In 2010, HACT, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) and Metropolitan Migration Foundation jointly established a network, which focused exclusively on migration and housing. The purpose was to bring practitioners and policy makers from the public, private and charity sectors together to share their knowledge on housing and migration and discuss different aspects. They were interested in the dynamics of changing neighbourhoods as well as the impact of migration on housing. “Having new migrants in the neighbourhood can cause problems. Sometimes they are not aware of how things are organised, how to recycle the waste or neighbourhoods have to deal suddenly with overcrowded accommodations, which can lead to public nuisance. Those things have to be managed locally in the neighbourhood to avoid conflicts”, as Heather Petch, member of the Housing and Migration Network, explained. Beside that it was obvious that new migrants had several difficulties entering the social housing sector. “We wanted to look at the neighbourhood and in addition to that on the housing needs of recent migrants”. It is at the local neighbourhood level where the impact of new migration is most sharply felt and effects on everyday life are apparent. The Housing and Migration Network focused on practical solutions to the pressures on housing and neighbourhood caused by migration.
At the end of the two year project the network published their “Housing and Migration: A UK Guide to issues and solutions“. The guide explains how to remove barriers that migrants often face in gaining access to decent and affordable accommodation. It also gives practical advice on topics such as using existing data sources to build population profiles, developing neighbourhood approaches or supporting migrants to access social housing.
Case Study – The Broxbourne Housing Association (BHA)
One example of good practice in local leadership and engagement is the Broxbourne Housing Association (BHA). Broxbourne in South East Herts is on the edge of London and has experienced the sort of rapid population change which is typical of many outer London areas. Previously the ethnic profile was predominantly white British and in the past there was significant support for the British National Party (BNP).
In reaction to the growth of the BNP, the BHA organised regular discussion forums for tenants and residents on various themes relating to equality in order to reduce prejudice. Many residents have been asking about the changes in population: some hold misconceptions about who is getting access to social housing; some fear the unknown and some simply wish to expand their knowledge. A recent event involved an information sharing session with speakers from the Housing and Migration Network who also facilitated discussion about people’s own perceptions and experiences of migration. Although those who attended were mostly positive about migration, they were acutely aware of a lot of negativity amongst neighbors and wanted to develop ways of challenging this. Broxbourne is planning a similar session for staff and board members and thinking about how it takes forward the session held with tenants and residents to a wider audience.
Case Study – The East North East Homes, Leeds – ALMO
Another example of good practice is the East North East Homes, Leeds because of its cooperation with migrant supporting organisations. ALMO is an arm’s length management organisation and housing association that lets the city’s refugee forum use an ex-housing office rent-free. The forum pays running costs and insurance. In 2010/11 there were about 6,500 visits by 1,300 different people, most living locally. The forum workers give advice and support and run courses as well as English conversation classes. The advice includes housing support for example about the city’s choice-based lettings scheme. A range of migrants and refugee community organisations (MRCO) use the building. Recent bookings included:
- mother-tongue language classes for children
- a wake for a community member
- meetings about the situation in one country and options for return.
Local tenants’ and residents’ associations, the community forum and ward councilors also use the building – helping avoid complaints of exclusivity.
• Local partnerships can be more effective than PR campaigning strategies
Supporting partnerships that engage tenants and recent migrants together and inform them about housing issues can be far more effective than doing PR and communication campaigns designed to bust myths etrc. It is important to find out who works locally and offers relevant services in order to develop network structure and bring key persons and organisations together.
• Cooperation with migrant and refugee community organisations
Most housing associations work closely with tenants associations or other community-based groups but are not aware of MRCOs. Building partnerships with MRCOs is a good way to get reach out to migrants and to provide better services to them.
How housing associations can support recent migrants?
It is important to identify the local migrant population before giving advice to recent migrants on housing issues. After collecting necessary information about local migrant groups, their communities and what their needs are, it will be necessary to clarify who is eligible for social housing or social benefits. Only some recent migrants have access to social housing but can become eligible if there are changes to their immigration status or circumstances. Check out the Housing Right website for more useful information.
Housing associations, community-based organisations as well as local authorities can offer other assistance to recent migrants. To help remove barriers migrants face, housing associations should train their staff and improve awareness, provide guidance to deal with applications and make access to housing registers and choice-based lettings policies transparent.