Afghan refugees: York council calls for private landlords to provide accommodation for refugees arriving in York

With the first group of Afghan refugees arriving in York later this month, City of York Council is looking for private landlords to offer long-term accommodation to help get them settled.

York City Centre. (Pic credit: James Hardisty)

The council, along with charities and organisations, is seeking private landlords to provide properties for Afghan refugees resettling in York, so they can avoid the use of hotels and temporary accommodation.

The first family is expected to arrive in York by the end of this month as part of the government’s Afghan citizens’ resettlement scheme. York council is currently working with Migration Yorkshire to take in a number of refugees fleeing from Afghanistan, to help them find sanctuary.

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Initially, York has committed to providing two homes for refugee families under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme, which was launched on April 1, 2021, as this was deemed as York’s ‘fair share’ according to Migration Yorkshire. However, this number has increased to four families.

Assistant director of City of York Council, Charlie Croft, said: “The government provides funding to local authorities taking part in this programme. The programme is intended to last only around four to five months for each family following their arrival.

“It will consist of finding homes, helping with benefits if necessary, finding a GP and dentist and any other support that individuals need. Funding is also available from the government for other initial costs.

“At the end of the programme period, it is expected that the family will have moved onto benefit or into work. The work of the council and local partners (including key charities) will continue past this government funding deadline.”

The council already has systems in place to support this scheme, including its housing team which has close connections with health providers, education and third sector organisations in York who work with refugees and asylum seekers and a support worker who has worked with Syrian refugees.

English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes are also available through the council for adult members of the family who want to learn or develop their English.

Under the Home Office’s Afghan citizens’ resettlement scheme, which has not yet started, the UK will welcome up to 5,000 vulnerable Afghans who have been forced to flee the country within the first year it is launched and with a total of up to 20,000 long-term.

“We expect that it will be modelled on the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement scheme. We expect that our ‘fair share’ will be a further six families over five years,” Mr Croft added.

“We have already committed to ten families in addition to this on the general UK Resettlement Scheme in addition to the Syrians who are already here.

“We are not limiting our support to our ‘fair share’: it is a matter of how many properties we can source. Our experience is that larger houses are needed as the average family size is five persons.

“The government will pay the [Local Housing Allowance] rate for the local authority. This is a challenge in York because most private landlords can get more than that in rent for their houses; however, there is the advantage for landlords of having potentially stable, long-term tenancy.”

Mr Croft also stresses the importance of providing safe and long-term housing for these arrivals in York, due to the precariousness of them having to be stuck in hotels and temporary accommodation.

Mr Croft said: “It is well understood that to help mitigate the inevitable trauma that refugees face, it is essential that they are able to be settled in their own accommodation as soon as possible and that the period of hanging about in unsatisfactory temporary accommodations is kept to an absolute minimum.

“Only once they are settled can the community really understand their particular needs and help to support them properly.”

York City of Sanctuary put out a tweet on behalf of the council, calling for landlords to come forward.

Rebecca Russell, communications manager and trustee of York City Sanctuary, said: “The idea is to give people the chance to make a permanent home as quickly as possible and to feel settled. But that said, any help is welcome and we have certainly had many generous offers from local people saying they have room in their homes.

“But for the moment, the council wants us to focus on the longer term option as it will be families arriving, so a room in someone’s house won’t be an option.”

York City of Sanctuary along with other organisations helping out in York are currently working together to plan as much in advance so that when the refugees do arrive in York they are prepared with systems in place, whether that’s regarding language, schools, clothes, furniture, household items, food etc.

“It is a real team effort and the various organisations, including us, Refugee Action York, City of York Council and Rachael Maskell MP are all discussing how best to approach this crisis and work in tandem,” Ms Russell added.

If you are a private landlord who would like to help out with accommodation, email: [email protected]