The Derbyshire Dales need support to meet the needs of Ukrainian refugees and local people
“We need to be realistic about how many people we can appropriately house," says Rob Cogings
4 min read
Residents of the Derbyshire Dales have opened their homes to Ukrainian refugees.
The kindness and generosity of local people has meant that currently 108 households are living in a safe home. There are many stories about the care and support extended to Ukrainians; including transport to the United Kingdom, accommodation within the host’s own home or property owned by hosts, access to employment opportunities, transport locally and help with learning English. Our council members spoke passionately in meetings in support of Ukraine. The flag pole outside the Council’s offices is flying the Union Jack and the Ukrainian flag as a symbol of solidarity between the residents of the Dales and Ukraine.
The area is now hosting the highest number of Ukrainian refugees per capita. But despite this generosity, the Derbyshire Dales is an area in significant housing stress, with the smallest social housing stock in the county, some of the highest private rents in the region and limited turnover of both social and private rental properties. Many of the newer homes in the Peak District National Park area of the district also have a 10-year local connection requirement.
Unfortunately some host arrangements broke down immediately and this created difficulties for the district council as we did not have access to sufficient temporary accommodation. One person had to be temporarily housed in B&B accommodation for several weeks at a cost to the council of £4,100. 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.
The district council works in partnership with Derbyshire County Council to meet the needs of Ukrainian refugees. The district council environmental health team undertook property inspections of host accommodation. County council colleagues took the lead on work with the Home Office and the Strategic Migration Partnership hosted by East Midlands councils.
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. 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.
Derbyshire County Council passed on £413,000 of the Homes for Ukraine grant funding to support the extra housing work generated by the Ukrainian refugees. Derbyshire Dales has used this to provide housing support to families and improve access to private rented accommodation. 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.
Derbyshire Dales has been allocated £2m from the Local Authority Housing Fund (LAHF) to deliver 18 homes. The LAHF is a challenging programme with 40 per cent government grant and 60 per cent match funding by the council. 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.
Rob Cogings is director of housing at Derbyshire Dales District Council
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