They Come Over Here, They Take Our Houses...

By Jonn Last edited 106 months ago
They Come Over Here, They Take Our Houses...

colville estate.jpg
Image courtesy of rutlo under a creative commons attribution licence
...except, it turns out, they don't. As Tuesday's report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) says, council house waiting lists aren't prioritizing immigrant families at all. In fact, less than 2% of social tenants arrived in Britain in the last ten years.

So why does this myth persist? It's easy - and, frankly, fair - to lay the blame on Daily Mail headlines such as this. But there's got to be more going on than that, surely?

According to Londonist's contacts in London's most BNP-friendly borough, Barking, there are two other factors at work here:

1) The waiting lists give priority to those in the greatest need. A family with three kids and nowhere to live is always going to get to the top of the list quicker than childless adults who are just sick of living with their mum.

Result: Local kids can't get homes, while families new to the area apparently can. The BNP whisper darkly that it'd all be different if they were brown.

2) That eighties classic, the right-to-buy, meant a lot of Barking's council homes were sold off to their tenants. Jump forward twenty years, and these make a great first step on the housing ladder for aspirational inner Londoners looking for a bit more space.

The locals, though, don't realize that these homes are now privately owned, and assume the council is just handing them over to any passing Nigerian.

Result: Local kids can't get homes, while families new to the area apparently can. The BNP whisper darkly that it'd all be different if they were brown.

The BNP are, of course, lying. (They do that.) But these lies ring true because - after decades of neglect - there simply aren't enough council homes to meet demand. Building rates collapsed under the Tories. Then, somehow, they dropped even lower under Blair, who'd convinced himself that - despite all historic evidence to the contrary - the market would provide. In 2006 there were just 250 new council houses. That’s not in London; that’s nationwide.

The government has, belatedly, decided to tackle the issue. But even if things go well that'll take years. Despite EHRC's best efforts, we suspect that myth isn't going anywhere any time soon.

Last Updated 09 July 2009