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Afghans Who Have Relocated to the United States Have Difficulties in Finding Cheap Accommodation!

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IRVINE, Calif. Mozhgan Entazari tried everything she could to find her family a new home in the sunny, palm tree-lined suburbs of Southern California.

So, when her family was staying in a hotel in Irvine, south of Los Angeles, she and her husband looked on Zillow. Her $200 Uber ride to visit an apartment 90 minutes away turned out to be a scam.

Entazari required space for her immediate family and seven distant family members.

It took four months. They will move into a $5,000 five-bedroom house in Corona, about 50 miles (80 kilometres) southeast of LA, on Sunday.

The family’s problems are symbolic of what tens of thousands of Afghans are discovering since leaving US military posts and moving into American cities and towns last summer. In Southern California and Washington, D.C., Afghans have developed lively communities with Halal food stores and mosques.

But these are some of the country’s priciest housing markets, and units, especially for bigger Afghan families, are scarce. Refugees are staying longer in hotels, Airbnbs, and churches, according to resettlement agencies.

Entazari will live with her husband, children, mother, teen sister, and brother and his family.

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Finding accommodation without a job, credit history, or co-signer was tough for her. She and her husband couldn’t acquire employment and her kids couldn’t enrol in school without an address.

“Housing is everything,” Entazari remarked in Farsi through an interpreter.

They had to pay two months’ rent upfront, but an organisation will support a portion of their payment until next year.

Afghans

As the US recovers from the pandemic, Afghans are looking for housing. The national vacancy rate for rental units fell to 5.6 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to new Census statistics. The average US rent rose over 16% to over $1,850 in January, according to Zillow, an online real estate marketplace that began helping landlords interact with recently arriving Afghans in November.

Ahmad Saeed Totakhail found permanent residence in Dale City, Virginia, roughly 25 miles south of Washington.

His sister lived there till he acquired his place. The same organisation that hired him in Kabul hired him in Arlington.

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The beautiful mosques and abundance of Afghan cuisine have eased his departure. But he was stunned by the monthly fee of $2,000 for his family’s refuge.

“It’s extremely costly.” It’s a good place. My family is here. But we never talked about money.”

According to the Migration Policy Institute, half of all Afghan immigrants dwell in five large cities: Washington, Sacramento, San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles. As a result, many Afghan newcomers use the names of family or acquaintances already residing there as connections while applying for resettlement.

Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan last year, many of these places have reached capacity, according to Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration Refugee Service.

The resettlement group has partnered up with Airbnb to provide temporary housing while looking for a permanent solution. To fulfil demand, they built offices in more cheap markets. But the places must also have a strong employment market and support institutions for Afghan families, such as mosques and Halal stores, she said.

The State Department says it doesn’t track how many Afghans are staying in hotels. US State Department figures show that roughly 10,500 Afghans had arrived in Texas, 8,200 in California, 5,100 in Virginia and 2,800 in Washington since the Taliban took charge.

Since last summer, Lutheran Social Services has assisted almost 4,000 Afghans relocate. As a recent Afghan refugee, Zabi asked to be recognised only by his nickname since he still has family in Afghanistan who may be targeted because of his former service with the US military.

For local landlords and property owners, Afghan refugees are worth a little extra consideration.

“They’ll pay their rent,” he added, adding that the agency and the Afghan community assist many find work swiftly.

Churches in Newburyport, Massachusetts, welcomed four Afghan families. With the high expense of living in the mostly white, affluent neighbourhood on the New Hampshire border, Rev. Jarred Mercer says helping them settle is difficult.

He and another preacher are working with city officials to enlist the help of local property owners and charities. They’ve gathered funds and organised volunteer committees to help with everything from English classes to transportation.

Weaning them out of town and starting over would be more traumatising for them, Mercer says.

Several Afghan families were requested to relocate after months of searching for a home in Southern California, according to Afghan Refugee Relief worker Sonik Sadozai.

Sadozai, an Afghan immigrant who arrived in the nation 40 years ago, said she has never experienced such many challenges.

In part, she claimed, she was able to help Entazari and her family leave the Irvine hotel because a Syrian friend of an Afghan man she had helped find lodging four years ago contacted her.

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But she worries about the other 100 Afghan families she is assisting in their hunt.

Many landlords hit hard by the pandemic are demanding two months’ rent in front, which is difficult for newcomers, especially those needing larger units.

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