Immigration policy causing housing-related poverty, Generation Rent tells UK Parliament

Generation Rent has responded to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Poverty and the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Migration’s call-for-evidence on the link between immigration, asylum and refugee policy on poverty.

We have identified numerous polices associated with the government’s hostile environment that are significantly limiting access to safe and secure housing for migrant communities, especially people who are refugees.

According to April 2023 research conducted by Generation Rent and Migrants Organise found that:

  • Nearly three quarters of migrant private renters had struggled to find somewhere affordable to rent.
  • 40% of migrant private renters had struggled to find the money for a deposit.
  • Over 2 in 5 had struggled to find a landlord or letting agent to rent to them as a migrant.

A survey participant, Kasia, said: “We were told that we will get good references, because we were good tenants, but right now you just cannot find any house for rent in this area. And we just cannot move further away because my daughters just started university and my husband has to work here, and money spent on transport would make living this year really hard. I have no idea what we will do.”

The effect of migrant private renters being financially excluded from many of the privately rented homes on the market is that many are forced to live in unsafe, inadequate properties, rented by poor quality landlords and letting agents.

How does this affect poverty?

Living in these poorer quality properties carries with it significant additional cost of living expenses, which often cannot be afforded by those struggling with their financial income. Firstly, the homes which are accessible to migrant peoples are disproportionately more expensive to heat due to their poorer energy efficiencies. Almost three quarters of our survey respondents had seen their energy bills increase in the last 6 months, with the median increase being £75 more per month.

Secondly, tenants living in privately rented homes, who are disproportionately migrant peoples, are particularly vulnerable to rent increases, especially substantial and unexpected rent increases. Within our research, almost 2 in 5 respondents had reported a rent increase in the last six months before completing the survey, with the median monthly increase being an additional £130.

Finally, our research indicated that migrant private renters, living in the lower quality end of the rental market, were more vulnerable to evictions and the associated financial costs of moving to a new tenancy. 3 in 10 respondents reported that they had been threatened with an eviction by their landlord at some point. Generation Rent’s own research indicates that the average cost of an unwanted move is £1,700. Recurrent evictions and unwanted moves can, and do, become extremely expensive and financially draining.

What is preventing migrant communities from accessing safe and secure homes?

Numerous policies contribute to the issue of migrant groups struggling to access safe and secure housing with their financial incomes.

The ‘no recourse to public funds’ policy means that people seeking asylum are denied access to the benefits system. This, combined with the asylum seeker work ban, means that this group of already vulnerable people are unable to build up a financial resilience required in the UK’s unaffordable and short-supplied private rental market.

As well as this, landlords are legally required by the government to check their tenant’s immigration status to confirm that they have a right to rent in the UK, commonly referred to as Right to Rent checks. Although landlords and agents must not make assumptions about who has the right to rent, government research found that 25% of landlords were unwilling to let to non-British passport holders.

Finally, there is a real danger that the government’s hostile environment policy is encouraging distrust and discriminatory behaviour towards migrant peoples – especially in a housing context, from landlords and letting agents.

In a particularly harrowing account within our research, one respondent, Peter, recalled: “[The] landlord tried repeatedly to illegally evict with violence to force entry, once with the help of the police who smashed the door in and demanded to see ID in the hopes it would lead to an eviction without court.”

There was a widespread perception amongst participants in the research that much of the poor treatment they had experienced from landlords and letting agents was a direct result of them being migrants, and therefore perceived as easier to exploit, ignore and evict.

What needs to happen?

The government must:

  • Bring in a Renters (Reform) Bill which reaches through to all renters.
  • End the hostile environment policy, including ‘no recourse to public funds’, the asylum seeker work ban and Right to Rent checks.
  • End the outsourcing of Home Office-provided accommodation for people seeking asylum.

Read the full report here.

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