Housing Homeless Persons: Administrative Law and the Administrative Process

Housing Homeless Persons: Administrative Law and the Administrative Process

Housing Homeless Persons: Administrative Law and the Administrative Process

Housing Homeless Persons: Administrative Law and the Administrative Process

Synopsis

The homelessness legislation has prompted a vast amount of litigation; its many discretionary terms are encrusted with a substantial growth of case law. This work examines the extent to which such case law affects the way in which the act is implemented by local authorities. Do government administrators take any notice of administrative law? Do courts control the behavior of local authorities? The author suggests the answer to both questions is "no", a situation which has serious implications for both the legality and legitimacy of the government process.

Excerpt

The provision of rented housing has traditionally been one of the most important of local government functions in Britain. The public sector emerged in the 1870s, prompted by government concern about infectious disease and social unrest in urban slums (Bowley 1985, ch. 1; Malpass and Murie 1987, ch. 2). Early legislation empowered rather than compelled local councils to build houses for rent. Local authorities were initially reluctant to become landlords: fewer than 25,000 council houses had been built by 1914 (Merrett 1979: 279). Most were of high quality compared with existing private sector accommodation, and were leased at rents affordable only to the more affluent, 'respectable' working-class families.

It was not until the aftermath of World War I that the council sector was viewed as a necessary means to house large numbers of working-class families, as central government exhorted local authorities to build thousands upon thousands of 'homes fit for heroes'. However, initially generous central subsidies for new construction fell victim almost immediately to concerns over fiscal profligacy (Merrett 1979: 31-41). The short-lived 1924-5 Labour government renewed central subsidy, and encouraged further, if episodic, growth: by 1939 Britain contained over 1,300,000 council dwellings, approximately 10 per cent of the total housing stock (Bowley 1985: 269-70). By 1945, both the Conservative and Labour parties had accepted that the public sector had a significant role to play in addressing the housing needs of large sections of the population; the council house was no longer considered an exclusively working-class preserve. A mix of vigorous exhortation and heavy subsidy from central government produced continuing growth in the council sector: following local government reorganization in 1974, local . . .

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