Comment: Landlord? Letting agent? Here’s how you can help the refugee crisis
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Landlords with vacant properties are being called on to consider taking refugees as tenants to relieve the burden on already stretched councils
The refugee crisis may no longer be at the top of the news agenda and #refugeeswelcome has fallen out of fashion, but the hard work of welcoming refugees is yet to begin. The UK has resettled only 200 people so far, despite pledging homes to 20,000.
Meanwhile there is an acute housing shortage in London where boroughs like Islington have no free social homes. How can we provide sanctuary to those fleeing civil war without creating resentment among those struggling to be housed in the borough where they were born or have settled?
This is where the private sector can step in. Many councils have said they will resettle as many refugees as they can afford without additional help from central government. Camden has pledged homes to 20 Syrian families, while Barnet has offered places to 50 refugees but help is still needed to find suitable homes in these boroughs. If you are a private landlord or estate agent this is where your help is needed.
Citizens UK is calling for landlords to join their Homes for Resettled Refugees Register, to increase the supply of available housing.
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You are eligible if you: own a family-sized rental property in the UK; would be prepared to offer it as a home for a Syrian refugee family if it is vacant when there is demand in your area; can offer a three-year tenancy to enable the family to have some stability; are able rent out the property for the Local Housing Allowance Rate in your area. For a two-bedroom flat in Camden, this is £302.33pw, funded for the first year by an EU scheme and thereafter by the refugees if working or by housing benefit.
You can argue until you’re blue in the face that housing just one person or family may give you a warm, self-righteous glow but it will do nothing to change the reasons there are refugees in Syria or around the world. You may be right and clearly this should not be the only step taken to try and end the horrifying situation. But these extended self justifications are inexcusable while you could provide actual, tangible, immediate, life-saving help to one desperate person or family.
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Camden, Haringey and Barnet all have proud histories of welcoming refugees, often via the efforts of kind-hearted individuals. We shouldn’t let this past be wasted by turning our backs now. Your children won’t starve or freeze if you do help, but somebody else’s children might if you don’t.
If you are a landlord or letting agent and are interested in finding out more, visit citizensuk.org to register.