Homeless teen's victory over Brent Council's 'unlawful' housing policy

Shadacia White is taking Brent Council to the High Court over its housing homeless policy

Shadacia White is taking Brent Council to the High Court over its housing homeless policy - Credit: Osborne's Law

A homeless teenager has forced Brent Council to overturn its unlawful housing policy – helping more than 1,200 homeless individuals and families onto the council housing list.

Shadacia White, 18, was due to take the local authority to the High Court on October 27 to stop it from unlawfully preventing homeless people from bidding for a council house.

Shadacia White has taken out a judicial review against Brent Council's homeless policies

Shadacia White has taken out a judicial review against Brent Council's homeless policies - Credit: Osborne's Law

But with the help of housing litigation specialists at Osbornes Law the university marketing student managed to make Brent change their policy and to put things right for those who had been affected, on the eve of the High Court hearing.

Brent Council has agreed to changes by February 2022 but Shadacia can restart Judicial Review proceedings before March 15 if they fail to do so.

Figures from the council revealed that 1,233 homeless households who were previously deemed ineligible for council housing would have their applications for social housing updated from October 29 to allow them to finally bid for a home.

Hundreds of homeless people in Brent have been prevented from bidding for housing for the past eight years, as they were deemed "no priority".

Shadacia previously won her own case to be placed on the council housing list but wanted to continue the fight to get Brent to change the policy for all homeless people.

“We have finally achieved justice for the hundreds of homeless people in Brent who have been banned from bidding on the housing list despite being homeless and legal right to bid," she said.

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"Surely those who are homeless need a home the most, yet Brent has been illegally banning them from being placed on a housing list or placing them into the lowest priority ‘Band D’ so that they could not bid?

"When I won my own case I wanted to keep on fighting for all of those who are affected by this inhumane policy.

“While I am pleased that Brent has finally changed its policy, it really shouldn’t have taken a homeless teenage student standing up against them to change it.”

Shadacia White has 'sofa surfed' throughout her childhood with her mother and brother

Shadacia White has 'sofa surfed' throughout her childhood with her mother and brother - Credit: Osborne's Law

Shadacia, who is now on a waiting list, was originally told she would not be considered for housing by Brent Council despite being homeless and living in temporary accommodation.

She currently lives in temporary accommodation with her mother, sister and autistic brother, and has been ‘sofa surfing’ throughout her childhood. 

“The last few years have been a struggle and there were times when mum took us to Heathrow to sleep as we had nowhere else to go," she added. 

"Mum would just walk around all day in the cold. I went into school and told them what was happening and that I just wanted somewhere warm to stay and they got me a social worker and temporary accommodation.”

Brent Council’s allocation scheme currently places applicants in priority bands D to A, where A is the highest priority.

Brent’s scheme currently says homeless applicants have ‘no priority’ and will be placed in band D, so that they can’t bid.

The only exception to this is if Brent had accepted a ‘main housing duty’ towards a homelessness applicant which requires the applicant to meet specific criteria that goes beyond being homeless, such as having a serious enough health condition.

Osbornes said the law stipulates that Brent has to give ‘reasonable preference’ to homeless people even if they are not owed the ‘main housing duty’, meaning that the current policy is unlawful.

Sam O’Flaherty, a specialist housing litigation solicitor at the London-based law firm, said they were "delighted" Brent has agreed to reverse its policy.

"It is unfortunate that we needed to issue proceedings to ensure that this happened and was done properly," he said.

As a result of Shadacia’s claim, he said, Brent has agreed to change their policy by February 2022, as well as a series of measures to ensure that homeless households do not continue to be deprived of their right to bid for social housing in the meantime.

Previously affected homeless households will contacted and given an opportunity to join the Housing Register and bid.

"Regrettably, I am not confident this would have been achieved without Shadacia having fought this all the way to the High Court.

"It is a testament to her that she has managed to achieve this and continued to fight even when she had won her own case.”

A Brent Council spokesperson said: "In January of this year, we started a review of our allocations policy in order to make some technical clarifications following changes to government guidelines. 

"Ms White's lawyers drew our attention to the fact that we should have given her reasonable preference on our housing register during the eight-week period in which the council is statutorily obliged to work with the family to try to relieve their homelessness.

"We took action immediately and included this amendment in the proposed changes to the allocations policy, which are going through the council's decision-making process. 

"In the meantime, we have moved those who are currently homeless or threatened with homelessness into a category where they can now bid for properties on the housing register, something they could not do before. We've also identified and contacted people who have previously applied so that they can join the register if they are still eligible."

The spokesman added: "We continue to work with Ms White to find her and her family a suitable home."

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