‘Homelessness is the consequence of social and economic policies,’ said Andrew Arden QC in his opening remarks at the LAG/Arden Chambers Homelessness Conference last month. While he criticised its ‘sheer bad, simply awful drafting’ in places, he observed that the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 (HRA) is important as it ‘calls for much more engagement with each homeless person’. The renowned housing law silk cited research arguing that a £9bn investment would solve the housing crisis and save the state £20bn in other costs.
L-r: Andrew Arden QC and Justin Bates at the LAG/Arden Chambers Homelessness Conference 2018
Arden also praised the Welsh government for its efforts to tackle homelessness, a theme that was taken up by his colleague and fellow author of the new 11th edition of Homelessness and Allocations
(along with Toby Vanhegan), Justin Bates. Bates, a barrister at Arden Chambers, described a report by Dr Peter Mackie, Ian Thomas and Kate Hodgson, commissioned by the Welsh government (Impact analysis of existing homelessness legislation in Wales
, January 2012), ‘as one of the best things I’ve ever read about front-line homelessness’. The report led to the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, which includes the provision to assess the needs of people who require help to retain or obtain accommodation to prevent them from becoming homeless.
According to Bates, the HRA brings English law into line with the Welsh legislation in some important respects, such as extending the definition of ‘threatened with homelessness’ to mean an individual who is likely to become homeless within 56 days (previously, it was 28; HRA s1, amending Housing Act 1996 s175). As local authorities have a duty to assess the housing needs of anyone threatened with homelessness, Bates believes this provision will encourage them to ‘prevent homelessness at an earlier stage’.
Bates is particularly concerned for the plight of young people caught by the benefit cap and unable to afford the market rate for rented property in the area in which they live. While supporting the changes in the law that will help prevent homelessness, he pointed out that ‘money is the problem’.