Connecticut officials and refugee advocates are calling on landlords to rent apartments to dozens of families that fled Afghanistan and will be resettling in the state.
Gov. Ned Lamont joined other state officials and refugee resettlement advocates at a news conference Wednesday in New Haven. They said some landlords are expressing reluctance to lease apartments to refugee families.
The state and immigrant groups say they will guarantee rent is paid and even co-sign leases if necessary.
Officials said 214 Afghan refugees already have arrived in Connecticut and about 300 more are expected in the coming weeks and months, creating a need for a few hundred apartments.
"Landlords, please step up,'' Lamont said at a news conference outside a New Haven apartment set aside for one of the families. "We're going to make it work for you, make it work for you financially and it's really the right thing to do.''
The federal government told Connecticut officials to expect 510 refugees from Afghanistan to resettle in the state, and 214 already have arrived, Deidre Gifford, the state's social services commissioner, said.
About 9,000 Afghans have been resettled in the U.S. and more than 50,000 are living in temporary housing at military bases in the U.S., according to the Biden administration. Up to 30,000 more are projected to arrive over the next year or so. The refugees fled after the U.S. withdrew troops from Afghanistan in August and the Taliban took over.
Chris George, executive director of the New Haven-based Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services, said his organization is looking for at least 100 apartments for the refugees.
Another group, the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants, is also trying to secure housing for the families.
George said some landlords are saying they're not interested in renting to the refugees, despite the American tradition of welcoming immigrants.
"We stand behind these refugee families,'' George said at the news conference. "We'll make sure they pay the rent in full, on time. We are so confident that we will cosign the lease. So please, landlords, we're not asking you to put refugees to the front of the line. We just want them to be in line. We want you to consider them as worthy tenants.'"
Susan Schnitzer, president and CEO of the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants, said they are struggling to find affordable apartments for the evacuees and they are looking for homes that are safe, warm, and comforting.
Lamont said he hopes that Connecticut can be a role model for other states around the country and called for landlords to step up.