Shortage is not fault of migrants

A common argument by those campaigning to leave the EU is that uncontrolled migration is putting a strain on housing.

With many young people struggling to get on the housing ladder, the line sounds initially plausible.

But the argument is simply wrong: I speak as someone who for the last 30 years has worked in the construction industry with a close connection to house building.

While migration from the EU does boost housing demand a bit, it also creates wealth that could be used to build homes, if only the government took the necessary steps to make this happen.

Indeed many of the builders electricians and plumbers we need to build houses are having to come from the EU because we have not enough born here in the UK.

The growing need for housing is driven by an increase in the number of UK households.

Some of the factors are people simply living longer, and the breakdown of households after divorces or couples splitting up.

Around 232,000 new households will be formed a year until 2033, according to the UK Government estimates.

EU migrants will account for only 20 per cent of this, with non-EU migrants responsible for a further 15 per cent, according to a study by the Centre for European Reform (CER).

Britain needs to build between 230,000 and 300,000 new homes a year, according to recent reports.

The snag is that we aren’t meeting those targets.

Even in the boom years before the recession, the Labour government was only managing 220,000.

In 2014/15, Britain built 152,000, though David Cameron has pledged to increase this to 200,000 by 2017. Solving the problem will require action on multiple fronts.

Brownfield sites need to be cleaned up so new homes can be built there.

At a housing planning meeting organised very helpfully last week by Rother Environment Group in Bexhill, we heard a local architect arguing persuasively that in urban areas we should be building more intensively.

Those vacant flats above shops in many town centres should be used for people to live in.

Developers should be persuaded to build homes rather than hoard their land banks.

Bad policies are the main reason why Britain doesn’t have enough homes.

While leaving the EU might cut migration a bit, it would destroy the wealth that could be used to build new houses.

Our housing problems are not the fault of EU migrants. They are the fault of successive UK governments.

Stephen Hardy

George Close


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