As David Cameron has said the allocation of public housing is a scandal. However, we can reveal that as well as council and housing association property being occupied by undeserving foreigners, some are allocated exclusive apartments at the cost of £120 per day to the tax payer*. Whether they like it or not. Residents at these designer apartments are treated to three meals a day, uniformed servants, and are handed highly sort after jobs – earning up to 90p an hour. Many are then treated to a all expenses paid trip to a destination definitely not of their choice.
In fact, contrary to the tabloid-UKIP pleasing policy announcement made today, the expansion of UKBA’s detention estate is the only form of housing being built for foreign nationals. However, the scarcity of affordable housing is something that the right has often made the most of. Not only do they sell it off, they then profit politically from it’s scarcity.
However, with the rise of Ukip and the economic depression the kind of racist narrative that was once only winked at by the mainstream political parties is now part of a regular spiteful and normally xenophoboic weekend press release to feed the reactionary media. When Steve Garner wrote in 2009:
“Housing is a basic right and is surrounded in emotive discourse about belonging and entitlement. It is therefore easy to manipulate politically. As a dwindling resource, social housing has become a flagship issue for the BNP.”
He probably hadn’t considered that 4 short years later the British PM would be making it a “flagship issue” for the governing party, with it’s coalition partners and opposition parties helping create a anti-immigrant consensus, rather than providing an alternative explanation.
The essay “Home Truths: The White Working Class and the Racialization of Social Housing” from which the above quote comes from tells the depressing story of how both new immigrants and a “undeserving” indigenous under class are blamed by the working class which was once given affordable housing as a right but which is now denied to them.
However, as Steve Garner explains it isn’t a “black and white issue”:
“The boundaries between ‘us’ and ‘them’are not always drawn in the same place. “I’m not racist”, begins another of our Bristol interviewees whose opening phrase is a familiar one. “I’m not racist … but I am prejudiced. I am prejudiced, but I’m not only prejudiced against people that are black. I’m prejudiced against people who are on the dole who don’t do nothing, and still get it all”.
The concern with”queue jumping” newcomers, or undeserving is perhaps is understandable. They can be seen taking what is percieved to be “theirs”. What is more mysterious to me is how those who create the conditions for the queue to form get away without being blamed. Of course, there is the biased media, the spineless labour party but perhaps as relevant is the “allocators” of this increasingly scarce resource are invisible to those who want it, so remote and untouchable that a more tangible and targettable neighbour, or near neighbour. What Steve Garner call the “Proximity Effect.”
His conclusion at least leaves a space for hope:
“Were a space to be created in which the white British working class, migrants and BME people could tell each other their stories of being refused housing, being obliged to live in sub-standard conditions (while paying a premium), and of asylum-seekers placed en masse in motels and in unwanted properties on estates (or even in detention centres!), our white respondents would probably find much more in common with these groups than they imagine. Feeling that you have less and less control over your life is not the monopoly of Britain’s white working class.”