Thanet council Cabinet members have backed proposals for the purchase of nine properties to temporarily accommodate Ukrainian and Afghan refugees before then being used as part of the general housing stock.
The council has been allocated £1.19million of funding from a national £500 million scheme to enable local authorities to purchase properties for Ukrainian and Afghan refugee households for an initial period of 3 years. The funding allocation – which covers around 40% of the cost- was offered to 182 local authorities in England.
Thanet council will match-fund the grant with £1.996million from its housing capital programme and plans to buy 6 x 3 bed units and 3 x 4 bed units being built at Westwood and due for completion by the end of this month.
The cost of all housing borrowing is covered from the rent paid by council tenants. The refugee families will also be paying rent for the properties, and so contributing to the repayments and our wider housing funds.
Thanet council deputy leader Cllr Helen Whitehead said there are moral and financial reasons for going ahead with the plans.
Speaking at a Cabinet meeting last night, Cllr Whitehead said: “I feel it is very important to explain exactly what is being proposed now, as I am aware of a level of confusion relating to this proposal, and it is important to have both a financial and a moral context.
“The resettlement of refugees from both Ukraine and Afghanistan has, in many ways, lacked the central focus that good support required; full funding needed to have been given to councils with statutory housing obligations to provide for refugees in a way that could provide reliable housing, and support those who have experienced war and disruption, often, especially in case of the resettlement schemes linked to Afghanistan, those who provided support to British forces and need our support now.
“This lack of a foundational approach has proved difficult for many councils to manage, as it has resulted in complex homelessness cases, and the use of accommodation that I would consider to be unsuitable to provide for individuals and families whilst they are under the care of the Home Office.
“The Government recently announced details of a national £500 million scheme which goes some way towards remedying this situation. The Local Authority Housing Support Fund has been created to enable local authorities to purchase properties in their area to accommodate both Ukrainian and Afghan refugee households for an initial period of 3 years.”
Properties to later be used for council housing list
Cllr Whitehead said match funding from the council was necessary in order to get the grant but said the homes will be used for Thanet households on the housing list after the initial period.
She said: “ Any properties acquired will form part of the council’s housing stock, with the income and expenditure managed within the Housing Revenue Account. The homes can subsequently be used to accommodate households from the council’s housing waiting list. Providing a new and permanent supply of accommodation will also help to address local housing and homelessness pressures.
“As a council, and as a community, we have a moral duty to do our best to house those who are most vulnerable; and we do well in discharging that duty, and will continue to do so.
“We have 3,470 properties within our housing portfolio, all general needs housing, all used by residents who have been on our housing list. What is proposed here, relating to the very specific requirements of a particular governmental fund, is the purchase of nine homes, all of which will eventually become general needs housing, for the current usage of refugees from both the Ukraine and Afghanistan, who have arrived here as part of government led schemes.”
To be eligible for the homes, the households must be part of one of the following schemes:
- Afghan Citizen Resettlement Scheme (including eligible British Nationals under this scheme) (ACRS),
- Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP),
- Ukraine Family Scheme (UFS),
- Homes for Ukraine (HFU),
- Ukraine Extension Scheme
Cllr Whitehead told the meeting that: “as human beings, and as a council, we have a moral duty to do our best to support those in need and those who are vulnerable.”
Plus 42 new council homes
She said the properties would eventually be used as part of general council housing, supporting those in the district in need of a home.
She added: “I am keenly aware of the issues surrounding rent inflation in Thanet, and the need for social housing, as evidenced over many years of council debates, and our ongoing and future build and acquisition plans reflect this general need.
“The addition of a further 42 new homes to our housing portfolio in our Forward Plan yesterday indicates our initial inroads into our ambitious social and affordable rent programme. However, provision for one, in this case, is provision for all, and is a significant contribution to our housing infrastructure, and it is important to consider the full scope of both the fund and our contribution to it, in both a moral and financial sense.”
The project to provide an additional 42 new affordable homes to the council’s housing stock will be discussed at a Cabinet meeting in July.