The dire state of Housing in London: The suitability/availability of Social Housing
On 15 September the Guardian reported the case of Mostafa Aliverdipour, a social housing tenant who is being evicted from his home so that developers can build a complex of 288 private flats.
Mr Aliverdipour says he is unable to walk following a back injury he sustained at work, and yet he says that none of the alternative properties offered to him by Barnet Homes (the company which manages council homes on behalf of Barnet Council) have been suitable for his needs, nor have the council offered to make appropriate adaptations.
This story highlights yet another example of homeless and potentially homeless people who are left vulnerable due to a lack of appropriate social housing.
Local authorities have a duty to provide accommodation to homeless people if they meet four criteria. The first is of course that the person should be homeless. The second is that the person must be eligible for assistance – this is an immigration test. The third is that the person has a ‘priority need’, which includes people who are vulnerable as a result of a physical disability. The final criterion is that the person is not ‘intentionally homeless’, which can include a refusal to accept an offer of suitable alternative accommodation.
It seems clear from the article that Mr Aliverdipour meets the first three criteria. His home is about to be demolished and he is unable to walk, putting him in need of accessible accommodation. The Guardian reports that Barnet Homes’ position is that Mr Aliverdipour has in fact been offered suitable accommodation, which he has refused. If this is the case, he would be categorised as ‘intentionally homeless’ and the council no longer have a duty to provide him with accommodation.
Mr Aliverdipour is now in a difficult position as although he can ask the council to carry out a review of their decision, they are not under any duty to provide him with accommodation during the review process. If the council uphold their decision then Mr Aliverdipour can make an appeal to the county court, but only on a point of law. This means that if there is a dispute about the facts, such as Mr Aliverdipour’s ability to walk with a cane, then his ability to challenge the council’s decision in court will be very limited. Again, the council do not have a duty to provide Mr Aliverdipour with accommodation during the appeal process, although if accommodation is not provided he can challenge this in court.
This situation may seem somewhat unjust given that the reason Mr Aliverdipour is losing his home appears to be due to the council itself allowing private developers to build over social housing. It seems to be another example of the impact of the loss of social housing stock and the difficulties this presents to vulnerable individuals.