Bristol landlords can offer sanctuary to support Refugee Week: Generic Bristol Image 7

18 Jun 2021

Bristol landlords can offer sanctuary to support Refugee Week

Appeal to help our city fulfil its refugee resettlement pledge

Landlords are being urged to help Bristol fulfil its pledge to provide sanctuary to vulnerable refugees to mark Refugee Week (14 - 20 June).

Citizens with empty properties available to rent are being encouraged to join a government-funded resettlement scheme set up to urgently provide homes for refugees in the city.

Bristol City Council has pledged to resettle 15 families each year – around 75 refugees – under the UK Resettlement Scheme, with the project being coordinated by the council’s Syrian Resettlement Team. Since the Home Office-funded scheme launched in April (2021), the local authority has successfully resettled three families in Bristol, but 12 remain on a waiting list.

The funded scheme aims to provide sanctuary to refugees identified as being in greatest need of protection, including people requiring urgent medical treatment, survivors of violence and torture, and women and children at risk. Many have been unable to travel and settle due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As well as providing much needed homes, the scheme also has a number of benefits for landlords, including:

  • guaranteed monthly rent payments paid directly to the landlord
  • a tenancy agreement
  • properties are furnished to a high standard
  • tenants are visited weekly by support workers in the first six months of the tenancy
  • initial basic maintenance and repairs undertaken in house
  • assistance and advice throughout the tenancy using bilingual workers
  • six monthly inspections are organised by the team

The council’s Syrian Resettlement Team, along with the Private Housing Empty Property Team, were recently awarded ‘The Innovation Award’ at the annual Empty Homes Network’s Empty Homes Awards 2021. The resettlement team is particularly in need of properties with one, two, three or four bedrooms.

Paul Waterfall is a Bristol-based landlord who signed up to the former government-funded Syrian Vulnerable Person’s Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) in 2019, which has now been replaced by the UK Resettlement Scheme. He said: “Renting to and working with the Syrian Resettlement Team at Bristol City Council is a dream.

“We have rented houses to families, as an HMO (house in multiple occupation), privately and to a community interest company, and all have had their headaches. With the resettlement team, however, everything has been plain sailing. Rent is paid in full from the first day the property is ready to let, without fail. Most of the property maintenance headaches that are a common experience as a landlord are dealt with by them cheerfully, meaning that I have to spend much less time thinking about the properties than normal. This means that the effort and cost of maintaining the properties is substantially less than I am used to.”

Councillor Helen Holland, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, said: “As a City of Sanctuary, it’s vital we fulfil our pledge to support and safely house refugees, many of whom are fleeing from unfathomable conflict.

“Our call out for landlords to help us welcome and support vulnerable refugees comes at a very poignant time. The annual Refugee Week seeks to celebrate the contribution of refugees to the UK and encourage a better understanding between communities.

“If you own an empty property in Bristol, please do consider signing up to the resettlement scheme and help vulnerable families start a new life in our city. The key to meeting our pledge is for landlords to come forward to offer properties for refugee families.

“We’re in particular need of accessible, wheelchair friendly properties. If you’re unsure or have any questions, our friendly, award-winning resettlement team is on hand to answer any questions you may have.”

Jehan, a refugee who resettled in Bristol in 2019, said: “It’s been really wonderful for us, finding a community here in Bristol - for college, improving my language skills and getting life-saving medical treatment for my brother. We love Bristol and our neighbours. The city has given us a chance to have a future with great support. Having a home is the start of that.”

The Syrian Resettlement Team was awarded the ‘Innovation Award’ for its work to assist owners of several privately owned empty properties to bring them up to standard and provide homes to refugees through the UK Resettlement Scheme.

Using empty homes for people in the resettlement scheme means homes are not being taken away from the main housing supply and other people in need of housing.

Through the resettlement scheme, refugee families are supported financially for five years and are then able to apply for indefinite leave to remain, meaning there is no longer a time limit on their ability to stay in the UK.

Find out more on the Bristol City Council resettlement page.

If you have quality unfurnished properties in Bristol and would like to find out more, email abby.hanley@bristol.gov.uk or call 07827 843205.