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City Matters 133

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CITYMATTERS.LONDON 15 September - 12 October 2021 | Page 5 NEWS subscribe to our newsletter at London Refugee Response fund gets ‘incredible support’ Pandemic prompts £115k drop in City house values HOUSE prices in Central London have fallen drastically in the wake of the pandemic. In the City of London, house prices had dropped by £115,172 in June this year. Prices in the historic borough dropped 13.2 percent from £871,336 to £756,164, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). In London, the average home cost £510,299 in June this year. That was 6.3 percent higher than the average cost of £479,969 in June last year. Bank of England analysis reported ongoing strong demand for housing across most of the UK in the quarter to June and a shortage of properties for sale, which pushed up prices. City of London has said it is planning to create at least 1,500 new homes by repurposing offices and other buildings left empty because of the pandemic. The borough intends to increase the number of homes in the centre of London by 20 percent by 2030. Other central London boroughs that saw prices drop were Westminster, Hackney, Kensington and Chelsea, and Southwark. House prices dropped by 7.9 percent in Westminster while prices in Kensington and Chelsea were slashed by £100,000, a 4.8 percent reduction. Across the UK house prices soared and the average house price increased by 13.2 percent in the year to June, the largest City of London percentage increase since November 2004. UK average house prices reached a record high of £266,000, up by £31,000 compared to this time last year. The only area of the country outside of London to see falling prices is Na h-Eileanan Siar in Scotland. The ONS also showed Britons are now opting for homes with more space following months of lockdowns. Prices for detached homes in the UK rose 15.6 percent in the year to June, with a 13.5 percent rise for semi-detached, and a 14 percent rise for terraces; however, flats only saw prices rise by 8.4 percent over the year. MAYOR of London Sadiq Khan has launched a new London Refugee Response fund to support the resettlement of Afghan refugees following an outpouring of donations from Londoners, writes Joe Talora, Local Democracy Reporter. Roughly 9,000 refugees have so far arrived in the UK from Afghanistan, with up to 3,500 having arrived in London. A collaboration between City Hall, London councils and The London Community Foundation, the London Refugee Response fund will be a “onestop shop” for people to donate to the resettlement effort and help refugees build a new life. Khan met with volunteers at the Lewisham Donation Hub, where he thanked Londoners for their “incredible” response so far during the launch of the new fund. Khan said: “I’m immensely proud that our city has once again demonstrated that we are welcoming and open to all. The response from Londoners has been incredible and I’d like to thank everyone who has offered donations to help Afghan refugees and all the volunteers who are giving their time to help. “I’m also deeply humbled by the courage and resilience of all those who have arrived in our city in the most difficult of circumstances. Our charities, voluntary organisations and councils are doing all they can to help them settle into our city and showing that we will always provide refuge to those seeking sanctuary, and I’m delighted to launch the new London Refugee Response fund to help even more Londoners donate.” The mayor told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that he had been having “really good conversations” with the Government around what further support was needed. Khan said that it was “key” for councils to be provided with the resources to allow them to support refugees in relation to healthcare, education and social integration. Laurence Smith of the Lewisham Donation Hub said that volunteers had been “absolutely engulfed” by donations from the local community after putting out calls for items on social media. The hub was set up last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to provide people in the community with anything they may need, including clothing, food and medicine. Smith said it was “impossible to quantify” how many people had been supported by the hub, but that around 300,000 meals had been donated since last year as well as more than 1,000 laptops and smartphones to support children’s’ education during lockdown. With the hub inundated with donations of clothing and food, Smith said that the first priority for donations now is smartphones and laptops to ensure that newly arrived refugees can access support and education. The UK Government has committed to taking in 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan in the coming years.

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