Kineara was invited by Southwark Law Centre in October 2023 to provide help in response to the growing demand for housing support among new refugees, following changes in asylum seeker processing by the Home Office. 

We have since been supporting refugees attending a weekly drop-in surgery at the St Giles Centre, established by the Southwark Refugee Communities  Forum, to assist those granted the right to remain in finding accommodation in the Private Rented Sector (PRS). 

At the surgeries we provide advice and information about the initial stages in finding a tenancy including: 

  • An overview of how the PRS operates, including roles and responsibilities of tenants and landlords. 
  • Guidance on where and how to search for available properties effectively. 
  • Information on what tenancy agreements entail, including key terms and conditions to be aware of. 
  • Best practices for communicating with landlords, including tips for successful and respectful interactions. 
  • Advice on how to present oneself during property viewings to make a positive impression. 
  • Tips on assessing affordability based on income and local housing allowance, ensuring that potential tenants can sustainably manage their rental payments. 
  • The basic rights and responsibilities of tenants to help refugees understand their legal standing. 

Accessing PRS housing is challenging for refugees because of language barriers coupled with limited knowledge and understanding of the complex housing process in the UK. 

In addition to the weekly drop-in sessions, Kineara recently hosted an event in partnership with Southwark Law Centre and Citizens Advice at the St Giles Centre. The event provided comprehensive information on searching for and renting PRS properties, as well as basic tenants’ rights. It was well attended and positively received, addressing the information gap for individuals and organisations operating in this space, regarding available support. The success of this event highlights the need for more collaborative efforts and partnerships in the form of such workshops.

Attendance to the drop-in surgery rose exponentially as eviction of people from ‘NASS’ or Asylum Seeker accommodation increased. These evictees are considered low priority for housing, leading to increased homelessness, which has negatively affected local councils and wider communities. The council is not obligated to provide housing for individuals impacted by these changes. Consequently, the demand for Kineara’s support services has surged, but with limited capacity at present, not everyone who visits the weekly drop-in service can be seen.

– Sandra Axell, Housing Projects Manager, Kineara.

Challenges and issues with existing provisions identified  

Most of the individuals Kineara has  supported through the distress of homelessness are over 35 years old and qualify for an exemption to the shared accommodation LHA rate. We have found that those under 35 face significant challenges in finding accommodation due to several barriers, including: 

  • Availability of Affordable Properties: There are not many rooms for rent at the Local Housing Authority (LHA) rates in London. The average cost for a room in 2024 is £935 22% higher than the previous year. Overall, there are less rooms available to rent than before the pandemic, due to higher demands and less stock. 
  • Unregistered Landlords: Some landlords who are renting out rooms at a lower cost are not registered and therefore not eligible for council incentive payments. This means that even though the person has been offered accommodation, they are not able to accept it. 
  • A Lengthy Incentive Process: Another obstacle is the time it takes to provide landlords with incentives, which negatively affects individuals trying to secure a property after viewings. Essentially the incentive process is too slow.
  • Holding Deposits and Tenant Financial Strain: Letting agencies and landlords commonly request a holding deposit from all prospective tenants following property viewings. This deposit, typically equivalent to one week’s rent, is deducted from the security deposit upon signing the tenancy agreement. However, for many individuals reliant on benefits, saving up for this deposit poses significant difficulty and time constraints.
  • Language Barriers: Many of the refugees Kineara supports have limited English proficiency. Consequently, they require assistance in communicating with landlords or agencies during property viewings, including asking pertinent questions and addressing any inquiries posed by the agency. Additionally, support is needed for form completion and explaining the crucial aspects of the tenancy agreement in a comprehensible manner. The language barrier also raises concerns for landlords regarding the sustainability of a tenancy if communication between both parties is likely to be challenging and/or if it is perceived that the tenant will be unable to independently deal with things like setting up utility bills and managing any changes to benefits like Universal Credit, for example.
  • Credit Assessment Hurdles: Providing references and conducting affordable checks for refugees who lack any prior tenancy or employment history makes it impossible to establish creditworthiness.
  • LHA Increases and the Benefits Cap: The recent LHA increase in 2024 could negatively impact single individuals who are not exempt from the benefit cap which limits the benefits a single person can receive to £1,413.94 per month (unless they are earning more than £722 per month or receiving disability benefits). Since the LHA for studio or one-bedroom properties is now around £1,300 to £1,400 per month, those who are unemployed or not receiving disability benefits will be unable to afford these properties. 


In response to some of the challenges presented above, Kineara has formed partnerships with Southwark Works and Reed in Partnership to help clients find employment. However, there is additional issue with those who are already homeless after eviction from hotels as they cannot provide an employer with an address.  

On this programme, Kineara will continue to partner with the housing and resettlement team at Southwark Council who are supporting the refugees, as well as utilising our contacts with landlords and letting agencies to find properties. Kineara is also working closely with St Mungo’s to link up anyone sleeping rough with their outreach team. We are also collaborating with the Southwark Refugee Communities Forum and Southwark Day Centre to support clients and receive referrals for the programme.  


As we have seen from our wider interventions, sustaining a tenancy also depends on healthy connections to the local community. For refugees this is especially true when starting again in a new country and in light of the traumas that have caused them to flee their home country. Support is needed to find and register with health services and access other community provisions for health and wellbeing, as well as learning and employment opportunities, if future tenancies when found, are to be sustainable. 

Our hope is that we are able to secure funding to develop and deliver this impactful work in line with the challenges and gaps in the current provisions we have identified. This project acts as a prototype in evidencing the need for a joined up, holistic approach to delivering sustainable outcomes for refugees to integrate securely and successfully into society.