Housing Law – Homelessness

Homelessness has increased over the past years and now there is a major need for a reform in this area of the law. Under s175 (1) of the 1996 Housing Act, 'A person is homeless if has no accommodation in the UK or elsewhere' (world-wide). There are many causes of homelessness. These include, low income, unemployment, relationship breakdown and lack of affordability. Furthermore the factor of domestic violence may also lead to a person becoming homeless, especially women. Moreover the gradual increase in the rent also adds to the problems.

This creates a divide between the rich and the poor, where the poor are 'punished for being poor' as they are not financially capable of keeping up with the rising rent, thus only those who can afford the houses would be able to obtain them. The amount of official homeless people has increased over the years, this is evident in the statistics. In the 1970's 50,000 households were accepted as homeless compared to 120,000 in 1995. These statistics are however not surprising, because this was reasonably expected due to the lack of cheap, affordable housing and the decline of building of new council housing in 1970's.

One of the problems with this area of law is that there is some difficulty in obtaining 'accurate' statistics number of homeless people. This is due to the reason that generally those with children or those seen to be vulnerable are legally eligeble for housing, thus they are the only groups that can be accurately accounted for in the figures which exclude other groups such as, single homeless people, who become mere estimates. However the survey by the University of Surrey for the Salvation Army in 1989, was a welcomed piece of research, as it unlike previous researches on the homeless concentrated on single homeless people in London.

The group defined homelessness as, 'anyone living in insecure or short term accommodation'. The result of the research showed that there was 75,000 homeless people in London. Therefore this gave a clear picture of the problem at hand, and the alarming amount of homeless in London alone. The survey also showed that the homeless were to be found in, hostels and hotels, bed and breakfasts and Squatting. The survey stressed that 30,000 people were squatting in London alone, this further shows how complicated and alarming the problem of homelessness is.

There needs to a authoritative body that governs research into homelessness for each city in England, so that a true refection of the problem may be accurately provided, so that the problem can be tackled. The lack of research into the single homeless people can be seen as factor that has made most people ignorant at the seriousness of the problem, which is highlighted in the Surrey survey. it seems that there is injustice in the housing system, which may be another factor in the increasing homeless people, as it can bee seen in the Surrey survey.

In the case of Cocks v Thanet District Council, Lord Bridge, dismissed the appeal and in relation to the Housing Act 1997, stated that an applicant must fulfil the following three questions in order to be eligible for housing: 1. Is he homeless or threatened by homelessness? 2. If yes, has he a priority need? 3. If yes did he become homeless intentionally? The Local authorities have to comply by the fourfold rule, when assessing an applicant. However the Local Authorities can face certain problems when there is a case of a person intentionally becoming homeless.

In some cases it is argued that young women get impregnated, do that they can jump the queue, this is nothing but just opinions and has no real evidence to support it. Although there may be cases where individuals become intentionally homeless, however this may be difficult for the local authorities to prove. With the introduction of the Housing Act 1997, it is proposed that the building of Council housing has declined from 160,000 to 120,000. This may be seen as adding further problems to the already difficult and complicated issue of homelessness. This is highlighted in the right to buy scheme, which had sales of i??

40 million. Instead of spending this sales money on tackling the problem of homelessness, by building new council homes, however the money is used to pay of local authority debts, with only a mere 25% of the money used for building new houses. This would seem rather ignorant of the government for not spending the money for building new houses, and the right to buy scheme are creating greater problems, where houses sold under the right to buy are not being replaced by new houses. Thus for the poor and the homeless it becomes a viscous cycle in which they have been caught in by the injustice housing system.

The main proposals that have been made in respect of the reform of this area of the Housing Law dealt with in this Module. The Housing Green Paper is seen as the most comprehensive review of housing for 23 years. It offers everyone a decent home. All types of housing owned or rented or public are intended to deliver improvements in the quality and also give the people a choice in the type of house. The affordability is also an issue, the local authority and the registered social Landlord are to provide affordable housing.

Moreover there is help for individuals and families to meet the costs of housing, in the form of housing benefits. To bring the worst council housing up to an acceptable standard it would cost around 19 billion. This empahsises the enormity of the problem at hand. Moreover John Prescott wants to see improvements in the quality of the housing, irrelevant of who provides the housing. The idea of giving people a real choice of home is also recognised by Mr Prescott. The government has also promoted a stronger role for local authorities, when dealing with housing.

The local authorities are encouraged to work along with local community group and registered landlords. The local authorities have been given a greater role in dealing with housing. However these goals can only be reached if conditions and quality of housing improves in both public and private sector. Also to deal with problems of difficulties face when buying or selling a house. If all these propositions are taken seriously and correctly followed then there is hope that the great problem of homelessness would be on the right track being tackled in a successful way to an extent.