(This is a guest blog by Atia Lokhat-Hafezjee)
UK unlikely to reach target to resettle 20,000 refugees
In 2015, then-Prime Minister David Cameron announced that his Government was committed to resettling 20,000 refugees from Syria by 2020. However, the Government has since reported that this target may not be reached unless more local authorities contribute to providing asylum accommodation.
While much of the responsibility lies in the hands of local Government and charitable organisations, private landlords can also have a significant role to play in alleviating the crisis.
What landlords can do
By providing property to rent, landlords can enable local authorities to start the process of resettlement for families from Syria. The families can work from the day they arrive and receive a full range of housing and other benefits.
With longer tenancies, reliable rent payments and motivated, conscientious tenants, letting to refugees is not only easy and cost-effective, it can also help save lives in one of the greatest humanitarian crises of modern times.
Back in January, London landlord Atia Lokhat-Hafezjee held an Open House to demonstrate how landlords can help house Syrian refugees at little cost and great personal reward. Below she explains her experience of housing refugees, and how rewarding it can be.
***As of June, Atia has resettled a second Syrian family in one of her private rental properties in Tottenham using the Government scheme. To read more about her most recent experiences, please visit her blog here. ***
Atia explains her experience of housing a family of Syrian refugees:
(Preparing the Tottenham home for the family)
It started with a short video clip sent to me a couple of months ago when I discovered that our family letting business could potentially save Syrian lives, while also benefitting financially.
This, combined with my need to help families experiencing similar challenges as I did growing up, as new arrivals in Canada, with parents working hard to make their way in a strange country, is what motivated me.
My first experience of renting to a Syrian family has moved me beyond words and a decision I would never regret, as a landlord who wanted to make a difference.
I was able to help a newly reunited family by giving them a new start, with the help of supportive friends and family.
When Sheghaf, Khaled and their daughter Dania arrived a few weeks ago to rent our flat in Tottenham, I found the experience changed my life as much as theirs.
My own family and I greeted them at the front door of their new home and from that moment onward, I formed a deep friendship with someone who has lived through a terrible trauma, whose positive attitude and outlook about life has been contagious. It has helped us all to see a different perspective on life and its challenges.
Not to mention that on a personal level, I have been able to put all my own skills to good use, as a School Teacher, Foster Care Advisor, Counsellor and now even as a writer!
It has inspired me and my own family to never give up, seeing Khaled and Sheghaf working hard, trying to put down roots.
(Dania, Khaled and Sheghaf on the day they arrived in Tottenham)
Khaled, who was a bank manager in Syria is now training to work as a supermarket checkout cashier. Sheghaf, who was an architect and teaching engineering in Aleppo, has already been offered several places to do her PhD and has been hired by a supply teaching agency in schools. Their daughter Dania is only 2-1/2 but she’s already learned some words of English and has won the heart of my 10-year-old daughter.
This has been a terrific opportunity for my children and me to realize our humanitarian duties and also see the benefits to our family letting business.
How would landlords benefit from letting to a Syrian Refugee?
- Hassle-free rent paid at Local Housing Allowance rates: Two-year leases are on offer together with assurances of payment of rent.
- Help on offer from community groups to redecorate and furnish properties and support families’ integration into local communities.
- Highly motivated tenants – these are not problem families. Syrians escaping the war are determined to build new lives, find work and contribute to the society straight away, just as they lived in Syria. They are grateful for the opportunity they have been given.
- Get the satisfaction of knowing, that by letting to a Syrian family you have saved lives and potentially reunited families torn apart by this war.
To find out more about Atia’s experiences in resettling refugees,
follow her blog here.
For more information on the support available for housing refugees please click here.