Homeless mother appeals housing waiting list ban
Homelessness case will test powers granted to councils by Localism Act
A homeless mother is appealing a landmark court decision allowing a local authority to use powers under the Localism Act to strike her off the housing register.
Lina Jakimavicuite, who has been living in temporary accommodation since she was made homeless with her daughter in 2011, was disqualified from Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s housing list in April 2013.
This was due to a new council policy banning homeless people in ‘long-term, suitable temporary accommodation’ (ie accommodation that suits their day-to-day needs and offers ongoing tenancy on a non-permanent basis) from bidding for social housing.
Ms Jakimavicuite’s legal action will test measures in the 2011 Localism Act, which gave councils the freedom to exclude groups of people from their housing lists and prioritise people seeking employment.
London boroughs have spent more than a half a billion pounds on temporary accommodation since 2010, according to a Press Association investigation published last month. Ms Jakimavicuite’s lawyers argue the council’s policy conflicts with a 1996 Housing Act measure which says councils should give ‘reasonable preference’ to the homeless in housing allocation schemes.
In December, a High Court judge dismissed Ms Jakimavicuite’s application, but her lawyers have applied for permission to appeal the decision.
If the case receives permission to be heard in the Court of Appeal, a decision against the council would mean any local authority currently excluding people deemed as having a ‘reasonable preference’ - which could also include those living in overcrowded housing - would have to review their allocations policy.
Barnet Council also excludes people living in long-term, suitable temporary accommodation from the housing register. Two other London boroughs are consulting on doing the same.Giles Peaker, partner at Anthony Gold Solicitors, said if the appeal court finds in favour of Hammersmith & Fulham ‘people who are acknowledged to be in housing need could simply be prevented from bidding from social housing at all’.
Andrew Johnson, Hammersmith & Fulham’s cabinet member for housing, said that the council’s new allocation system was ‘fair’.
‘Under no circumstances would a vulnerable person or household to whom we have a duty to accommodate find themselves without help securing a roof over their head,’ he added.