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Migrants Renting Problems

Most migrants aren`t eligible immediately for social housing and even if they are - may struggle to get an allocation from a council or housing association.

Most migrants arriving in the country rent their property from a private rental market.

Migrants represent one part of the private rental market, often concentrated in poorer-quality and cheaper dwellings. It is precisely this part of the sector that is now under extraordinary pressure from many different directions. Changes in the local housing allowance system are making it harder for tenants to afford rents and many may start to look for cheaper accommodation. In many areas, rents are increasing rapidly in response, in spite of the rapid recent growth of the sector.

Migrants need access to the sector in part because the other main sectors (home-ownership and social housing) are not readily available to them, and in part because of its flexibility and relative affordability. Usually new arrivals normally access private lettings through employers or through family or friends. Few make use of high street agencies or mainstream advice services through local authorities. Many are ignorant of their rights or scared of exercising them in case they lose both their accommodation and their job. While this evidently works, it means that lettings are often informal, possibly without legal agreements, and sometimes involve unconventional arrangements such as putting people in outbuildings or obliging them to share with strangers. If tenants have complaints, they may be too intimidated to pursue them (if they face losing their job), and unaware of their rights or of agencies that could help them.

If houses are multi-occupied and poorly managed, this affects not only the residents but also their neighbours, causing tensions in an area. In some places, property conversions by landlords responding to demand from migrant workers have occurred so fast that it has overwhelmed the resources of the local authority and others to tackle the resultant problems. These and the environmental problems associated with heavy use of multi-occupied properties can lead to neighbourhood tensions and poor relations between migrants and settled residents.

The difficulty in helping them is that they often find accommodation informally or through employers, don`t use official advice centres and may find it difficult to report high rents or poor conditions. A councils and housing associations are trying to improve migrant`s living conditions. While the media has given plenty of attention to the position of many vulnerable households, the position of migrants in private renting has been neglected. That’s why the Housing and Migration Network decided to launch an investigation into migrant housing conditions in the sector and how they can be improved. It`s latest report, Migrants and the Private Rented Sector, is aimed at housing bodies but is also vitally important to migrant organisations and for lobbying the government about the need to consider migrants housing conditions.


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