Migrants and housing: reversing the toxic narrative
The first UK Migrants’ Access to Housing Conference took place in June 2017 with very timely messages on the need to cut through the politics of hate and change the narrative in the UK migrants today. Organised by Migration Work, ARHAG, Innisfree and Praxis Community Projects, the conference discussed the current challenges migrants face in accessing housing in the UK and the ways in which Housing Providers (HPs) and partner organisations can work together to ameliorate these.
Starting from the outcomes of the Conference, the paper will look at the pervading toxic myths surrounding migrant’s and social housing, where the UK situation mirrors that of other EU countries. Migration is a complex issue, as exemplified by the many classifications of who a ‘migrant’ is i.e: an EU migrant; a refugee; asylum seeker and non-EEA migrant, etc. Navigating the system with these different labels impacts on the experiences and entitlements of those individuals. There is an urgent need to change the public narrative on migration through leadership and above all by challenging mainstream media by articulating a different language. This has been done before, for example the Sector demonstrated that in the UK the housing crisis is not created by the presence of migrants, but by the politically and ideologically induced lack of affordable homes and of a robust social housing infrastructure for the country. Unfortunately, a language of ‘othering’ migrants, using terms such as “them” and “us”, vilifies many, fuelling the nativist agenda of fear rather than supporting demand for a considerate, practical and proportionate set of solutions to what is clearly a serious migration challenge. It is vital to reconduce the narrative to the fact that migrants are people not problems. The paper will look at the political and emotional fallback from the London Grenfell tragedy and its impact on perception of social housing users as people with families, rather than problems to be solved, regardless of their nationality or residency status. The paper will present an interview with the CEO of Berneslai Homes, the Social Housing organisation contracted to run social husing for Barnsley Council, as well as interviews with users and policy makers within the Sheffield City Region.