A new report has found that rather than taking housing from local residents, as critics often say, new immigrants tend to fill voids in the housing stock left behind or rejected by other households.
The report is published today (Monday) by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which examined the housing experiences of new immigrants in Sheffield.
Researchers found that concentrations of new immigrants in particular areas were more often the result of migrants moving into neighbourhoods that other households were leaving or avoiding, rather than any self-segregating tendency.
Problems, including harassment and abuse, were more extreme in neighbourhoods with little previous history of accommodating diversity and difference.
New immigrants were also found to have endured poor conditions in temporary accommodation upon first arriving in the UK, sometimes for many months. There were further problems with more permanent accommodation where basic material needs were often not met and people sometimes struggled to maintain, and in some cases lost, their housing and became homeless.
The research conducted in-depth interviews with Liberian, Pakistani, Polish and Somali immigrants and found that arrival experiences were largely determined by immigration status, the legal rights associated with this status and related opportunities. For example, Asylum Seekers were initially reliant on the National Asylum Support Service for accommodation and subsequently moved into social housing, once granted leave to remain. In contrast, Migrant Workers (who have restricted rights to welfare benefits) were reliant on the private rented sector for a place to live.
David Robinson, who conducted the research, said: "Little is known about the realities of life for new immigrants or the consequences for housing markets and social cohesion. This gap in understanding has been filled by speculation, much of which is challenged by our research findings. The new immigrants that we talked to were rarely skilled players of the welfare system. They typically had little choice and few options about where they lived and were often making do in poor conditions."
The report, The housing pathways of new immigrants by David Robinson, Kesia Reeve and Rionach Casey from the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research, Sheffield Hallam University, is published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.