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More than 50 homes offered for Afghans in Torbay

Friday, September 10th, 2021 5:31pm

By Joe Ives, local democracy reporter

Landlords rise to challenge

Torbay Council has begun sending offers of private accommodation to the Home Office to help house Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban. 

Last month the council appealed to landlords to offer spare properties to people arriving from Afghanistan.

It followed a divisive announcement that the council would not be providing any of its own housing stock to the refugees because of a housing crisis. Council leader Steve Darling (Liberal Democrats, Barton with Watcombe) said the council was facing a “perfect storm,” but it was “having real massive challenges to support our own people let alone Afghan refugees.”

He accepted the situation in Afghanistan was “mortifying," but controversially said Torbay’s lack of ethnic diversity would complicate matters because refugees would not have a sufficient support network once they arrived. He argued that without this the council would be “potentially setting them up to fail.”

Cllr Darling's position was heavily criticised, including by some members of the ruling coalition itself. But he was also praised by other people who agreed that local people should be prioritised for local housing.

As of Monday 6 September at least 51 properties had been offered by private landlords. The council says that, so far, five of these have been sent to the Home Office for approval. It is not yet clear when the Home Office will match the five properties with Afghan families.

Torbay Council's chief executive Anne-Marie Bond described the number of offers as “a good response,” adding: “That’s our community coming forward.”

Many of the 51 private properties are not yet ready or are ineligible for use because of size, location or safety concerns. The council, which only wants properties large enough to house families, says it will asses the suitability of the homes as soon as possible.

Despite calls from some councillors and members of the public to do more, Torbay Council is sticking by its decision not to offer public housing to people fleeing the Taliban.

It says it won't shift its position unless it receives a significant increase in government funding.

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