Refugees are not queue-jumping ahead of Leeds families when it comes to being allocated council housing, a watchdog panel has been told.
A task force set up by Leeds City Council to oversee the arrival of up to 200 Syrian refugees in the city over the next two years told a committee at Leeds Civic Hall that only a tiny fraction of those families - as few as five but no more than 10 - would receive council housing, and it would not leave other Leeds families homeless.
The meeting heard that the direct impact on the local community from refugees was “negligible or nil”, and that “there is a lot of myth we need to try and clear”.
The Citizens and Communities scrutiny panel heard that the council has around 4,000 people on its housing priority list at any one time, with a number of factors including medical need contributing to their priority rating.
However it was stressed that “no one in Leeds needs to sleep on the streets”.
Councillor Debra Coupar, the council’s executive member for communities, said that although there were 21,000 people on the council housing waiting list at any one time, “it does not mean that 21,000 people have not got a roof over their heads” and the numbers on the list were based on applications not proven need,
“We have got a really good system in place of temporary accommodations and other options,” she added.
Coun Colin Campbell added: “We know that 21,000 have put an application in, but some of them will never get one because they don’t qualify for one reason or another.”
The meeting was told there are currently around 15 rough sleepers on Leeds’s streets. One of those is a failed asylum seeker, and around half are Eastern European jobseekers who are not entitled to claim benefits.
Coun Coupar added: “We do recognise that housing need is brought about by other circumstances as well”.
The meeting was also told that while the council has a “significant” role to play in re-homing its refugee quota, it has “much less of a role in terms of asylum seekers” whose housing is managed by private Government appointed contractors.