Couple return to Ukraine due to UK housing costs

Image source, Joe Place

Image caption,

Irina and Joe Place opted to stay in Ukraine after visiting family in September

A couple who left their home in Kyiv after the Russian invasion of Ukraine have returned to the war-torn country due to the cost of housing in the UK.

Joe and Irina Place said they faced paying £1,500 a month in England, compared to £500 in western Ukraine.

They said while rent had gone up in the some parts of the country "coming from the UK it's still really affordable".

Mr Place, from Sheffield, said he would not return to Kyiv as "it's not safe, but where we are it is, mostly anyway."

The couple, who met while they were teaching English in Ukraine in 2019, came to the UK in February to escape the conflict in the country.

Mr Place, a British 29-year-old PhD student and content writer, and his wife, a 34-year-old Ukrainian working as a content manager, travelled under the family visa scheme so were not eligible for the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

He said they initially stayed with friends and family before looking for a home in either Sheffield or Nottingham, but said they were met with "terrible" housing conditions, high costs and rental requirements they could not meet.

He said landlords would also not accept the cash the couple had in their Ukrainian bank accounts.

"We doubled our budget and more … we had a very strict list of requirements and we just kept going 'OK, well, compromise on this, compromise on this, compromise on this'.

"Anything we got even remotely close to getting was just terrible."

However, when they visited family in Ukraine in western Ukraine in September they made the decision to return, making a home in Uzhhorod.

"We realised we actually quite like it back here, and we're OK," Mr Place said.

Image source, Joe Place

Image caption,

The couple met while teaching English in Ukraine in 2019

Mrs Place was on a Ukraine Family Scheme visa but said she did not receive the same amount of support from the government as those on the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

"It's been incredible (the Homes for Ukraine scheme) … I hope we continue this approach for other crises," Mr Place said.

"But I do think there was a bit more support for that scheme. With the family scheme there is a presumption that you will just stay with a spouse or child or people already settled here.

"No, we've just uprooted our entire lives to come to the UK, we could also do with some help."

Mr Place said because Russia has been hitting Ukrainian infrastructure with missile strikes, they are prepared for electricity and heating outages.

"They're trying to get people to get prepared that you might lose the electricity and heating for a bit," he said.

"That is something that is going to affect all of us, and that's going to be difficult."

The government said the Homes for Ukraine and Ukraine Family schemes were "one of the fastest and biggest visa programmes in UK history".

A spokesperson said: "We expect Ukrainians entering the UK through the Ukraine Family Scheme to be primarily supported by family members, but they are also entitled to three years' leave to remain and full access to work, study and benefits – including Universal Credit.

"Local authorities have a duty to provide support to people on the family scheme, including homelessness where required."

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