Temporary hostel or refuge housing does not constitute suitable accommodation for determining whether a person is homeless, if the homeless person is expected to occupy it for a longer period than is reasonable. This decision was taken recently by the House of Lords, which had to rule on whether six families who occupied overcrowded short-term accommodation and a woman who was provided with long-term accommodation in a women’s refuge were still homeless for the purposes of being allocated social housing.
The appeal dealt with the housing policies of Birmingham and Manchester Councils. In the case of the Birmingham families, it was accepted that they were unintentionally homeless and a priority housing need. However, the Council had left them in unsuitable accommodation for months or years. The key issue was that the accommodation provided was accommodation which it would not be reasonable for them to continue to occupy. Therefore, the families remained homeless for the purpose of assessing their housing need.
In the Manchester case, a woman and her two children were given accommodation in a women’s refuge, from which she was evicted because of her behaviour towards the staff. She was rehoused in temporary accommodation. The Council ruled that she had become intentionally homeless.
In both cases, the nub of the Councils’ arguments was that their duty to provide housing was discharged if they left the families in the housing provided until suitable permanent housing could be found.
In the view of the House of Lords, there would inevitably come a time when it was no longer reasonable for the families to remain in the temporary accommodation. What constituted a ‘reasonable time’ for a family to occupy temporary accommodation was a matter of fact in each case.