Year-long ban on social housing for homeless families in Westminster is ruled unlawful
- Credit: Archant
A policy by Westminster Council that bans homeless families from applying for social housing for a year has been ruled unlawful by the High Court.
Judge Justice Blair QC slammed the council for implementing the rules that forced affected families to seek accommodation in the more expensive private sector until the ban was lifted after 12 months.
A case was bought to the High Court of Justice in the Strand by a married couple with three school-aged children who were made homeless due to the benefit cap.
The father works but due to the restrictions made on the amount of Housing Benefit the family were able to receive they could not afford the full rent.
Despite the council owing them a full duty to house them they barred the family from bidding for a social housing property for 12 months.
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Mr Justice Blair said the council’s policy failed on three counts including the allocation of social housing to statutorily defined group (such as this family).
He added: “A whole sub-group which is altogether excluded from the potential of being allocated social housing for 12 months… is unlawful.”
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The council has been criticised in the past in a number of legal judgements including illegally placing families in bed and breakfast accommodation for extended periods of time.
Cllr Vincenzo Rampulla, Westminster Council’s Labour housing spokesman said: “Westminster Council’s housing allocation policy is a mess. Once again the council has sought, and lost, a costly court case to defend a housing allocation policy that continues to short change Westminster families.
“The irony of the council trying to push more families into the private rent sector, some of the very landlords that are kicking out families by driving up rents in Westminster, is painful.
He added: “The council needs to face up to Westminster’s social housing need. Wasting millions of pounds on high cost, nightly booked temporary accommodation and losing expensive court cases is not the answer.
“Building more social and genuinely affordable housing in Westminster is vital in order to respond to this crisis.”
The ruling follows a public consultation by the council on a new housing strategy launched at the beginning of June with key aims to provide more affordable homes for “low and middle income households…while continuing to help the most disadvantaged.”
A spokesman for Westminster Council said: “We are disappointed with the ruling on this individual case but we will take on board what the judge has said.
“As before, we will continue to take into account the full range of considerations when finding suitable accommodation for those in housing need, including supporting some homeless households in to the private rented sector where is it affordable.
“Our view was that we didn’t want to be adding to the long queues of people waiting for a home at a time when we are trying really hard to get people in to affordable homes, which are in short supply both here and across London.”
In April, the UK’s highest court ruled Westminster Council were wrong to rule a single mother with five children has made her self intentionally homeless after she refused to move 50miles away to Milton Keynes..
Titina Nzolameso successfully argued that the council had failed to adequately seek suitable accommodation for her and her children in, or closer to, the borough.
The decision means that all local authorities will have to have a policy that anticipates housing need during the coming year, and procures sufficient temporary accommodation.