Glasgow’s social work service will pay “above market value” to continue renting flats for young asylum seekers in Springburn as “pressure” from new arrivals in Kent affects the city.
Officials decided a new five-year lease for 20 two-bed flats at Aman Court, on Laverockhall Street, was the “best option”, despite the rent rising by almost £65,000 per year.
Councillors backed the proposal after they were told a review of asylum seeker accommodation would not be complete before the lease needed to be renewed.
Alternative options are “limited”, an official said, due to a “lack of supply of private rented accommodation” and the council’s “unusual” requirements.
An official from the city’s health and social care partnership (HSCP) added: “A factor in our current pressures and current difficulties has been the continued pressure in Kent in terms of unaccompanied young people and wider asylum seeking populations.
“That has had an impact across the UK, including in Glasgow. Both with planned arrivals, through the national transfer scheme, but also predominantly spontaneous arrivals of young people, which has created continued pressure on the system above what we have normal availability for.”
The landlord of the Aman Court flats, Loch Investments Ltd, has increased the rent by 35% – increasing from £186,000 per year to £250,800. It will include heating and hot water costs.
The council official said the private residential letting sector and the energy market have been “volatile”. “The shortage of supply relative to demand has led to a sharp increase in prices,” he added.
“Nonetheless it is in my view that the proposed rent is in the order of about 10 to 15% above market value. Despite extensive discussions with the landlord, the terms offered are their final offer.
“Due to the lack of supply of private rented accommodation generally, and the unusual nature of the council’s requirements, alternative options are limited.
“Consequently, officers are of the view that agreeing the terms offered are the best option for the council both financially and in terms of continuity of service provision.”
Social work services have a legal responsibility to young asylum seekers, and the Springburn flats are used while their applications are considered.
The HSCP official said Aman Court is “routinely full or at a very, very high level of occupancy due to pressures in the housing market and additional pressures in the wider 16+ supported accommodation provision”.
Cllr Ken Andrew said: “It certainly looks expensive for the area, as suggested it looks like maybe 10 to 15% above market rates. Although having looked at it, it clearly looks like a tidy building. It looks well managed and clean.”
He asked whether a short-term contract had been considered while the council looked for alternative accommodation. An official said there is a break clause after three years.
Cllr Andrew added: “I just wonder whether we could have played hardball with him because I think the landlord may well have struggled to let 20 two-bedroom flats at that price in that area.”
However, the HSCP official said they had been “advised by the landlord that they have a university or college interested in student accommodation” and it would be “challenging” to find alternative, suitable accommodation for up to 40 young people.
She added a service review is under way in relation to the “whole system of accommodation provision to young unaccompanied asylum seekers”.
“The challenge for us is that it will not be in the timescales of this lease renewal and we need to consider the terms offered to us by the landlord in such a competitive market to give us some space and time to take forward the wider review of the general services.”
Rent payments for the accommodation will be taken from the HSCP’s budget.