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Housing associations join the fight to support Afghan refugees in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough

Posted on 18 October 2021

In August, following the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban quickly took over the country, leaving many individuals and families with no choice but to evacuate the country for their safety. The UK is one of many countries around the world that has pledged to support refugees from Afghanistan and housing associations too are playing their part to respond to the crisis, working with local councils to provide suitable accommodation and services wherever they can.

We spoke to housing associations from across the HCP group about how their organisation has rallied since August to support Afghan refugees coming to our region, and what their plans are for the coming months. 

CHS Group

CHS Group is a charitable housing association, focused on supporting people on low incomes or who are vulnerable. As the crisis in Afghanistan accelerated and refugees started arriving in the UK, CHS Group, in line with its overarching values, was quick to respond and provide support in any way it could.

Currently, CHS Group is offering direct lets to Huntingdon District Council at Brampton which will then be offered to refugees, and the Council is investigating funding to provide additional furnishings and decoration needed to house the refugees. The housing association has also offered direct lets to Cambridge City Council, which is keen to provide three and four-bed houses to refugees wherever possible. CHS Group continues to work with the local authorities to identify suitable housing; helping to ensure that Cambridgeshire is an ongoing safe haven for individuals and families seeking refuge from the Taliban.

Cross Keys Homes

Cross Keys Homes’ (CKH) vision is to create opportunities that change lives. So, when the housing association was approached by its local authority, Peterborough City Council, to help support the Afghanistan refugee crisis, the team was extremely keen to provide a helping hand to those in need.

Taking a lead on the housing response in Peterborough, CKH has already made six properties available, including a five-bedroom home and a two-bedroom apartment; the first two families moved in at the beginning of October. Peterborough City Council has agreed to resettle a total of 100 Afghan refugees who are at risk, all of whom will be welcomed into the city as part of the national Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) and the broader Afghan Citizens' Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) for other vulnerable Afghanis.

To coordinate the effort CKH is part of the  partnership taskforce comprising of representation from the council, other local housing associations and  public sector partners such as the police and the Department for Work and Pensions, as well as a range of voluntary and faith sector organisations. Between them the partners will ensure that every house offered for resettlement is made to feel like a home for the new families. All homes will be furnished, with white goods in place, toys and books available and essential supplies provided on the day of arrival.

CKH will continue to offer properties alongside other local housing associations, in order to help Afghan refugees to find a new place to call home in Peterborough, a city which has a long-standing history of welcoming new arrivals with an open heart.

Metropolitan Thames Valley

Metropolitan Thames Valley (MTVH) has a proud history of providing sanctuary and support for refugees and migrants, in keeping with its founding purpose to provide affordable, good quality homes for members of the Windrush generation in the 1950s. In response to the Afghan crisis, MTVH has committed to making 50 homes available over the next year for Afghan refugees.

MTVH is currently working closely with local authorities that have pledged support for Afghan refugees and has stated that it will accept any nominations for families to its homes that local authorities choose to make. The organisation has confirmed that, in partnership with local authorities, it will be welcoming four Afghan families into its communities in the coming weeks.

The 50 homes which MTVH will make available are a proportion of the homes that become available for re-letting each year, over which the housing association has discretion in allocating. Wherever MTVH can provide homes, it will do so in a coordinated effort with the relevant local authority, so that access to government support and other important services is well organised. The housing association is also seeking to provide additional homes through other arrangements, such as tenure conversions or shorter-term lets in homes that would not otherwise be available to other existing residents.

Flagship Homes

By working closely with local authorities in the East, housing association, Flagship Homes, has offered more than 60 homes to support those who have been affected by the conflict. All families have and will move into their new homes once their Covid-19 quarantine is completed and the Group will help to ensure individuals have everything they need to build a new life.

Flagship Homes has highlighted the tremendous effort from people from across its Group to provide such important support at such a difficult time. Moving forward, the housing association is keen to continue working together with the local authorities to provide even more suitable homes for those that desperately need them, supporting the resettlement of Afghan refugees into the communities that it works in.

Looking ahead

HCP is incredibly proud of the enormous effort its member housing associations have put in to support individuals and families affected by the Afghan crisis.

As we move forward, in order to ensure a sustainable, peaceful environment for all, it’s important to remind our communities to not get caught up in the common misconceptions often associated with refugees and asylum seekers. For example, while there is sometimes a perception that refugees lead to higher council tax, this is fundamentally untrue; refugees are covered by central government and no money from council tax is spent on housing refugees. In addition, it is false that refugees are taking people’s homes as they are not put on housing waiting lists, they are housed under a separate system and, unlike others, do not have a choice in where they live. Once they are settled, the individuals and families who have sought safety in our country will become valuable members of our community, contributing in the same way that everyone else does.

While Afghanistan is in crisis, we all have a responsibility as global citizens to offer help and support to those most vulnerable; housing associations are fortunate that they can provide possibly the biggest gift available – a home. Looking ahead to the coming months, we are confident that by working together we can continue to ensure that Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are not only welcoming communities but can provide sustainable solutions for those in need.