The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has announced that Islington is the first borough to secure funding from his Right to Buy Back scheme to secure long-term housing.
The North London borough has agreed a deal to bring 80 homes back into council ownership, including 20 family-sized homes for Afghan refugees. The Mayor’s Right to Buy-back fund was established earlier this year to give boroughs the funds to purchase former council homes that have been sold into the private market through the Government’s Right to Buy programme. These homes are then made available to those on boroughs’ council home waiting lists.
London has a proud history of providing sanctuary to those in need and the mayor has made clear that he wants to do everything in his power to support Afghan refugees to establish a long-term future in the city. In late August, as thousands of Afghans fled the advancing Taliban, the mayor announced he was expanding his new Right to Buy-back fund to help councils buy homes that can be used to resettle families arriving from Afghanistan. In recognition of the emergency situation, the mayor agreed to provide increased funding for family-sized homes purchased through the programme, which has led to today’s deal. These homes are on the open market so are expected be purchased shortly.
The mayor is also looking to expand access to a range of fully funded language courses for Afghans who have settled into the UK on either the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP) or Afghanistan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) through his adult education budget. From this year, the mayor is also planning to fully fund all eligible asylum seekers to access training including in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). This will provide much needed support to help refugees discover more about their new homes and to re-build their lives in London.
Khan has welcomed the Government’s commitment to resettle up to 20,000 Afghan refugees and the announcement of multi-year funding for councils to support them. However, as his Right to Buy Back scheme begins to make a real difference to the lives of refugees in London, he is once again urging ministers to use it as a template for a national model to boost council housing supplies.
Khan said: “I am delighted that Islington councillors have taken this swift, bold action to change the lives of Afghan refugees seeking sanctuary in their borough. The crisis in Afghanistan was devastating to watch and left many of us questioning what we could do to help. To see our city providing a home for those who have been dispossessed, giving security and safety to those who have lost so much, makes me proud to be a Londoner.
“But the hard work is just beginning and I look forward to hearing more proposals from more councils to emulate Islington’s work. I’d also like to see ministers replicate the ‘Right to Buy-back’ offer right across the country, helping councils and housing associations purchase more much-needed homes. Resettlement goes beyond just housing and I stand ready to work with government to ensure London boroughs and community organisations have the support necessary to help Afghan arrivals establish a long-term future in our open and welcoming city.”