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Why do we need so many more houses? Immigration


THE thirty years after the Second World War saw millions of housing units built. Bombed-out, poor and temporary homes (prefabs) were replaced by units more fit for purpose. By the end of the 1950s, around 15 million units were under construction nationwide and 22 New Towns were built between 1946 and 1972.

We are now seeing the prospect of construction on a scale not seen since that post-war period. Last year, house-building was at a 30-year high and the government was heading towards its target of 300,000 homes per year in England by the mid-2020s, with more than 240,000 properties added to the housing stock in 2018/19. 

There is, however, a considerable difference between the post-war need for additional housing and today. We are not now talking about replacing hovels and slums, nor about replacing homes destroyed by enemy action or that have been put together like a Meccano set. Today’s housing needs are driven by population growth not seen for a century. Homes that went up in the 25 years or so after WWII were primarily for British folk and their offspring. Around 80 per cent of the additional housing required in the past two decades has been directly or indirectly driven by immigration. 

Yet immigration is repeatedly overlooked as one of the main reasons for our having to build more and more houses. The fact is that if immigration runs at the level of last year – just over a quarter of a million per year, as it very likely will following the introduction of the cunningly manipulated Points-Based System – we will need to build nearly 300 homes every day solely as the result of immigration to England alone.

Indeed, a little over half (57 per cent) of extra homes needed in England until the early 2040s would be due to immigration; 107,400

every year or one every five minutes. The impact of arrivals from abroad would drive the need for nearly 2.7million homes between 2018 and 2043, equal to about nine cities the size of Glasgow.

These conclusions follow our analysis of an official dataset. This was released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) after we drew attention to the fact that their most recent household projections did not include the usual ‘zero migration’ scenario. Without zero migration figures it is not possible to calculate the impact of immigration on projected housing demand.

The pandemic, with its lockdowns and impact on international travel, has of course meant fewer people coming here. This will not last. As I have written before on these pages, the government’s serious weakening of work visa rules for people in four-fifths of all countries, together with crumbling enforcement and the introduction of yet more uncapped avenues into the UK, will very likely lead to increased immigration post-Covid.

Immigration clearly has a massive impact on housing demand and yet it is all too often ignored in commentary on the housing crisis. The arrival of the equivalent of a new city from overseas every year can only add hugely to pressure on communities up and down the UK. Ultimately, it will result in the bulldozing of swathes of countryside and threaten green belt land intended to be free from development.

When it looks as if about half the homes needed to meet England’s soaring housing demand over the next 25 years will be the result of immigration, it is staggering that the political class are virtually silent on the matter. Reducing immigration is essential if the elimination of green space is to be slowed down significantly. When green space goes, it’s gone for ever.

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Alp Mehmet
Alp Mehmet
Chairman of Migration Watch UK, former British diplomat.

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