Mark Harper the immigration minister was one of the panellist on BBC Question Time last week. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03dy8wl/Question_Time_17_10_2013/) so obviously immigration issues were on the agenda.
“Massive effect on public services… housing.”
“We cannot take any more… we are full.”
“Pressures on public services… housing… immigration.”
In many people’s mind the problem of housing shortage and immigration are clearly linked and it therefore becomes all too easy to blame migrants.
But that’s dodging the issue. Just for a moment put the immigration issue on one side and simply consider housing.
One of the most devastating impacts of the housing shortage is homelessness. There are 75,000 homeless people in the UK, but for each homeless person there are almost ten empty houses – with an estimated 710,000 empty houses in the UK. (http://www.emptyhomes.com/statistics-2/empty-homes-statistice-201112/). How many more are effectively empty because they are second homes?
Professor Alex Marsh in his personal blog earlier this year highlighted the lack of effective housing policy in what he called, “Aggressive intolerance as a substitute for aggressive housing policy?“
He goes on to highlight that, “overall… immigration is not the key driver of dwelling population imbalance” and notes that credible evidence seemingly has little impact on the immigration debate.
I worry that as we creep nearer to an election politicians will utilise safer, simplistic arguments around immigration rather than be brave enough to challenge the public by debating the real issues and causes for concern such as inequality, unemployment, housing, education and health.