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Housing

Government pleads with landlords to house Afghan refugees after only 350 come forward

Westminster government calls for private landlords to step up in bid to find places for 20,000 Afghan refugees over the next five years.

Landlords are being urged to offer up their homes for families fleeing Afghanistan after only 350 came forward when the crisis began.

Ministers promised to accommodate 20,000 Afghans after the Taliban regained control of the country in August. So far, 4,000 evacuees have been offered homes through the £5m Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme, with 5,000 set to be housed in the first year.

But while 300 councils have pledged places, calls for landlords to offer spots have been slower and fewer than 350 came forward between August and November last year, The Big Issue can reveal.

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A Freedom of Information request to the Home Office found around 600 offers were made through the government’s housing portal between August and November. That includes 344 from private individuals and 228 from organisations and a further 37 from other sources.

Now the government has relaunched the housing portal to plead with landlords to help them house refugees. Minister for Afghan resettlement Victoria Atkins said: “I’ve seen first-hand the incredible support available and am so proud of the way communities across the country have thrown their arms around these families, many of whom put themselves at risk to help the UK and our allies in Afghanistan. 

“We know these families need a place of their own so they can truly build a life in the UK, but we recognise that finding settled accommodation for so many people is a challenge.  

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“That is why today I am urging landlords to join our efforts and come forward with offers of housing so we can help these people settle and thrive.”  

The Afghan Resettlement Scheme has faced criticism from refugees charities in recent months due to the slow pace of rollout – five months passed between the fall of Kabul and the scheme’s launch on January 6.

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The use of referrals rather than applications also sparked fears that many people would be left stuck in Afghanistan and unsure if they will be offered sanctuary.

But finding homes for resettled Afghans has also proved a challenge and the government has said more offers are needed to find homes for individuals and families rescued from the country.

Local councils have also contacted landlord groups for help with accommodation. The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) have been contacted by local authorities in Shropshire, Wealden, Wrexham and Monmouthshire to provide support in recent months.

Ben Beadle, NRLA chief executive, said: “The NRLA has seen considerable interest among its members in wanting to help refugees. The release of the improved portal is a step forward in helping match landlords with prospective tenants and we’d recommend that those with suitable properties register their interest.”

Accommodation offered up to the scheme must be self-contained with no shared facilities and must be available for at least 12 months. The property must also meet safety regulations and landlord responsibilities.

There is a particular need for larger properties as well as homes that are in close proximity to one another while premises should also be “as close to the Local Housing Allowance Rate as possible”, the government said.

There have been calls for the UK to make the most of empty homes and the private rental market after the situation in Afghanistan last August.

ACH, a social enterprise specialising in renovating homes to house refugees as well as providing support and integration services, has urged people with second homes and private landlords to step forward and work with them to bring empty homes back into use.

“It’s a win, win, win,” ACH founder Fuad Mahamed told The Big Issue last year. “This is the time to appeal to landlords with available properties and to appeal to people with second homes to work with social landlords, local governments, people like us to bring their property back to use.”

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