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Housing, population and immigration: the facts

New build on a greenfield site: a familiar sight across Britain, but building new houses while letting immigration rip means a permanent crisis. Photo nikonpete/shutterstock.com.

There’s a whole industry dedicated to ‘proving’ that importing workers into Britain is an undiluted good. Tell that to young people looking for somewhere even remotely affordable to live…

The effect of immigration on housing is profound. It increases the overall demand for homes at a time of very restricted supply. It affects the overall cost of housing, whether it be social housing, privately rented or owner occupation.

While landlords and housing developers profit, the resulting exploitation of workers, who find themselves paying more and more to maintain a roof over their heads, is creating real social misery.

Such statements about the impact of immigration should be uncontroversial. But in Britain today to say such things is to risk bringing down the wrath of social media, because anything that suggests that mass immigration is not a massive benefit for Britain is pilloried as racism.

Even the term “mass immigration” is attacked as racist, although what other term would do for a situation where net migration into Britain last year was some 750,000 people? That’s not a trickle.


Yet the facts speak for themselves. The massive expansion in the demand for housing is wreaking havoc across the country.

In 2018 the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government published research into the reason for the increasing cost of housing in England. It concluded the cause was that increasing demand was outstripping the available housing stock.

And it put a figure on that relationship. Its analysis showed that an increase of 1 per cent in demand from new households resulted in 2 per cent rise in house prices in real terms. That amounts to a 32 per cent price increase in real terms over the previous 25 years.

The analysis concluded that two-thirds of this increase was a result of demand from the 5 million migrants who had come to Britain. This increase was unevenly spread across the country – with a greater impact in some areas, such as London, where immigration was higher.

What is happening with house prices is important, but so too is the private rental sector. That’s the main source of housing for young people living on their own, particularly those moving from their native towns to the big cities.

The private rental sector is even more important for the swelling numbers of immigrants. According to data published in 2022 by Oxford University’s Migration Observatory, almost two-thirds of EU-born people living in London were renting privately. What effect is this having on prices?

It’s an interesting question, but facts are hard to come by. Even the Migration Observatory cautions that much depends on the statistical approach taken.

Private rents

But it is undeniable that private rents are rising, and rising – especially in London, where they now typically account for 30 per cent of renters’ average household income.

Even that daunting figure hides the fact that millions of renters are in house and flat shares, even room shares, at an age when most would have imagined that they might be living on their own. According to Trust for London, to rent a one-bedroom home in London typically costs 46 per cent of gross median pay – in other words, of the average salary before tax.

‘The £70 billion support for private rentals is about six times what the government will spend on social housing…’

Who can afford to pay this kind of money? The answer is that many can’t. They can only pay the rents because the government – the taxpayer – is subsidising their rents. The independent New Economics Foundation revealed in January this year that the government is set to spend £70 billion on housing support for private rentals over the next five years.

That £70 billion into context is about six times what the government will spend on social housing over the same period.

How much of the housing shortage is down to immigration is impossible to quantify with any precision because the data doesn’t exist. (And why not is an interesting question in itself.) But it’s hard to escape the logic that expanding the population while the housing pool stagnates will inevitably lead to price increases.

And certainly private renting is much more common among more recent immigrants. When the Migration Observatory looked at the Office for National Statistics’ Annual Population Survey for 2019 to 2021 it found that 37 per cent of foreign-born residents were living in private rented accommodation, as against 14 per cent for those born in Britain.

The Office for National Statistics has shown that between 2000 and 2015 the number of households where the head of household is UK born has remained reasonably stable – only a 2 per cent increase over those 15 years. The number of homes with a foreign-born head has increased by 90 per cent or, an additional 1.6 million homes.


But all this is historic data and is becoming out of date; calculating the demand for housing in the future is becoming extremely problematic. This is mainly due to the unknown levels of future immigration.

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government at the time of its 2018 research considered a figure of 250,000 net immigration a year to be the highest parameter necessary when calculating the range of their predictions.

More recent reported levels of immigration, at treble that number, have resulted in predictions by others of eyewatering levels of additional housing need. By 2046, these levels would result in the need to build 18 new cities the size of Birmingham to meet the increase in demand.

The argument that there has always been a need for an increase in the supply of housing of various kinds is correct. But we are in an ever-worsening situation where this increasing demand means that the prospect of renting or owning a decent home is rapidly evaporating for many people.

And failing to acknowledge the link between increased population and the cost of housing – or even to debate it – prevents any progress. A cap on immigration, build more houses and increase the housing stock would be a start.

And we don’t necessarily need to line the pockets of rapacious developers building on profitable greenfield sites to do so. In 2022 there were over 675,000 vacant dwellings in England – nearly 250,000 of them vacant for more than 6 months. That’s an increase of around 15 per cent since 2013 – over 86,000 more empty dwellings. These are enormous numbers. In comparison around 205,000 dwellings were built in the entire UK in 2022. And the latest figures show that, if anything, the position is worse in 2023.


A planning system focused on housing need and which encourages the use of empty properties, refurbishment of older properties and development on brownfield sites would be a positive step. But any action on those lines would be bound to fail in the face of a rapid and uncontrolled increase in population.

So much for the real world. Out in the unreal world, where immigration is seen as the salvation to all Britain’s problems, there are people who complain that a cap on immigration would harm house-building, ignoring the pressure on farmland and nature. And the employers love this talk. So too does the government.

In March this year the government scrapped the Shortage Occupation List for skilled workers. Instead, it has come up with the Immigration Salary List, which does much the same thing. And straight onto this list went Stonemasons and Related Trades; Bricklayers; Roofers, Roof Tilers and Slaters; and Carpenters and Joiners.

Housing is just one area which illustrates the unsustainable impact of mass immigration on infrastructure and resources. Immigration, touted as a solution to our problems by the ruling class, supported by those who are least affected, has simply added to the problems of workers who are in competition for these limited resources.