Just two Exeter homes have so far been made available to Afghan refugees after a response a city council appeal for properties turned up few that were suitable.
District authorities across Devon are working with the county council to house families who fled the Taliban this summer, writes Local Democracy Reporter Ollie Heptinstall.
Up to 20,000 refugees will eventually be resettled in the UK, but it could take years and it is unknown how many will move to the county.
Securing Exeter properties at prices allowed under the terms of the scheme has been described by the councillor in charge as ‘challenging’ – with the city already facing a housing shortage.
“This is why we’re going out to private landlords,” said Councillor Ruth Williams, who represents the Mincinglake and Whipton ward.
She added: “We don’t want to exacerbate the situation that we already have with people who are on Devon Home Choice [an online portal for people to apply for council and housing association homes]for example.”
Cllr Williams, portfolio holder for supporting people, said, due to a limit in the funding of the settlement scheme, the council is looking for homes where the rental price is equivalent to the local housing allowance.
“A few of the properties we’ve had on offer have come in between £300 to £400 [a month]above that amount, so at the moment – as the funding stands – we would be unable to progress those.
“It’s very challenging to get private accommodation at affordable prices in Exeter, so that is the biggest challenge we have at the moment.
“The people of Exeter are extremely generous and supportive – they want us to be able to welcome refugees into the city and we’re doing what we can, but we are constrained by the funding available for accommodation.”
Cllr Williams urged those with suitable vacant properties which could be rented out to call the city council on 01392 265819.
She added: “There will be many out there who will want to support refugees, so it’s just making that they know we’re putting a call out … it’s not just landlords, but it could be members of the public that have accommodation available – perhaps homes they’re not currently using, maybe relatives not in them.”
A county council spokesperson added: “Devon is focussed on supporting the government in its immediate priority of finding housing for the Afghans who worked with and for UK forces and who have already been evacuated with their families.
“We’ve had some strong offers of accommodation come via our district council partners and are continuing our appeal to private landlords for more.”