The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health gas come out in support of a legal challenge to the government’s draft regulations exempting accommodation for asylum seekers from HMO licensing requirements.
The government had proposed that to ensure there were sufficient HMOs to accommodate growing numbers of asylum seekers awaiting decisions on whether they are allowed to stay in the UK, HMO regulations would be relaxed for two years; this would apply to anyone willing to set up HMOs specifically for asylum seekers.
According to the report on the Commons debate in May on the Draft Houses in Multiple Occupation (Asylum-Seeker Accommodation) (England) Regulations 2023: “Longer-term dispersal accommodation, such as houses in multiple occupation, commonly known as HMOs, are a better solution for asylum seekers—especially single asylum seekers—communities and the taxpayer. All local authority areas in England, Scotland and Wales became asylum dispersal areas in April 2022, increasing the number of suitable properties that can be procured to accommodate destitute asylum seekers across the UK.
“To deliver on that change and support the rapid provision of alternative, more cost-effective accommodation, the Government laid secondary legislation on 30 March to temporarily exempt asylum accommodation from the licensing requirements for houses in multiple occupation. This temporary exemption is part of a broader suite of measures that the Home Office is implementing to speed up the moving of asylum seekers out of hotel accommodation.
“The regulations will temporarily exempt from licensing requirements HMO properties that are used by the Home Office to house asylum seekers. That means that HMO properties that begin use as asylum accommodation before 30 June 2024 will not need to be licensed for a period of two years”.
Housing and refugee charities have criticised the proposals and now Zena Lynch - a member of the CIEH Housing Advisory Panel - has provided a witness statement on behalf of CIEH for a judicial review of the draft regulations. The case will be heard in February.
CIEH says it’s concerned that these draft regulations could lead to a lowering of housing standards for asylum seekers.
Louise Hosking, executive director of environmental health at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, says: “These draft regulations risk creating a two-tier system for enforcement of standards in HMOs. They could also incentivise unscrupulous landlords to move into the supply of asylum-seeker accommodation. We have a unique perspective on the issue as the body representing the people responsible for HMO licensing enforcement. This is an important opportunity for us to make our voice heard.”
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