Mass migration breeds housing shortages and political upheaval
By Dale L. Wilcox
While there has been increasing awareness of the problem of homelessness in the U.S., far less attention has been paid as to why there is a lack of affordable housing in so many cities. While many factors contribute to the problem, there is a glaringly obvious one whose name apparently must not be mentioned in polite circles: the effect of high population density caused by reckless immigration policies.
This immigration-fueled housing crisis is hitting other developed countries hard, and their citizens are demanding change from their leaders. Ireland’s recent election shocker has received plenty of attention on the other side of the Atlantic, but coverage here thus far has been sorely lacking.
Aided by big immigration increases under the watch of Fine Gael, the once-reigning and now third-place party in parliament, Ireland’s population recently surpassed levels not seen since before the devastating potato famine of the 1840s. Now, out of the country’s 5 million residents, one in eight is foreign-born.
According to mainstream Irish news outlets, the subsequent demand on housing has pushed up prices and rents to levels well out of reach for working- and even middle-class Irish. Following a new annual report on immigration figures, the establishment Irish Times stated, if such a level of growth is maintained, “it can only pile further pressure on an already acute accommodation crisis.”
A more extreme version of the housing-immigration frustration has also been playing out in the uprising in Hong Kong. The rebellion there kicked off a year ago this month following the introduction of a proposed Beijing-led extradition treaty; something U.S. as well as most Western commentators have focused on almost completely.
Due to its population density, Hong Kong has always had expensive housing. However, it’s been the infusion of mainland Chinese migrants into the region following its 1997 “handover” to Beijing that has pushed prices to new, stratospheric heights. Numbering just a few percent when the handover happened, Mainlanders now represent close to one-fifth of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million population.
Local property analysts have long made the link between Mainland homebuyers and Hong Kong’s lack of housing affordability. Even representatives of the local real estate industry—whose growth is tied to expanding local populations—have admitted Hong Kong needs to put the brake on immigration in order to get a handle on the issue.
These immigration-induced housing predicaments are evident in America as well. While both Ireland and Hong Kong’s land masses are microscopic by U.S. standards, the types of housing pressure present in both places is being played out here in numerous cities across the country today.
Traditionally, half of the 1.25 million legal and illegal immigrants (not to mention temporary migrants) we receive every year settle in just five metropolitan areas: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, and San Francisco. Each of these areas has been designated “unaffordable” (and “severely” so, apart from Chicago) in an oft-cited annual survey of unaffordable cities published by think tank Demographia.
To be sure, the reasons behind housing affordability are complex, but demand tied to mass immigration (which makes up 80 percent of all U.S. population growth) inarguably plays an important role. Indeed, academic studies from Albert Saiz, Libertad Gonzalez & Francesco Ortega, and Patricia Cortes, to name a few, have all made this connection.
In Demographia’s last survey, 13 of the 29 most “severely unaffordable” housing markets it focused on were found in the U.S. While Hong Kong reliably tops the entire 91-housing-market survey—its home price-to-income ratio is 21, compared to second place Vancouver, Canada at 13—in the same survey, immigrant-heavy California had six areas in the top 20. Each were in or around both Los Angeles and San Francisco and each had unaffordability ratios close to half of Hong Kong’s.
In other words, in many parts of the U.S. today, Americans are feeling the same pressures and sense of hopelessness felt by the angry citizens in Hong Kong and Ireland, and for similar reasons. If America truly wants to make housing accessible to more people, we need to abandon political correctness and have an honest debate on the corrosive effects of irresponsible mass immigration.
Dale L. Wilcox is executive director and general counsel at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of illegal migration.
Also published at: Dale L. Wilcox, Mass migration breeds housing shortages and political upheaval, American Thinker, February 25, 2020.