Sunak prepares 'British homes for British workers' policy: UK citizens set to be given priority for social housing

25 January 2024, 10:54

Rishi Sunak is eyeing up a "British homes for British workers" policy for social housing
Rishi Sunak is eyeing up a "British homes for British workers" policy for social housing. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

A "British homes for British workers" scheme is in the works that would prioritise families in the country for social housing.

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UK citizens would get access to the homes faster under plans to improve Rishi Sunak's reputation on immigration.

A consultation is due to be launched into the plans. The PM's advisers are said to have wanted to put the plans in the King's Speech but instead went with a focus on rent and leaseholds.

The Conservatives believe they need to get tougher on immigration to both close their double-digit deficit on Labour in opinion polls and fend off the right-wing threat from Reform.

Housing authorities have to give out homes based on need, with priority going to homeless people or those living in shoddy or overcrowded accommodation.

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While refugees can apply, anyone not entitled to benefits is excluded - meaning most foreigners can't get social houses already.

The Guardian said 90% of lead tenants in such homes are already UK citizens, though in places like Brent in London 40% were given to people from overseas.

However, any moves to discriminate using nationality would likely clash with the law. Refugees could be excluded, but anyone who is given such a status is usually entitled to benefits.

It's believed that people who arrived from Ukraine or Afghanistan are set to be protected under any changes.

Read more: 'No wonder they are giving up on him': Sir Keir Starmer says Rishi Sunak 'doesn’t understand Britain'

Another option is tightening rules brought in under Gordon Brown, which would require stronger links to the local area.

"This policy amounts to nothing more than scapegoating at its worst," said Polly Neate, Shelter's chief executive.

"It is unnecessary, unenforceable and unjust. Not only does it ignore the fact that there are already stringent rules so only UK citizens or those with settled status can access homes for social rent, but it blames a group of people for a housing emergency that they did not create."

Tories have called for a tougher stance on migration as they believe it is the only way to avoid an electoral wipeout whenever Mr Sunak calls the election.

Sir Simon Clarke called for him to go this week but failed to turn that into anything more than a one-man rebellion.

Tory rebels who tried to toughen up the Rwanda bill, which would see people who arrive illegally in the UK get deported to East Africa, threatened to deal a significant blow to Mr Sunak earlier this month but in the end allowed his plans to pass in the Commons.