Significant challenge to Lambeth’s housing policy conceded

Thursday 25 June 2020

Two members of Garden Court’s Housing Team, Liz Davies and Nick Bano, have been involved in bringing an important challenge to Lambeth Council’s allocations and homelessness policy.

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Four Lambeth households brought judicial review proceedings against the council’s “Temp2Settled” scheme, which had been operating since 2014.

Under the scheme, when homeless families approached Lambeth for assistance, they were offered the option of withdrawing their homelessness application in return for temporary accommodation and “Band B” priority for council housing. Lambeth told homeless families that Band B would offer them a “much better chance” of successfully bidding for council housing. Hundreds of families accepted this offer.

The difficulty was that Lambeth placed many of these families in temporary accommodation outside the borough, and Lambeth’s “local connection” rule meant that they would be removed from the council housing list if they did not successfully bid within two years. The average waiting time for family-sized accommodation is more than five years. This meant that families that were placed outside of Lambeth – instead of having a “much better chance” of finding council housing – were overwhelmingly likely to be removed from the waiting list altogether.

On top of that, because the temporary accommodation under Temp2Settled was non-statutory, it was not subject to any of the suitability requirements that would have applied if the families had pursued their homelessness applications, and there was no statutory right to a review or County Court appeal regarding any suitability decision.

This left the families stuck in poor-quality private sector accommodation, and many lost their rights to bid for council housing after two years.

The council has now conceded the claim, and agreed to amend its policy.  Importantly, the council has also agreed to allow hundreds of families to re-join the council housing list after they were removed as a result of the policy.

Liz and Nick were instructed by Helen Mowatt of the Public Interest Law Centre. They were led by David Wolfe QC of Matrix Chambers. The four claimants were members of Housing Action Southwark & Lambeth (HASL), who have been campaigning against Temp2Settled for several years.

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