Pickles welcomes tough new housing rules to control immigration

The Queen’s Speech outlined new measures which will help tackle illegal immigration and ensure those living in the private rented sector have leave to remain in the UK, Department for Communities and Local Government has said.

First set out by the Prime Minister David Cameron in March, the new legislation will stop rogue landlords cashing in from renting homes to illegal migrants. The new rules will ensure fair play in taxpayer-funded social housing, Department for Communities and Local Government said.

Welcoming the proposals, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said it was right that action was taken to tackle rogue landlords who unscrupulously target and exploit migrants, and to make sure local people are prioritised for social housing, reducing the number of people who are living in the UK illegally. He said these measures will help tackle the ‘pull’ factors which have led to unsustainable immigration.

But Mr Pickles was also clear that in making these changes, the government will avoid burdening the private rented sector with excessive red tape and will not adversely affect UK nationals looking to rent.

Ministers want to tackle the widespread perception that the way social housing is allocated is unfair and favours foreign migrants over local people and the armed forces.

One in six of all existing social housing tenants in London are now foreign nationals, and across England, almost one in 10 of all new social housing tenancies are given to foreign nationals.

The new rules will therefore ensure that councils give priority to local people when allocating their social housing.

Ministers will introduce new statutory guidance for councils, requiring them to amend their allocation policies to ensure only those with a well-established local residency and local connections will go on the waiting lists and qualify for a taxpayer-funded social home.

Councils will be required to make exceptions to support members of the armed forces who apply for housing, who may not have established local residency due to the nature of their work.

At the same time ministers want to ensure tenants in private rented housing are not living in the UK illegally. The government is already working with councils to tackle rogue landlords who exploit immigrants by housing them in ‘beds in sheds’.

Many private landlords already make checks on tenants’ identity and credit status, making it difficult for illegal migrants to rent properties from them. But not all landlords do that, and a small minority of rogue landlords knowingly target illegal migrants who are not in a position to complain about sub-standard accommodation.

The Immigration Bill, introduced in the Queen’s Speech, would require future private landlords to make simple checks on new tenants to make sure that they are entitled to be in the country. The government will ensure that UK nationals are not adversely affected and avoid red tape on honest landlords in the private rented sector.

Mr Pickles said landlords could play an important role in making it harder for illegal migrants to live here, and would receive support from public bodies such as the UK Border Agency to make the necessary checks. The new checks would complement the government’s ongoing work on ‘beds in sheds’.

“The public don’t like the way that taxpayer-subsidised social housing is allocated, when foreign migrants can benefit over local people and members of the armed forces,” Mr Pickles said. “This perception of unfainess undermines community cohesion and fuels further unsustainable immigration.”

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