Post Brexit – don’t let the racists divide us!
Hands Off Our homes note with regret the recent rise in racist scapegoating following the Brexit vote last month. People voted ‘leave’ for a whole number of reasons, not simply immigration. For many it was a protest against worsening social and economic conditions and a political elite who care nothing for the plight of those at the bottom of the pile. Nevertheless, the 57% increase in racist attacks since the referendum shows that racists are intent on interpreting the result as a green light to do their worst. Only days after the result a Polish shop keeper in Bramley was rushed to hospital after being subject to a racist tirade and told to ‘Leave this country’.
When talking to people in the street, or going door to door, Hands Off Our Homes campaigners often encounter arguments which put the blame on migrants and refugees for the lack of affordable social housing. Given the current climate, Hands Off Our Homes would like to set the record straight on the real causes of the housing crisis with a few facts:
- The current housing shortage is the fault of successive government policies, not immigration. 1.6 million council homes have been sold off since Right To Buy was introduced in 1980, and many more lost through demolition. Council house building has all but ground to a halt, when at its peak (1953) 220,000 were built in a single year.
- Leeds used to be one of the largest suppliers of council housing in the country, with a council stock that peaked at over 100,000. This has been halved to its current level of 57,000.
- Migrants and refugees do not have preferential access to what remains of our social housing stock. Those eligible for social housing go on a list like any other UK household. Once on a list, councils operate a points or banding system, which gives priority to certain types of households. All use assessment of needs, for example, household size and economic circumstances. There is no evidence at all to suggest that special arrangements are made to allow migrants and refugees to ‘jump the queue’.
- Recent studies have actually shown that migrants are less likely to occupy social housing. 74% of recent migrants are living in privately rented accommodation. It’s estimated that 91% of new social tenancies are being granted to UK-born citizens.
- The chartered Institute of Building has pointed out that caps on immigration will harm house building rates, as not enough British born nationals are trained for construction careers, and migrants have been filling the gap.
- Migrants pay more in taxes than the cost of services received – revenues that could be channelled into house building, schools and hospitals – if the Government actually had the will!
Things are certainly bad, but racist scapegoating can only make things worse. The Tories’ Housing Act is set to turn a housing crisis into a housing disaster. A successful campaign to prevent this means building opposition in every neighbourhood and community, bringing together all tenants – indigenous and migrant. It also means taking on the racists and their divisive arguments. If they succeed in turning tenant against tenant, the only winner will be the Government and their project of eliminating social housing altogether.