Our quarterly housing law update blogs enable readers specialising in housing law to catch up on the most important cases, issues or developments. The post looks at housing law developments from December 2016 to February 2017.
Please feel free to submit a comment below or send us an Ask query if you have any views on the developments that are covered or if you think we have missed something that should be brought to the attention of housing practitioners.
Housing and Planning Act 2016: fourth commencement regulations made
The Housing and Planning Act 2016 (Commencement No 4 and Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2017 have been made. The regulations brought several sections of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 into force on 3 February 2017, and will bring section 92 and Schedule 4 of the Act, which relate to the reduction of social housing regulation, into force on 6 April 2017.
Draft Housing and Planning Act 2016 (Permission in Principle etc) (Miscellaneous Amendments) (England) Regulations 2017 published
The draft Housing and Planning Act 2016 (Permission in Principle etc) (Miscellaneous Amendments) (England) Regulations 2017 have been published. The regulations apply to England only, and when in force will amend the Local Government Act 1972, the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, the Planning (Hazardous Substances) Act 1990 and the Commons Act 2006 to reflect the introduction of “permission in principle” by the Housing Act 2016.
SUITABILITY OF ACCOMMODATION
Court of Appeal clarifies approach to PSED when determining whether accommodation is “suitable” under the Housing Act 1996 (London Borough of Hackney v Haque)
The Court of Appeal has upheld a review decision by a local housing authority’s (LHA) reviewing officer that had concluded that accommodation the authority had provided to the respondent who had physical and mental disabilities, was suitable.
The court held that the four–stage approach to consideration of the public sector equality duty (PSED) in section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010) outlined by the Supreme Court in Hotak and others v London Borough of Southwark and another  UKSC 30, was aimed at assisting a reviewing officer deciding whether an applicant is vulnerable under the homelessness regime in the Housing Act 1996 (HA 1996). It did not apply to a reviewing officer’s assessment as to the suitability of the applicant’s accommodation, or an assessment as to whether the applicant was intentionally homeless under the HA 1996. The requirements imposed by the PSED will depend upon the particular facts of each case.
The court examined the nature of the HA 1996 and how the homelessness provisions worked in combination with the duty under section 149 of the EqA 2010, in circumstances that were different from those under review in Hotak.
The case provides useful guidance on the requirements of the PSED when an LHA is assessing whether accommodation is suitable under the HA 1996.
DISCHARGE OF HOUSING DUTY
Local housing authority not permitted to rely on previous discharge of homelessness duty where conditions for local connection referral are met (High Court) (R (Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea) v London Borough of Ealing)
The High Court has held that it is not open to a local authority that has accepted that conditions for a local connection referral under section 198 of the Housing Act 1996 (HA 1996) were met to rely upon a previous discharge of its housing duty.
The case clarifies an important point of principle for the purposes of determining which local authority is responsible when the housing duty has been discharged by one authority and a new application made to another housing authority.
Local housing authority’s proposed regeneration scheme is not unlawful on account of consultation or officer’s report, and potential removal of secure tenants’ right to buy does not engage A1P1, ECHR (High Court) (R (Plant) v Lambeth London Borough Council)
The High Court has held that that the London Borough of Lambeth’s (council) decision to regenerate a social housing estate was not unlawful on account of either its consultation of residents or the supporting officer’s report, and that the removal of secure tenants’ right to buy homes on the estate did not engage Article 1 of the First Protocol (A1P1) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
The council proposed to demolish and entirely regenerate the Cressingham Gardens Estate (CGE), for which it was the local housing authority under the Housing Act 1985 (HA 1985). It consulted on this, alongside other options that would have required lower and diminishing proportions of CGE’s homes to be demolished. The council undertook to conduct further consultation on the options it would present in respect of secure tenants’ right to buy their homes under the HA 1985.
The court held that the council’s decision to demolish all of the CGE and regenerate it with entirely new housing stock was not unlawful on account of the council’s consultation or its officer’s report, and that CGE’s secure tenants’ right to buy, where this had not been exercised, did not engage A1P1. The court commented, however, that if A1P1 had been engaged then it would not have considered the removal of the right to buy proportionate if offering a contractual right to buy had been an alternative open to the council.
The challenge is the latest in a relatively long standing dispute over the council’s proposal to regenerate the CGE and presents a wide-ranging survey of planning and housing law in the context of the HA 1985 and secure tenants’ right to buy.
HOUSING WHITE PAPER
Housing White Paper published
The government has published the White Paper, Fixing our broken housing market. The paper aims to set out a comprehensive package of reform to increase housing supply and halt the decline in housing affordability, and makes proposals relating to planning for new house building, building new homes faster, and diversifying the housing market.
Government response to consultation on proposed changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)
The government has published its response to a Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) consultation on proposed changes to national planning policy. Where the government is taking forward changes to the NPPF, these are set out in the Housing White Paper, Fixing our broken housing market.
DCLG publishes policy factsheets on Homelessness Reduction Bill 2016-17
The DCLG has published ten fact sheets by way of background information on the measures within the Homelessness Reduction Bill 2016-17.
DCLG consults on proposed amendments to Local Authorities Capital Finance Regulations
The DCLG has published a consultation document containing proposed amendments to the Local Authorities (Capital Finance and Accounting) (England) Regulations 2003. The proposals will affect all the English local housing authorities that maintain a housing revenue account. The consultation has closed and a report is expected in due course.
DCLG consults on planning and affordable housing measures to support Build to Rent
The DCLG has published a consultation on Planning and Affordable Housing for Build to Rent. The consultation seeks views on planning and affordable housing policies intended to speed up the development of large scale, purpose-built privately rented housing (Build to Rent).
The consultation relates to England only and closes on 1 May 2017. DCLG would like to hear from Build to Rent developers and investors, local authorities, housing developers and landlords, and individuals renting or intending to rent.
HOUSE OF COMMONS LIBRARY BRIEFING PAPERS
Between December 2016 and February 2017, the House of Commons Library published the following briefing papers and notes relevant to social housing practitioners: