An inquiry into the "widespread perception" that immigrants are jumping housing queues is to be launched by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.
Its head, Trevor Phillips, said the belief migrants were gaining "unfair advantages" was fuelling tensions.
And the question of "whether the housing system is being abused to the detriment of anyone - including white families" had to be finally settled.
It comes as councils call for an extra £250m a year to cope with migrants.
Mr Phillips backed the Local Government Association's call for a £250m-a-year fund to help regions struggling to cope with unexpected influxes of migrants.
In a speech in Birmingham, Mr Phillips said people were "realistic" about migration and accepted they had to share services such as schools and hospitals with new arrivals.
But he added: "What, however, does drive tension and hostility is a widespread public perception, that new migrants too often get an unfair advantages to which they are not entitled.
"And one area where this idea of unfairness is most frequently alleged - is in housing allocation.
"Specifically that white families are cheated out of their right to social housing by newly arrived migrants."