May 25, 2007

Sector rebukes call for allocations policy to favour indigenous families over migrants

An attempt by senior Labour politicians to make housing allocation policy favour British families trapped on long waiting lists would face fierce opposition from housing professionals.

A call by trade and industry minister Margaret Hodge this week for indigenous people to be given a greater right to social housing than new migrants was criticised by the housing world. The issue has also created a rift in Labour’s high command with Keith Vaz, a member of its national executive committee, signing an early day motion describing the call to give British people housing priority ‘regrettable’.

Ms Hodge’s comments follow former home secretary David Blunkett’s suggestion that two housing waiting lists should be created. One should be set up for people in urgent need, the other for those who do not benefit from needs-based allocation regimes, he said.Labour party chair Hazel Blears, a candidate for the deputy leadership position, backed Ms Hodge’s call for a rethink on allocations policy.

Chartered Institute of Housing chief executive David Butler said the senior MP’s moves took housing ‘in a direction we don’t want to go in’.

‘For a government policy to allow people to come into this country and then deny them access to services is the wrong way to deal with this problem,’ he added.

Mr Butler said the real problem was the insufficient supply of social housing, something most senior housing professionals identified as the greatest source of community tensions in an Inside Housing survey (17 November).

MP Jon Cruddas, the Labour deputy leadership candidate whose Dagenham constituency borders Ms Hodge’s, said she was in danger of ‘racialising arguments over housing allocation’.

Barking & Dagenham Council’s director of housing David Wood rejected the suggestion that refugees and asylum seekers were given priority. He also said lack of supply was the main problem.

The mayor of London has also criticised the demands for a housing allocation policy that favoured the indigenous (see above).

David Lunts, the mayor’s executive director of policy and partnerships, said the number of migrants living in social housing was tiny. A spokesperson for the prime minister said that just 1 per cent of lettings in 2005/06 went to foreign nationals.

Karen Buck, Labour MP for Regent’s Park & Kensington, said she had ‘never seen an economic migrant in areas of high housing need that get housing first’.

‘The real issue is about supply,’ she added.

inside housing

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