A condition requiring applicants to demonstrate at least 10 years' continuous residence in-borough before they can qualify to join Hillingdon Council's Housing Register – a condition thought to be the longest of its type in the country – is neither discriminatory against refugees nor irrational. So held Mr Justice Mostyn in dismissing a claim brought by Yilmez Gullu with the support of the Equality & Human Rights Commission: see R(Gullu) v LB Hillingdon  EWHC 1937 (Admin).
Local housing authorities were given power to introduce qualifying and additional preference criteria to their allocations policies under Part 6 of the Housing Act 1996 by amendments brought in under the Localism Act 2011 and this judgment provides helpful guidance as to how those powers can be exercised for the greater good of those seeking access to social housing.
Mr Justice Mostyn found that, compared with a UK national newly arriving in the borough, a refugee suffers no or at most modest indirect discrimination as a result of this condition requiring a correspondingly low level of justification.
Here the imposition of the residence condition, whether as an entry requirement or priority uplift, was amply justified when viewed in the round as a proportionate means of achieving the Council's twin legitimate aims of rewarding those with a long-term attachment to the borough and building stable communities. In implementing it, Hillingdon Council had discharged its public sector equality duty.
The Judge further rejected a claim that a "working household uplift" provision in the scheme, which was designed to confer additional preference on those on low wages who struggle to get onto the housing ladder, discriminates unlawfully against disabled persons.
Mr Justice Mostyn said this in respect of the standpoint of the Court in cases of this type:
"The court should be very cautious indeed when faced with a claim to strike down a measure which seeks to parcel out fairly a local authority's housing stock at a time where there is a national housing crisis and where the demand for public housing vastly exceeds the supply ... When it comes to housing local authorities have to make hard political judgments of a macro-economic nature which the courts are ill-equipped to second-guess".
The case followed on from a judgment given earlier this month by Mr Justice Supperstone in R(TW & Others) v LB Hillingdon  EWHC 1791 (Admin) brought on narrower grounds on behalf of Irish Travellers.
You can read the judgment here.
Kelvin Rutledge QC and Andrew Lane represented the London Borough of Hillingdon.