Finding a House
Finding a Home
Although there is a possibility that your Group has already found a home for the family at this point, this section assumes that you are starting your drive to secure a suitable property after you have submitted your application in principle.
Finding a home is often the single most difficult part facing a Community Sponsorship Group, and it can certainly take time. That being said, in our experience, every committed Group has, in the end, found a house or flat to accommodate the family. One family has been housed in a palace - so anything is possible!
These are the three key requirements for the home:
- It has a minimum two-year secure tenancy so that the family do not have to move for their first 24 months in the UK.
- It has a rental rate that is affordable for a family who live on benefits (though some Groups do choose to pay part of the rent on behalf of the family for a period of up to 2 years. The amount you pay is up to you, but in our view definitely should not exceed £200 a month.
- It is in a decent condition that will meet Local Authority requirements (though Groups can help by refurbishing a property to bring it up to the required standard).
How much rent can the family afford?
The family will be entitled to claim housing benefits - aka Local Housing Allowance (LHA) You can calculate the LHA rate for your area using this website:
However, this is not the end of the story. Most families will be impacted by the benefits cap (see cap rates here) - which can make a big difference, particularly for larger families.
For example - the LHA rate for a four-bed property in Tower Hamlets is £593 per week - over £30k per year. But benefits cap is £23k per year! That means they would have minus funds, before they have even factored in living costs! (Dystopian isn't it?!)
So when planning how much rent a family can afford:
- Calculate what they will likely receive in benefits (see this module).
- Calculate their essential monthly living costs (e.g. utility bills, food, transport)
- How much is remaining for rent?
Usually, this is a lot less than the private rental market, so you will need to look for a philanthropic landlord, who is willing to drop the rent.
Ideas for Your Housing Search
You can watch our Lunch & Learn on this subject here.
In this L&L, we heard advice for approaching Housing Associations, Social Investment Properties and the Church of England.
Sponsor Refugees Landlord Registry
We have a form on our website, where landlords can offer potential properties for Community Sponsorship groups. If you are looking for a house, let us know your criteria, and we can check our database for you - [email protected]
Hope Into Action / Social Investment Schemes
Local Faith institutions
The Church of England have a number of empty properties - if you would like to check for your area, we can connect you with Fr. Gareth Jones, who is supporting the growth of sponsorship within the Anglican church. (Contact [email protected] in the first instance).
We've also received properties from The Salvation Army, Methodist Church, Baptist Church, and Liberal Judaism.
We encourage you to make announcements at the local faith groups, inc. mosques, synagogues, gurdwaras and churches - it is a good way to reach many people at once, and there may be landlords within the congregation, who are intrinsically motivated by their faith to help.
We have been offered properties through Facebook Group posts and a Tweet! We've also had success from posting on Next Door.
If you are able to find a property through a Housing Association, this is the perfect option - they offer long-term contracts at LHA rates, have to ensure properties meet a high standard, and often offer additional support services.
HAs will usually have a large % of their housing stock designated to Local Authorities. But some may have a small % that they have discretion over how they are allocated - and can choose to rent to refugees through this scheme.
We have had great success with HAs in the past, in many regions of the UK.
Here is a list of Housing Associations that have pledged support for refugees.
We recommend watching the Lunch & Learn, above, where Helen Grieg provides some excellent advice in how to approach Housing Associations.
One group distributed 7,000 leaflets across their area to find a landlord - and received three offers as a result. if you don't have the time or resources to do such a huge leaflet-drop, then the most successful places were cafe noticeboards - so you could concentrate here.
What Does It Take To Make A House A Home?
With these requirements & ideas in mind, the hunt is on! You should bear in the mind that you will need TLC in order to find a suitable home for a refugee family:
- Tenacity - there are bound to be false starts and set backs. Don't let delays and disappointments get you down. If you persist, you will succeed in the end.
- Leads - there are any numbers of ways of securing a suitable property (see below) but the key will be following up every contact and lead in your area. You never know which one will work out in the end.
- Creativity - you need to be imaginative and innovative in your approach. If immediate leads don't yield a positive outcome, you will need to think creatively about how to find that house.
Attached - Tips For Finding A House
Attached - Home Office Requirements For Accommodation
Attached - Example of Housing Leaflet
Attached - How To Rent In The UK
Attached - One-Pager For Landlords/Estate Agents