Home is a garden shed for immigrant workers
By Nick Britten
Last Updated: 12:39am BST 03/06/2007
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So many migrant workers are entering Britain that they are being housed in garden sheds.
Brick-built sheds have begun springing up in areas such as Slough, Berks, which attract high numbers of immigrants, predominantly Polish, because of the availability of jobs.
Council inspectors found that an “alarming number” of sheds began to be erected in the back gardens of landlords who were already renting the properties to immigrants.
With no running water, lavatory or cooking facilities they represent the most basic accommodation, yet such is the shortage of housing and willingness of workers to save every penny they earn that up to eight people are living in a shed at a time.
Andrew Blake-Herbert, director of finance and property at Slough Borough Council, said: “It's pretty desperate stuff but people choose to live like this.
“The only thing we can do is close them down but we have found some unscrupulous landlords simply wait for a bit then open them up again.
“There are no facilities at all. It's the cheapest accommodation they can find.”
About 50 sheds have been found in Slough, either existing ones that have been adapted or purpose-built ones. It is a problem thought to be replicated around the London area where there is a high density of immigrants matched with a shortage of cheap and available housing.
As with all below-standard housing, the council has the option of bringing it up to a habitable standard at the landlord's expense or closing it down.
Mr Blake-Herbert said: “Obviously with a shed with no running water it makes no sense to bring it up to living standard, so we close it down and hand it back to the landlord.”
Immigrants have to work for 12 months before they are eligible for housing benefit so when they first arrive they seek the cheapest accommodation they can find.
Mr Blake-Herbert said there was a huge problem of overcrowded properties around Slough. Inspectors have recently found more than 1,000 two-storey houses with multiple occupancy. Some three-bedroom houses had up to 30 people living in them.
“In extreme cases they sleep in shifts and all over the house, even on kitchen worktops.”
Tony Travers, from the London School of Economics, told The Economist that he had been able to pinpoint some of the sheds on Google Earth, the online mapping facility.
“You can see them in long back gardens and there is some evidence that they are being used for informal housing.”
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