Waltham housing plan for refugees comes under fire

New homes Waltham Forest Council is buying for refugees will go to residents on the housing waiting list in the longer term, the council’s deputy leader has clarified.

The council recently agreed to use a £15million government grant and £38m in borrowing to buy 200 recently completed flats on Osier Road, Leyton, with more than half to be offered to house refugees from Afghanistan and Ukraine.

Deputy council leader Ahsan Khan has since clarified that the 117 homes to be offered to refugees would come back into council ownership once they “move on”

There are more than seven thousand households on the council’s social housing waiting list, with about 900 living in temporary accommodation, which can include bed and breakfasts, hotels, or homes rented on the private market.

The decision attracted the interest of GB News presenter Patrick Christys, who called the plan “surely, utterly ridiculous” and questioned whether the council should be focusing on its own residents’ needs.

His guest, Elliot Peck, from the Taypayer’s Alliance, said it was a “problem” that refugees seemed to be “getting the first bite of the pie”.

But deputy leader Ahsan Khan, who oversees housing and regeneration, said: “No one who is already on the housing waiting list will lose out.

“These new homes will increase the supply of affordable properties in the borough, helping to address one of the biggest challenges we face.

“After the refugee households have been able to move on the new homes will come back into council ownership to be offered to those on the waiting list.

“We simply would not be able to do this without taking part in this scheme.”

The two Leyton housing blocks to be purchased by the council are known as Alba House and Salix House, completed by “affordable” developer Pocket Living on 16th October.

The council said Pocket Living was “only prepared” to sell the 177 homes in Alba House if it also bought the 80 flats in Salix House, which it plans to sell on through the shared-ownership scheme.

Homes in Alba house are likely to be rented out at London Affordable Rent, which is set by the Greater London Authority at slightly higher rates than social rent of about £673 per month for a one-bed flat or £712 per month for a two-bed.

The Home Office currently houses 150 children and 260 adults in contingency hotels in the borough, supported by refugee and resettlement officers employed by the council.

Part of Alba House will be funded by a £15.4m grant from the government’s £650m Refugee Housing Programme Fund, £126m of which is being distributed by City Hall.

To read the full council report, click here: https://democracy.walthamforest.gov.uk/documents/s93219/Acquisition%20of%20Affordable%20Homes%20and%20Waltham%20Forests%20Refugee%20Housing%20Programme%20-%20report.pdf


Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter