Derbyshire Dales council struggling to find long-term homes for Ukrainian refugees due to high house prices
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Writing in The House magazine – a parliamentary publication for for MPs and peers – on Wednesday, February 8, the district’s director of housing Rob Cogings claims that nationally “the area is now hosting the highest number of Ukrainian refugees per capita.”
While the council has not been able to provide statistical evidence for that claim – papers it published last month said only that the Dales had one of the highest levels in Derbyshire – as the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion approaches, the district is reckoning with long-term arrangements for 108 Ukrainian household groups, 33 of them in Matlock alone.
Most were initially settled with volunteer hosts via the Homes for Ukraine scheme, but Cogings writes: “The legacy impact of Covid on the supply of housing and the cost of living crisis has meant the council is under significant pressure to meet the needs of both Ukrainian refugees and local people.
“As the population of Ukrainian refugees stabilised, the district council undertook a telephone survey of host families to ascertain their future intentions. The survey indicated that 43 host families would not wish to extend the host arrangement beyond 12 months.”
He adds: “More Ukrainian families began to join the housing register and seven have been accepted as homeless. The re-matching service has helped 14 families to move on to a more sustainable home and two have moved in to social housing.
“However, we need to be realistic about how many people we can appropriately house when combined with local need on the housing register. Helping to meet other refugee commitments through the UK Resettlement Scheme (UKRS) and dispersal targets for asylum seekers will add further strain to the wider housing system.”
The council has been allocated £2million to deliver 18 homes via the Government’s Local Authority Housing Fund, intended to help those facing the most significant housing pressures as a result of Ukrainian arrivals, but the terms of the grant would leave the local authority to meet 60 per cent of the costs.
While councillors have asked officers to prepare a report on delivery options, Cogings believes it will be a tall order in an area like the Dales.
He writes: “In a district with high house prices, this can make the district council’s contribution significant and will tie up much of our own limited capital resources.
“We know what types of housing are required and where in the district we need to provide it. However we know the LAHF programme will not be viable in Peak District villages where open market values are substantial. We will focus on acquisitions in the market towns where lower cost homes become available.
“The generosity of residents has been substantial, but this is exacerbating the existing housing stress of the Dales. The district council will continue to fully engage and support refugee programmes. However despite the extra resources from government, we are unable to create the homes and tenancies at a rate to meet the needs of residents and refugees alike.”