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Use of hotels as bridging accommodation

‘Bridging’ accommodation was used to house people arriving under the Afghan resettlement and relocation schemes until they moved into appropriate long-term accommodation. It was typically rooms in hotels or serviced apartments and cost around £1 million per day.

Bridging accommodation was intended to be temporary but many households stayed in hotels for much longer than anticipated. Underlying causes included a lack of suitable accommodation to move in to, ineffective matching of households to accommodation, reluctance to leave existing support structures and move to unfamiliar parts of the UK, and difficulties accessing properties in the private rental sector. There were over 8,000 Afghans in bridging accommodation at the end of March 2023, half of them children.

Withdrawing bridging accommodation

In April 2023 the government began to issue notices to quit to all households in bridging accommodation. The last households were due to move out by the end of August.

Stakeholders, including local government representatives, agreed that prolonged stays in bridging accommodation were undesirable. But they said it would be challenging to find accommodation for everyone within a short timeframe and worried that some households would become homeless.

Most households were supported to find their own accommodation in the private rented sector. The government allocated £285 million new funding to help local authorities source suitable properties and support people to make their own arrangements.

Some vulnerable households received an offer of long-term accommodation anywhere in the UK, through a local authority.

Outcomes as at September 2023

There were no Afghan households classified as living in bridging accommodation on 31 August 2023. But 341 families (1,826 people) were being accommodated by the Home Office in “interim” hotel accommodation pending a move to longer-term accommodation. Most interim accommodation sites had previously been used as bridging accommodation.

Responses to a voluntary survey of local authorities in England carried out by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities show 188 Afghan households were recorded as being in temporary accommodation under a homelessness duty in England, as of 31 August 2023. Survey respondents also reported owing a homelessness prevention or relief duty to 476 Afghan households between 1 July and 31 August.

The Home Office says over 80% of households in interim accommodation and around a quarter of households in temporary accommodation in England already have properties lined up to move into.

Accommodation for new arrivals from Pakistan

In late October 2023 ministers approved a change of policy so that ACRS and ARAP eligible Afghans will be brought to the UK from Pakistan as a matter of urgency. Some will move directly into long term accommodation, but where necessary temporary “transitional” accommodation (including hotels) will be used. The change of approach was prompted by concerns that the Afghans are at risk of deportation to Afghanistan. 

There remains a reluctance within government to use bridging accommodation more broadly. This is likely to have an ongoing impact on the timing and volume of arrivals under future stages of the ACRS.

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