Private rental homes could be used for Ukrainian refugees, council hears
Private rental homes could be used to provide longer term accommodation for Ukrainian refugees as a Gwent council is bracing itself for further arrivals from the conflict.
The Homes for Ukraine scheme was launched by the UK Government in March in response to the mass exodus from the country following the Russian invasion and placed refugees with individual hosts in their own homes.
Those volunteering to accommodate refugees in their spare rooms, or second homes, were asked to commit to do so for six months, meaning those who arrived in the first wave could soon need to find new accommodation.
Across Torfaen at least 60 families have been housed with local hosts while the council also said it was expecting around 30 individuals to be placed in the borough from Welsh Government ‘welcome centres’ which were established to allow Ukrainians to come to Wales without a named host.
Chris Hunt, who is the regional community cohesion coordinator for Torfaen Borough Council, told a council scrutiny committee: “The offer to host was for an initial six months and largely our cohort of hosts have indicated they wish to continue with that arrangement but accommodation across the board is in huge demand and in short supply, that is of concern not just to us but the UK and Welsh Governments and all local authorities.”
Lyndon Puddy, the council officer responsible for liaising with the Welsh Government on the Ukraine scheme, said it is expected the recent intensification of Russian strikes on Ukrainian cities will force more people to flee the country.
He said: “We are expecting a rise here. What we are doing it trying to look longer term and trying to work with the private sector to do that.”
Mr Puddy said the council is considering how that can be funded through UK and Welsh Government grants but warned: “The pinch point will be in terms of housing availability.”
The council’s 2021/22 equality report said as well as supporting families from Ukraine it has housed three families under the Afghan Resettlement Scheme, which offered sanctuary to those who supported UK forces or democracy and human rights in Afghanistan, having pledged to resettle up to six families. According to the report a fourth family is due to move to the borough.
From 2015 to 2020 the council also welcomed families under the vulnerable persons and Syrian refugee scheme with a total of 33 individuals from Syria, Sudan, and Iraq accommodated. The council also agreed to take part in the UK Government’s resettlement scheme, launched in 2019, but due to the pandemic refugee resettlement was largely paused until 2021 and no people have been received by Torfaen as yet under the scheme.
Councillor Rose Seabourne, who represents Fairwater in Cwmbran, had asked if the recent escalation in the Ukraine conflict was expected to lead to more refugees coming to the borough.
Mr Hunt said Torfaen is still receiving arrivals “as all local authorities are” and said: “We can expect to see more arrivals nationally and locally.”
Blaenavon councillor June Jones claimed a number of private landlords are now selling properties, “because of problems encountered with tenants,” which she thought would be a problem for the council if it is hoping to use private rentals.
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