Scores of housing groups and legal centres have called for ministers to abandon plans to remove licensing requirements for HMOs used as asylum accommodation.
In an open letter to the Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Housing Secretary Michael Gove, 137 organisations including Crisis, Shelter, the Refugee Council and Amnesty International urge them to rethink proposals that they say would leave asylum seekers housed in unsafe accommodation with inadequate protections against fire and overcrowding.
The changes outlined in the proposed Houses in Multiple Occupation (Asylum-Seeker Accommodation) Regulations would exempt landlords in England and Wales offering asylum accommodation from regulations governing everything from electrical safety to minimum room sizes.
They would no longer have to register with local authorities and could house asylum seekers for two years without getting an HMO licence.
The groups believe existing landlords and temporary accommodation providers will be incentivised to switch their properties to asylum accommodation, which may be more profitable. This could include properties which might not have met HMO standards.
As well as leading to an increase in substandard properties, it could exacerbate local housing and homelessness pressures, with the potential for people seeking sanctuary to be blamed for causing them.
They add that councils would no longer receive HMO licensing fees from properties used for asylum accommodation, drastically reducing the funds available for enforcement work.
Mary Atkinson, at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, says the government is essentially proposing a two-tier system of housing, with fundamental human rights for people born here but not for those who come here seeking safety.
'This is outrageous. Everyone deserves a home that is decent and safe '� by stripping away these protections for people seeking sanctuary, this government is putting people'�s lives at risk,'� she adds.