.

The LibDems Press Office told me that their research showed that only one in thirteen councils are making use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO). 

These are powers that can be used by local authorities to take over properties that have been empty for at least six months. 

The LibDem research discovered that there are over 216,000 homes across the country that have been empty for six months or more

Paul Haydon, Senior Press Officer for the LibDems said, “Only 19 of the 247 councils in England and Wales that responded had used an EDMO in the past five years. Of these only six had used one in the past year.”

He explained that the EDMO powers do not apply in Scotland.

The areas with the largest number of homes empty for six months or more were Durham (6,502), Leeds (5,724), Bradford (4,144), Cornwall (3,273) and Liverpool (3,093). 

“Many of these areas also suffer from high levels of homelessness,” said Mr Haydon.

Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable commented:

“At a time when the homelessness crisis is worsening and more and more people are sleeping out in the cold on our streets, it is a national scandal that thousands of homes across the country are sitting empty.

“These homes could be turned into affordable places to live for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

“The Government needs to urgently review the current system which is clearly not working.

“Councils need to be given the powers and resources to bring empty homes back into use.

“This must form part of a wider package to tackle the housing crisis, including building more homes on unused public sector land and clamping down on land-banking.”

But a new report by the anti-immigration pressure group, Migration Watch, has blamed migrants for the current housing crisis.

They claim that eight out of ten of all new households over the past 15 years were made up of migrant families, “which is the overwhelming reason for the pressure to build millions of new homes.”

This was disputed by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, who told the Commons that, “two-thirds of housing demand has nothing to do with immigration” and was down to natural population growth.

Migration Watch alleges this is ‘entirely false and misleading’.

The Migration Watch report states, ‘Consider eight Polish men in their twenties who arrived in England in 2012 and live together in a shared house.

‘Together they currently form one household. However, as they age and perhaps settle down with partners and have children they will go on to form up to eight separate family households.’

Migration Watch boss Lord Green told the Daily Mail: “We have a major crisis over housing affecting huge numbers of people, especially the young. 

“Yet the focus of debate is still on supply; nobody dares talk about demand and its principle driver, immigration.

“Our paper breaks new ground in pointing to this central, if uncomfortable, truth.”

But whatever the merits of the Migration Watch report (and I’ve had issues with the veracity of their ‘research’ in the past) it’s nasty to blame one group of people who need homes to live.

Why blame migrants for needing homes? Does it mean there are no British people needing homes too? Why blame anyone who needs a home in Britain? 

It’s not those in ‘need’ of homes that should be blamed. 

The blame is with those who are preventing the supply of sufficient homes to accommodate all the people who live in our country (whatever their nationality).

And now, thanks to the LibDem research, we know the shocking truth: tens of thousands of homes in the UK are lying empty. 

Councils could use existing powers to make those homes available to people who need them (whatever their nationality) but have failed to do so.

EU migrants in the UK – indeed the majority of migrants in the UK – are making a significant net contribution to the Treasury and our economy. 

The vast majority of them are in gainful employment. It’s not their fault if the country doesn’t have enough available homes to accommodate all the people living here.

It’s our government’s fault. 

To blame Polish people, or any nationality, for the homeless crisis in the UK is nasty, xenophobic and accuses people who are not to blame.

Shame on Migration Watch. 

Shame on our government and local councils.

Well done the LibDems for taking the effort to contact every council in the UK to find out the truth. 

We need more truth and less scapegoating of migrants.

• Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/peter_curb/
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Other articles by Jon Danzig:

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