While Brits wait. Britain is much more heavily dependent on welfare housing than is the USA

The number of council houses given to immigrants has increased by 10 per cent in only a year to nearly 10,000. Official figures show nearly one in every 15 newly-available homes let by a council or housing association went to a foreign national.

The revelations highlight the pressure immigration has put on housing and public services. They have also prompted calls for a review of the rules on how social housing is allocated amid fears long-standing UK residents could be losing out.

Tory MP James Clappison, who uncovered the statistics, said: ‘This is one more aspect of the pressures created by immigration, at a time when people are waiting many years on a waiting list for tenancy. ‘The system surely must be ripe for review. I think it will strike a lot of people as strange when UK citizens are waiting up to ten years for a home.

According to research by the House of Commons Library, foreign nationals were given the keys to 9,979 social houses in 2008/9. That is up 905 from the 2007/8 figure of 9,074. A total of 147,739 new social lettings were made in 2008/9. That means nearly 7 per cent of homes went to migrants.

Nearly three quarters of the increase was attributed to houses let to immigrants from EU countries. The total is made up of houses and flats let by councils and housing associations. Rents in such properties are subsidised by taxpayers.

It is estimated the cost of providing social housing averages £133,941 a home. The Government contributes £62,000 with the rest coming from developers or social landlords. Taxpayer-subsidised housing is in short supply nationwide with nearly two million people on the waiting list.

EU immigrants who are working can apply for social housing immediately. Other foreign nationals are legally entitled to social housing after spending more than four years in the UK or successfully claiming asylum.

Once immigrants are on the list, they are considered at the same time as long-standing residents on the basis of who has the greatest ‘need’.

Labour pledged to introduce new powers to allow local families to be given preference, but then backed down from changing the law amid fears that it could breach human rights laws.

A spokesman for the Communities and Local Government Department said: ‘Over 90 per cent of foreign nationals who arrived in the UK over the past two years were living in the private rented sector, and most of those who have recently come to England are not eligible for social housing.

‘Councils are responsible for deciding their own housing allocation schemes, but migrants who are eligible for council housing are given no special priority and must have their needs considered against the needs of all other eligible applicants.’

The spokesman said the Government aimed ‘to reduce net migration back to 1990s levels – tens of thousands each year, not hundreds of thousands’. It had already introduced limits on immigrant numbers, he added.

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