Biden’s failure to have a plan in place before the abrupt and botched Afghanistan withdrawal not only resulted in thousands of Americans and allies being stranded in the country, but also tens of thousands of refugees without a clear path for resettlement. Aside from the humanitarian tragedy, it is also a costly one.
CNN reports “refugee resettlement agencies are racing to find housing for the approximately 53,000 Afghans on military bases in the United States who will eventually be resettled in the country, but the groups are facing a strained – and expensive – housing market.”
“We also know without significant resources, there’s the real prospect of homelessness for some of these families,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services. “The housing crisis is essentially what Americans are experiencing but imagine approaching it when you don’t have a nest egg, you don’t have a safe income yet, you have no landlord references or history” she added.
The White House told state governors in mid-September how many Afghan refugees they can expect to be resettled in their states in coming weeks.
The allocations to each state were made under the new Afghan Placement and Assistance (APA) Program and were based on the initial 37,000 arrivals. Under the plan, California and Texas will have the highest capacities — 5,255 and 4,481, respectively.
Washington, Oklahoma, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, New York and Virginia are also slated to resettle more than 1,000 Afghan refugees. Mississippi and Alabama are projected to resettle the lowest number of Afghans: 10 each.
“In addition to funding the government until December 3, the stopgap bill will ‘provide funding to help process and resettle Afghan refugees and finally deliver on critical disaster aid for Americans battered by storms and wildfires this summer,’ said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.”
Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of one of the nine resettlement agencies working with the US government says finding housing for refugees is always a challenge, “but the recent housing market has made it more so.”
Also, “doing it during a pandemic, during a housing boom, during a housing shortage for large families who tend to be concentrated in cities that are not inexpensive to live in — that’s a challenging constellation,” Hetfield said.
Agencies also seem to have a “never enough” mentality. Agencies are paid $2,275 for each Afghan by the federal government. However, only $1,225 is used for “direct assistance like housing and basic necessities, including furniture and silverware. The other bulk of the money is used to cover administrative costs.”
Agencies also face varying rental costs, combined with refugees’ desired placement locations. “The national median rent rose to $1,302 in September, up 15% from a year ago, according to a report from Apartment List, a rental listing site.”
Depending on the city, there are simply not enough rental properties and some landlords might be hesitant to rent to people without a credit history, for example, refugee advocates say. Airbnb announced in August that Airbnb.org, an independent non-profit organization, would provide temporary housing to 20,000 Afghan refugees worldwide. And while advocates say that’s helpful, they want to find a long-term home for refugees.
Afghans want to go to different locations, depending on “whether they have US ties or where their local affiliates have capacity to take them in.” One Biden administration official said, “When people first arrived, we weren’t sure where they wanted to go or where in the US might be the best fit for them.” “We learned that a lot of people have ties to specific parts of the country” the official told CNN.