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Can you help Syrian Refugees find a home?

Friday 08 December 2017

London councils are currently looking for landlords who could help house Syrian refugees. Many councils will even guarantee rent to landlords for the 24-month period and cover costs for void periods.

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “London has a proud history of providing refuge to those seeking sanctuary and it is only right that a city as prosperous as ours offers shelter to people fleeing persecution, and plainly in fear for their lives. It is not enough to just welcome Syrian refugees to our capital – we all need to work together to help them become part of London life, contributing to the communities in which they live. When this happens, we all benefit."

Background
Globally, there are 22 million refugees in the world, five million of which are Syrian. Most of those who have fled remain in neighbouring Middle Eastern countries like Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.

The Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) aims to bring 20,000 vulnerable individuals from the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa) to the UK by 2020.

Who will I be helping?
Those chosen for resettlement arrive in family groups, and are selected by the UNHCR because of a particular vulnerability or close family link to the UK. The scheme prioritises those who cannot be supported effectively in their region of origin: women and children at risk, people in severe need of medical care and survivors of torture and violence, amongst others.

Every formally-resettled individual receives a five-year ‘Refugee Status’ visa, which grants them full right to work and claim public funds. When families arrive in the UK, they are directly supported either by a local government authority, who receive funding, or by a ‘community sponsorship’ group, who fundraise themselves.

London challenge
Londoners are keen to resettle more refugees, with 21 out of 33 of its local authorities being actively involved. Housing is the most significant barrier to London’s support of the scheme. Local authorities and groups wishing to resettle a refugee family must show they have access to a self-contained property which the arriving family can rent from the day of arrival on at least a 24-month tenancy. Since the family will cover the costs of this through housing benefit, this should ideally be at Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate.

Opportunity for landlords
Councils and community groups have a formal agreement with the Home Office for the safeguarding and wellbeing of their resettled refugee families, and they dedicate significant efforts to ensuring the programme goes well.

In order to ensure stability for the families, councils and groups are often happy to commit to guaranteeing rent to the landlord on their behalf for the life of the 24-month tenancy.

Before families arrive, housing is visited by the local authority to check that it meets basic health and safety requirements. Once the family arrives, caseworkers provide support to resolve housing issues related to utilities, repairs, waste services, etc. They will continue to work closely with the families for at least 12 months, visiting regularly especially during the first three months, meaning landlords can be assured that if there are any housing issues, these will be flagged immediately.

What kind of properties are they looking for?

Councils and community groups are particularly keen to source properties with the physical infrastructure suitable for refugees with mobility issues, i.e. adapted for wheelchair use, and two and three bedroom properties are also in demand. Help with furnishings is also desirable, although not essential.

Can councils help cover my costs?

Many councils and groups have agreed to cover void periods of rent, and occasionally costs of refurbishment can also be negotiated.

I want to help - what do I do now?

If you think you can help and have a property that could be used to help refugees, please contact nicola.marven@london.gov.uk 

More general information on the programmes