The Supreme Court has given judgment in Nzolameso v City of Wesminster  UKSC 22 in relation to the lawfulness of decisions of local authorities to house homeless persons significant distances from the local authority’s district.
In 2012 widespread concerns arose about the growing prevalence of this practice. In response to these concerns, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government enacted new guidance requiring local authorities to house those to whom they owed housing duties within their district wherever possible, or, if that could not be done, as close to the district as possible.
The Court of Appeal had held that, in discharging this duty, it was sufficient for local authorities simply to refer to pressures local authorities faced when seeking accommodation within district, and that when considering any individual decision it could be inferred that the decision-maker was aware of the housing stock available to the local authority within or close to the district and had decided that it was not possible to allocate any closer accommodation to the applicant.
When the appeal reached the Supreme Court, the Secretary of State intervened to argue that the Court of Appeal’s approach did not give sufficient weight to the Secretary of State’s guidance, which was aimed at ensuring that proper consideration was given to the need to house individuals as close to their district as possible.
The Supreme Court rejected the Court of Appeal’s approach. Baroness Hale, giving the judgment of the Court, held that local authorities should have, and keep up to date, a policy for procuring sufficient units of accommodation to meet anticipated demand, as well as a policy for allocating that accommodation to those to whom the authority owes housing duties. Both policies should be made public, so that individuals can understand the basis on which the location of accommodation has been selected and allocated, and challenge decisions where appropriate.
The judgment is here.
Martin Chamberlain QC and Oliver Jones appeared for the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, instructed by the Treasury Solicitor.