English council to buy property for Ukrainian refugees at risk of homelessness

Other councils are working with estate agents to find homes or offering bonus payments to host families

There are concerns that up to 25 per cent of families who took part in the Homes for Ukraine scheme could pull out once the six months is up. Reuters
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An English council is earmarking funds to buy homes for Ukrainian refugees.

Wiltshire council leader Richard Clewer said the “innovative” use of funds could prevent refugees who have found a safe haven in the county from becoming homelessness.

Council leaders across the country are grappling with how to help Ukrainian refugees once a six-month agreement with host families is complete.

There are concerns that up to 25 per cent of families who took part in the Homes for Ukraine scheme could pull out once the six months is up, as a cost-of-living crisis bites.

Mr Clewer wants to buy up to 100 homes which would then be leased to Ukrainians for at least three years.

“If I were to pay six months’ rent, it would be gone in six months and I would have exactly the same problem”, Mr Clewer said.

“There will be some Ukraine nationals who face an uncertain future, and this is an issue we need to address.

“We are going to use the government funding in an innovative way to purchase homes that can be used for Ukraine nationals now and for wider use into the future.”

He plans to use a council-owner housing company, Stone Circle, to buy the properties.

Wiltshire has 377 Ukrainian refugee families — about 900 people in total.

Another councillor, Ruth Hopkinson, said the plan would take too long to implement and, ultimately, would still not be enough.

“With the best will in the world, it’s going to take months to get who knows how many houses and the crisis is now. We’ve got potentially 879 refugee guests needing accommodation now.

“Additionally, we don’t know where these new houses will be. They are unlikely to be close to where these people are getting jobs.”

Other councils are working with estate agents to find homes or offering bonus payments to host families.

The Homes for Ukraine initiative placed refugees with host families who did now know them. A separate scheme dealt with Ukrainians who had links to the UK, such as relatives in the country.

Thousands of Ukrainians, mostly women and children, are staying in host houses.

About 96,800 Ukrainians have arrived in the UK under the Homes for Ukraine scheme since it was launched in March, government figures show.

The number of Ukrainian households, from either scheme, that have become homeless or are at risk of becoming so after arriving in England, is 1,915 — most of them families with children — according to figures in October.

Updated: November 17, 2022, 5:23 PM
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