Our reviewer Giles Peaker (of Anthony Gold solicitors) should be pretty knowledgeable now on housing allocation and homelessness law, as he previously reviewed Andrew Arden’s book on the same subject. What did he make of this one?
Housing Allocation and Homelessness: Law and Practice
The overall aim of the book, as the subtitle suggests, is to provide both a comprehensive view of the law in these areas, but also to provide the clear and practical information required by advisors and practitioners in dealing with individual cases. It generally succeeds in this admirably.
The first part deals with allocation policy and practice. This is a substantial and detailed address which starts with an outline history of the statute and government guidance governing local authority allocation policies and procedures, including the major amendments of the Housing
Act 1996 and the Homelessness Act 2002.
This is highly useful for anyone new to advising on allocations who is trying to make sense of the complex history of case law. An overview of the current position is followed by a detailed breakdown of eligibility, allocation schemes and the practicality of being allocated a property.
The latter chapter acknowledges the transformation in the legal landscape brought about by the House of Lords in R(Ahmad) v Newham LBC and the green light given for simplified banding in choice based schemes. The topic of ‘challenges to allocation schemes’ now occupies just two pages.
As well as dealing with nominations to Registered Social Landlords by Local Authorities, the book also has a separate section on lettings by RSLs and their duty to maintain a lettings policy, a useful inclusion given the potential for challenge by judicial review, following Weaver v L&Q.
Although a stop press dated 91 March 2010 at the start of the book records the Tenants Services Authority becoming the regulatory body for social housing, both RSL and Local Authority, events threaten to overtake this in short order, with the threatened demise of the TSA. This is unlikely to have an immediate effect on the relevant statutory requirements and guidance, however.
The second section deals with homelessness. Opening chapters on strategy and on homeless prevention policy and guidance set the broad context. The next chapters focus on the individual applicant and the local authority’s powers and duties, from making an application, through the initial inquiry and decision process, to the statutory checklist of being homeless, eligible, in priority need and not intentionally homeless familiar to any housing advisor.
The following chapters, logically organised, deal with interim accommodation, duties and powers to assist the homeless, suitability of accommodation, reviews and appeals of decisions (including judicial review), and other help with accommodation from Local Authorities outside Part VII Housing Act 1996.
These chapters are clearly set out, detailed and fully supported with reference to relevant case law, as one would expect. Case law is up to date to the end of February 2010, including Tomlinson v Birmingham City Council in the Supreme Court.
The organisation of the sub-sections throughout these ‘practical’ chapters is particularly helpful to an advisor trying to find their way through this most complex interaction of fact and law, with a clear breakdown into points and issues to consider.
A final chapter considers the contracting out of homeless and allocation functions by Local Authorities. This last chapter is interesting, given the increasing tendency of Councils to contract out homelessness functions and potentially of use to advisors, as very recent cases on ‘contracting out’ of review functions have shown. Full appendices with relevant statute, SIs and guidance complete the book.
Overall, this is a worthy competitor to the LAG Homelessness and Allocations. On allocation, this book is considerably more detailed, and I would recommend it to anyone trying to fathom the basis and requirements of allocation policies, although by the very nature of the statute the discussion is inevitably at a fairly general level.
On homelessness, I wouldn’t want to chose between the two, on the content. Each has its own style and approach and which they prefer is something for the readers to decide.
Giles Peaker, our reviewer, is an assistant solicitor in the Housing and Public Law team at solicitors Anthony Gold.
Housing Allocation and Homelessness: Law and Practice can be purchased online from Amazon (affiliate link).