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Homelessness in Wales

By J

I am quite late covering this, but on 28 April 2020, the Welsh Government issued new statutory guidance on homelessness (Part 2, Housing (Wales) Act 2014) and coronavirus. It is excellent. Not just because it is statutory guidance (cf the seemingly endless stream of non-statutory guidance from England) and so there is no room for debate about how it is to be applied, but also in its content. In short, it makes clear that the coronavirus pandemic (and the response required – e.g. self-isolation) is capable of being a “special reason” for the purposes of a priority need assessment.

It also gives further guidance on the meaning of “vulnerable”. Coronavirus is an “grave and exceptional” risk for the homeless. It is “almost inevitable” that someone who is street homeless or faced with street homelessness is vulnerable in the Hotak sense.

Common sense, you might think. Yet this is not a step that England feels able to take (‘tho you’ll all be relieved to know that England has managed to consider the needs of the self-build community and issue non-statutory guidance about visits to support valuations, available here. Perhaps not *quite* as pressing an issue as homelessness…).

Staying in Wales, if you’re looking for some Bank Holiday reading, you could do a lot worse than this report from the Nuffield Foundation (and researchers from Bangor and the two Cardiff Universities). For me, the most surprising piece of information was that there are only around a dozen county court homelessness appeals *a year* for all of Wales and there have only been three “housing” JR claims in *nine* years. Given that our legal system depends on case-law (to explain complex provisions, to give guidance for future cases, to identify errors in or unintended effects caused by legslation), that isn’t great. But this is a very thorough and interesting report and worthy of your attention, even if you don’t practice in Wales.

J is a barrister. He considers housing law to be the single greatest kind of law known to humankind and finds it very odd that so few people share this view.


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