More than half of Ukrainian refugees (54%) have struggled to find somewhere affordable to rent, according to new research.

A survey of 325 Ukrainian refugees by Generation Rent and the charity Opora found 49%, nearly half, had struggled to provide a guarantor when looking for somewhere to rent and 43% had struggled to find money for a tenancy deposit.

The findings highlight the obstacles preventing Ukrainian refugees from accessing safe and stable homes here in the UK.

As of March 2023, 222,000 visas have been awarded to Ukrainians fleeing from the war. Saturday, 18 March 2023, marks the first anniversary of the launch of the Homes for Ukraine scheme, which accounts for 70% of all visas.

80% of all respondents to the survey were private renters or were actively looking for private accommodation to rent in the UK. But Ukrainians overwhelmingly reported a host of obstacles preventing them from accessing good quality homes.

One respondent explained their story: “My salary is less than the minimum wage and I receive Universal Credit. As soon as the [rental] agency hears about it, they immediately refuse and say that there are other, more financially attractive, potential tenants. All this despite the fact that the local council is prepared to pay 6 months’ rent in advance alongside a security deposit…I have not been able to find anything in two months, while we will have to move out from our hosts next week.”

Benefits are a vital lifeline for Ukrainian refugees who have fled the war. However, many have struggled to find a landlord to rent to a welfare claimant.

One respondent said: “It was difficult to find housing for rent. First of all, little is offered. Secondly, if a family with children is on benefits, they generally refuse, especially to refugees.”

As of the end of September 2022, a third of all Ukrainian arrivals were children. However, many Ukrainian parents are now struggling to find somewhere to rent for their family.

One respondent said: “There is a huge problem with housing, it is impossible to rent it for Ukrainians, it is very expensive. The majority of people from Ukraine are women with children who cannot work full time while the kids are small and renting housing is therefore unaffordable for them.”

There were indications that difficulties in accessing housing in private rented accommodation was a direct cause of homelessness amongst some Ukrainian refugees.

One respondent explained: “Even if I were able to pay the deposit for six months in advance, the agencies do not agree to my candidacy and I understand that after the period of stay in the sponsor’s house, I and my family may end up on the street.”

Those who were able to access housing in the private rented sector often reported standards issues, especially damp and mould.

Almost half (46%) of all respondents had experienced mould or damp in their current property and over a quarter (28%) had experienced leaks and droughts.

One respondent said: “There was mould in the bathroom, the window in one of the bedrooms was leaking, the washing machine broke down on a regular basis, so did the boiler; there is still no hot water in parts of the house.”

Stan Beneš, managing director of Opora, said: “As we enter the second year of the Homes for Ukraine scheme, we are moving from an emergency crisis response to addressing systemic issues that impact everyone in the UK, with the Ukrainian cohort facing additional structural barriers alongside that.”

“This research makes it clear that Ukrainian refugees are currently facing a disproportionately high level of structural barriers in accessing the private rented sector. People are having to settle for properties that are clearly not suitable for sustainable rebuilding of lives, as reflected in the percentage reporting damp and mould, and unaddressed disrepair.”

“Opora echoes the calls for the government to work proactively with landlords and letting agents to alleviate the barriers facing Ukrainian refugees in accessing safe and appropriate housing. It is necessary to join up these efforts with work already being done in housing advocacy and homelessness prevention to address these issues efficiently and sustainably.”

Alicia Kennedy, director of Generation Rent, said: “Too many Ukrainians are being presented with three options: become homeless, endure poor quality housing, or return to Ukraine. Clearly, things need to change.

“The recently announced £150m being made available to Ukrainian refugees across the UK at risk of homelessness (regardless of which scheme through which they arrived) will undoubtedly benefit many who are currently struggling.

“However, more can be done to ensure that Ukrainian refugees are supported into the private rented sector and this homelessness crisis ended.

“The government must appoint a Minister of State for Refugees, make another nationwide call for host families, issue guidance to local authorities on how they should be supporting Ukrainian refugees and work with landlords and letting agents to ensure that Ukrainian refugees are able to access accommodation in the private rented sector.”