Migration, housing & planning

This paper by John Burnett of the Institute of Race Relations examines the likely impact of the recent UK legislation on housing, planning and migration (Housing and Planning Bill 2015 and the Immigration Bill 2015) on the inner-city communities of multicultural Britain.

The discussion paper argues that:

• The legislation appears aimed at a rapid social restructuring. This culmination of attempts by Labour-and Conservative-led governments to codify social entitlements in Britain, link rights to responsibilities and exclude certain categories of people from rights altogether, will see multicultural neighbourhoods increasingly broken up and displaced.

• Extremes of poverty in inner-city neighbourhoods will be exacerbated, leaving children among those increasingly vulnerable to destitution. Local authorities will have no duties to assess provision for Gypsy and Travellers when assessing housing need.

• The extension of the ‘hostile environment’ principle which underlies immigration policy will lead to a deterioration in the quality of life for BAME communities. A climate of suspicion and mistrust will develop as those from BAME communities are forced to prove immigration status before receiving services.

• Vast new powers will be accumulated by government agencies responsible for administering the legislation. At the same time, mechanisms to scrutinise and hold measures which will expand the powers of immigration officers yet further, continue a commitment to integrating immigration enforcement within mainstream services and criminalise undocumented workers, rendering them ever more vulnerable to exploitation.

• The housing bill includes measures which will end secure tenancies, force the sale of property – transferring public land into private hands – and ultimately force rents higher in an upward spiral. Whereas the former is focused on addressing who can reside in the country, the latter addresses who can reside where. And in doing so, the impact of the act on the poor and marginalised will be devastating. The elderly, victims of domestic violence and those with health problems will be left vulnerable by the phasing out of secure tenancies. Some 60,000 people, it is estimated, may be unable to remain in their home as a result of ‘payto-stay provisions’. Families will be separated. People in receipt of disability allowance, for example, may be penalised.

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