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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

Migration, asylum and refugees

Last updated Date:15/01/2013

Migration, asylum and refugees


Migration has been a controversial issue in recent years – it was the public’s second biggest concern at the time of the last election. Its impact on housing is one aspect of this, with widespread accusations that migrants get unfair access to social housing.

In practice, while people who came to Britain years ago become eligible for and get allocated social housing, most recent migrants are either ineligible or aren’t in sufficient need to qualify for housing or homelessness help. At least three quarters of recent migrants are in private rented accommodation.

Successive governments have both tightened the rules about migration generally and those that apply to housing and to access to welfare benefits. The present government aims to reduce net migration drastically and has made a range of changes to the rules about migrant workers, students and family members. However, it can do little about migration from other countries in the EU, and it has to meet international obligations to give people humanitarian help through the asylum system.

Our view

CIH does not take a view on whether migration is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ but tries to take a realistic approach which recognises that levels of migration might change but that globalisation inevitably creates pressures which mean people want to move to countries like the UK. Government should recognise the pressures placed on housing and on relationships in neighbourhoods, and support housing providers accordingly.

CIH has been part of the Housing and Migration Network run by HACT, JRF and the Migration Foundation, which aimed to put forward practical answers to the issues raised by migration. The Network published policy and practice papers on UK Migration: the leadership role of housing providers and UK migrants and the private rented sector . In June 2012 CIH published, on behalf of the Network, a practical UK guide to Housing and Migration which can be downloaded from our website. CIH hopes housing professionals will make active use of the guide to work with migrants in their housing and in their communities, and would welcome feedback on it. All of the Network’s publications have been written by CIH Policy Adviser John Perry.

CIH also manages the Housing Rights website, which gives detailed guidance on housing entitlements for people with different kinds of immigration status, in England, Wales and Scotland. In July 2012 it was updated to include information on issues such as helping non-UK nationals who are discharged from the UK armed forces.

The impact of migration on the UK housing market is the subject of a special article, with graphs and charts, in the current UK Housing Review 2011/12 .

With HACT, CIH ran the Opening Doors project [link] which brought together housing providers to develop and implement different solutions. It publishes a range of guidance on these issues and has made representations to government, for example about the problems of destitution among migrants and the case for allowing asylum seekers to be allowed to work.

CIH contact John Perry

Get involved

Migration policy is a fast-moving area where the CIH often needs to respond quickly to new developments. We are always interested to hear our members’ views, and in particular to learn about local issues or good examples of projects which tackle migration issues.

Related documents

Housing and migration: A UK guide to issues and solutions Housing and migration network June 2012

UK migrants and the private rented sector Housing and Migration Network February 2012

Housing rights website

UK migration:the leadership role of housing providers

CIH response to Reforming asylum support: effective support for those with protection needs 

CIH - Hact Opening doors project



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