The Brexit vote has already led to speculation that there will be more controls over immigration and on migrants’ eligibility for services such as welfare benefits and social housing. Nothing will change in the short term and timescales are not yet known, but here we sketch out some of the key issues about housing need and eligibility for housing which will have to be addressed.

How much does EU migration affect housing demand?

If Brexit goes ahead, and EU migration is reduced significantly, this could have a considerable effect on household growth and therefore on future housing
demand. Across the UK, in any one year, about half of new migrants are from other EU countries. In England, net migration (the difference between numbers coming in and going out) accounts for37 per cent of the projected growth in numbers of households over the next 25 years, hence demand for extra homes. In Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, in contrast, migration is projected to have little impact on household growth.

However, the current household projections were made before the referendum. Obviously, all are now subject to revision once it becomes clearer what future levels of net migration might be. There is speculation, for example, that there could be a surge in EU migration in the next two years, by those wanting to take advantage of the right to enter the UK before it is curtailed.

Apart from new migration, there are nearly three million citizens of other EU countries already living in the UK (excluding those who already have UK citizenship). Some 70 per cent have lived here for more than five years. It seems likely that all – or a majority – of those already here will be allowed to stay. If they do not, it will create severe problems for construction and other industries where many are employed. Social landlords may want to consider creating training programmes in construction skills for their tenants, to help fill the gaps.

How does demand from EU migrants affect social housing tenancies?

Most new EU migrants enter the private rented sector and, even if eligible for social housing, are unlikely to get a housing allocation until they have been in the UK for several years. Overall, 15.9 percent of EU migrants are in social housing compared with 17 per cent for UK nationals. In terms of new social lettings each year, only four per cent go to nationals from other EU countries. If new rules were to deny social tenancies to new EU migrants,the effect on supply would therefore be very small (although it would be greater in areas where more EU migrants currently live).

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