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Housing Allocation and Homelessness
Law and PracticeFROM £64.00
An authoritative guide to the legal obligations of local authorities and housing associations in relation to the provision of social housing
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Written by leading specialists in the field, this book is a comprehensive and authoritative guide to the legal obligations of local housing authorities and social housing providers in relation to the provision of permanent and temporary housing accommodation, and the rights of those seeking such accommodation.
Housing Allocation and Homelessness: Law and Practice provides a uniquely balanced coverage of both the allocation of social housing and homelessness, providing practical guidance on the statutory framework and how the legislation works .
Housing Allocation and Homelessness: Law and Practice is a comprehensive resource for all housing options advisers, homelessness officers, housing staff working for local housing authorities and social housing providers on allocations and lettings, housing lawyers, and all those advising on homelessness and housing allocation.
The fourth edition has been substantially revised and includes:
- a comprehensive account of the new law in Wales: Housing (Wales) Act 2014, Part 2. All housing advisers, homelessness officers and lawyers dealing with applications for homelessness assistance to local housing authorities in Wales need to be familiar with the new law;
- a review of recent Supreme Court decisions on priority need, intentional homelessness and out-of-borough placements. The Court’s decisions are thoroughly explained and analysed; and
- a full discussion of the impact of the Localism Act 2011 changes for local housing authorities in England in respect of allocation of social housing and homelessness.
- Allocation of Social Housing: An Overview
- Information, Applications and Decision-Making in Respect of Social Housing Allocation
- Eligibility and Qualification for Allocation
- Allocation Schemes
- Being Allocated a Property
- Lettings by Social Landlords other than local housing authorities
- Local Housing Authorities' Homelessness Reviews and Strategies
- Homelessness Prevention
- Advisory Services and Applications for Homelessness Assistance
- Inquiries and Decisions
- Homeless or Threatened with Homelessness
- Eligibility for Assistance
- Priority Need
- Becoming Homeless Intentionally
- Referral between Different Local Housing Authorities
- Interim Accommodation - Duties and Powers
- Duties and Powers to Assist the Homeless
- Suitability of Accommodation
- Reviewing and Appealing Homelessness Decisions
- Other Help with Accommodation from Local Authorities
- Contracting out of Homelessness and Allocation Functions
- England: Allocation
- England: Homelessness
- Wales: Allocation and Homelessness
Reviews of the previous edition
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There has scarcely been a more depressing time to be writing a book about the topics of homelessness and social housing allocation.
After years of decline in the number of applications for homelessness assistance, the tide has turned and the figures are growing again in both England and Wales. By the second quarter of 2012, more than 4,000 homelessness applications a month were being made to local councils in England alone.
There seems little prospect of any imminent reduction. Indeed, the combined effects of the recent restrictions on housing benefit, the imminent introduction of the so-called ‘bedroom tax’, and the capping of overall benefits from 2013 all strongly suggest that more and more tenants will be forced to leave their homes and apply for homelessness assistance in the next few years. Any significant increase in mortgage interest rates will additionally tip thousands of struggling homeowners over the brink and into homelessness.
Of course, the necessary consequence of increasing homelessness is the steady growth in demand for short-term crisis accommodation provided by local housing authorities, which are having to continue to operate the homelessness ‘safety net’ despite many other demands on their own diminished resources. By mid-2012 the number of homeless households placed in temporary accommodation had reached over 51,000.
Hard-stretched local housing authorities have found themselves unable to cope with this pressure. Many have been forced to break the law and place families in bed and breakfast accommodation. Earlier this year the position became so bad that the then Minister of Housing had to write to more than a dozen local housing authorities that were unlawfully breaking the embargo on the use of that sort of accommodation for significant numbers of families.
In the longer term, the aspiration for many low income households is access to correspondingly low-rent social housing. There are now more applicants on social housing waiting lists than the system can possibly ever cope with. Given the very low levels of new build and conversion to provide low-rent social housing, for the majority of applicants there is no real prospect of obtaining a tenancy of social housing for many years, if at all.
Against the background of these social trends, the law itself has been undergoing change. This year, the parts of the Localism Act 2011 that are designed to give greater ‘flexibility’ for local councils to tackle homelessness and the excess demand for social housing allocation have been brought into force in England. On homelessness, local housing authorities will now be released from their obligations to the homeless households owed the highest duty by a ‘take-it-or-leave it’ offer of private rented accommodation. We deal with the detail in Chapter 17. On housing allocation, councils are to be given back a power – scrapped a decade ago – to pick and choose which classes of applicant can and cannot get access to their available social housing. That change will enable a dramatic cull of waiting lists and is reviewed in Chapter 3.
Some readers may be heartened by the fact that the preparation of this edition has required us to deal with the impact of many fewer court decisions than in previous years. Our experience suggests that this is not a consequence of the law having become less contentious or easier to apply. It reflects, rather, the greatly reduced availability of resources with which to take or defend court cases. We do not simply mean that local housing authorities are being driven to settle cases they would otherwise have contested or to abandon appeals that they would otherwise have pursued because of pressures on the public purse – although we have seen much of that. The downward trend is equally a reflection of the fact that diminishing numbers of specialist lawyers assisting the homeless and aspirant social housing tenants are finding it harder and harder to deliver high quality services in the face of reductions in their remuneration from legal aid and the impending curtailment of its scope.
The recent history strongly suggests that in future more disputes will find their way to the respective ombudsmen than to the courts. We make no apology for having given greater emphasis in this edition to the work of those ombudsmen and to the lessons to be learned from the investigations they have undertaken and the reports they have published.
What has driven us to maintain our own commitment to this book is the experience we have had, from up and down the country, of continuing interest and enthusiasm among local authority staff, housing association officers, housing lawyers and housing advice workers who still want – despite all the odds – to ‘do the right thing’, wherever possible, and ensure that the homeless, and applicants for social housing, achieve at least the minimum rights that legislation confers on them. If our writing helps them in that endeavour, in any way, it will have been worth it.
But this book is not the product of our labours alone. This edition has been ably edited by Julian Roskams of Etica Press. Its production has been efficiently steered by Kate Hather and Tony Hawitt at our publishers, Jordans. Our expert professional colleagues Sue Lukes, Adrian Berry and Desmond Rutledge have all helped us on points of detail. Readers of earlier editions have been kind enough to suggest amendments or additions. The indefatigable Di Acon at Jordans has organised a roadshow enabling us to get this new edition directly into use by frontline workers. Most importantly, our respective partners and our family members have provided endless support during the daunting process of carefully revising a text of this magnitude.
We write this preface at the arrival of another anniversary of the loss of that stalwart of the interests of the homeless, the late Bob Lawrence. Our regret is that, for the reasons we have set out above, he must surely be turning in his grave. He will be all the more sorely missed.
Jan Luba QC
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