The Head of Planning, Housing and Health to report.
The Committee received an update by the Service Lead for Housing Advice and Homeless regarding the situation in Afghanistan.
The Service Lead for Housing Advice and Homeless highlighted the following:
· A report had been presented to the Committee in July 2021 regarding the relocation of up to 2 households as part of the Afghan Locally Employed Staff Relocation Scheme. This scheme was for interpreters or those who had worked with the Ministry of Defence.
· 1 property had been secured to date. A new private landlord had contacted the Council and offered a 3 bedroom property at affordable rent. This property had now been put forward to Devon County Council who will forward onto South West Councils and the Home Office for approval. Devon County Council (DCC) would check the property and the Home Office would match individuals to the property. North Devon Council and Teignbridge Council were the only Councils to put forward properties to the Home Office.
· The Council’s role was to secure the properties and DCC would provide the families with the appropriate level of support. DCC was working with Hipmack, who had a hub located in Barnstaple and history of working with refugees in the country, to put support arrangements in place for families to integrate within the community. It would be easier to integrate families into the community as the main family member would be able to speak English.
· The private landlord was looking to purchase another 3 bedroomed property which could also be used for this scheme. The Council would be working closely with the new landlord.
· This would mean that properties would not be taken out of the private rented sector pool.
· There had been a lot of positive feedback from the local communities and offers of rooms in shared houses. South West Councils had now confirmed that 1 bedroom properties could be used for couples. The Council had also been approached by other potential landlords who were currently using their properties for Air BnB and wished to help the Council with other schemes.
· It was hoped that the first family would be located within the next month and the second family would located in the next couple of months.
In response to questions, the Service Lead for Housing Advice and Homeless advised the following:
· The Government had advised that if the rent was higher than affordable, that they would fund the difference for a period of 12 months. However this would be difficult for the families after the first 12 months to fund the difference, therefore it was important to secure affordable rent for properties.
· The Government’s current priority was to accommodate those who had previously worked for the Ministry of Defence and it would then consider widening the scheme to include other refugees. The Government was also considering combining the Syrian and Afghan schemes into a single scheme.
· The Council had not yet advertised for potential landlords to come forward. The Council now had an opportunity to work with the landlords that had come forward for this scheme and other types of accommodation.
· The Royal Marine Base based at Chivenor were not currently engaging with the scheme.
· At this time, the Government had only requested Local Authorities for assistance.
The Committee requested that the Service Lead for Housing Advice and Homeless provide an update on the Afghan scheme to all Members.