For a number of years we have been active in supporting local residents and grassroots campaigns in challenging injustice stemming from gentrification. This includes opposing the loss of secure council tenancies, challenging undemocratic exercises in estate redevelopment (including inadequate consultations and resident ballots), contesting the loss of community assets such as greenspace and demanding that the Greater London Authority create a Resident Empowerment Fund to level the playing field between residents, local authorities and private developers.
As well as bringing legal challenges based on public and planning law, we have supported residents by offering:
legal education on key terminology and the redevelopment process
help to draft submissions on planning applications
support with crowdfunding
Our contribution aims to support local residents and campaigns to shift the power balance which is so weighted in the favour of privatisation, infill and demolition. As community lawyers, we seek to be on the ground with campaigners, offering legal services as one tool or tactic amongst others in a campaign.
PILC has today published a know-your rights guide to deportations, international ‘reconnections’ and voluntary returns for homeless non UK-nationals and those supporting them.
Non-UK nationals are at increased risk of homelessness, including rough sleeping. Some may think they have no option to leave the UK—even if they want to stay. In the past, some councils and charities worked with the Home Office to force or persuade homeless people to leave the UK.
Our new guide is intended to help homeless non-UK nationals assert their right to remain.
The guide is available online, with versions in English, Polish and Romanian. We also have a limited number of printed copies to give away to organisations and groups supporting homeless non-UK nationals.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to request hard copies of the guide.
Tonight sees the launch of our new report and campaign around the systemic ‘gatekeeping’ by local authorities of housing support for domestic abuse survivors.
Housing is one of the major barriers facing women and girls fleeing abuse. Most domestic abuse survivors have the legal right to access emergency housing and longer-term safe and secure accommodation.
Yet systemic ‘gatekeeping’ (the placing of bureaucratic or other obstacles in the way of those seeking statutory support) across local councils means many survivors are unable to access the help they so desperately need.
Our report, authored by PILC’s Isabella Mulholland, is based on original research, including casework and litigation undertaken by the law centre over the past three years, as well as witness testimonies from survivors and frontline domestic violence advocates across all thirty-two London boroughs.
PILC has written a legal submission to Simon Clark MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Levelling Up, and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, highlighting the findings of the research.
The letter calls on the Secretary of State and the Mayor to commission an independent investigation into local authorities’ widespread failure to provide housing support to domestic abuse survivors.
As our research shows, the systemic ‘gatekeeping’ of housing support for victims of domestic abuse is placing survivors at risk of further abuse and retraumatisation.
Key findings from our report include the following:
The ‘gatekeeping’ of housing support for domestic abuse survivors is a systemic issue across London local authorities
‘Gatekeeping’ by councils takes a variety of forms, including: long (and sometimes unlawful) delays in making decisions around housing for survivors; unsuitable offers of temporary and long-term accommodation; the failure to provide emergency accommodation to survivors and their children; the imposition of unlawfully high evidence thresholds before support is provided; failure to apply the statutory definition of domestic abuse; the application of value judgements by housing officers; survivors being wrongly instructed to stay in or leave their borough; and the refusal of support until there is a threat of legal action
Council ‘gatekeeping’ is having a serious impact on survivors, with some being forced to remain in properties where they are at risk or having no option but to return to the perpetrator of domestic abuse
‘Gatekeeping’ across London local authorities has worsened over the last decade as a consequence of austerity and a chronic shortage of social housing
In the next few months PILC will be launching a campaign to end London local authorities’ gatekeeping of housing for domestic abuse survivors.
Housing is one of the major barriers facing women and girls fleeing abuse. Gatekeeping—the placing of bureaucratic or other obstacles in the way of those seeking statutory support—is systemic across London local authorities and has got worse over the last decade as a consequence of austerity and a chronic shortage of housing stock.
It is common for survivors to be pushed from pillar to post and experience long delays before being housed. Advocacy from a support worker is often needed for them to have any chance of accessing housing. As a result of these failures on the part of local authorities many survivors remain stuck in unsafe and unsuitable housing where they are at risk of further abuse.
PILC is working to change this. Our new campaign aims to highlight the widespread and systemic gatekeeping that DA survivors and VAWG survivors face from local housing authorities.
As part of the campaign, we’d like to speak to survivors who’ve faced barriers when trying to access housing through their local council.
We want to tell the stories of survivors who have faced multiple obstacles in accessing housing: from facing unlawful delays to being told they do not have sufficient evidence of abuse or being required to report abuse to the police before making a housing application.
We would like to interview survivors from the following London local authorities:
Kingston upon Thames
Please email DVProject@pilc.org.uk if you or someone you support would be willing to speak to us about their experience. Please note that we intend to keep all information confidential.
On Thursday 5th May we are in court for the hearing in our client’s judicial review challenge to Southwark council’s housing allocations policy.
Our client, Milton, lives with his wife, son and daughter in a privately rented studio apartment in Southwark. They are severely overcrowded and have endured extremely cramped housing conditions for almost five years. The family applied to join Southwark’s housing register in April 2018. However, Southwark has refused to prioritise the family’s application for housing. The council claims that the family’s overcrowding is the result of a ‘deliberate act’.
However, Milton and his family had no choice but to move into their current accommodation. As Milton explains with the help of his daughter Rebecca: ‘I had to move to this flat. When we looked at other places the agencies asked us for many months’ rent in advance. I couldn’t rent a bigger house because it was too expensive.’
As Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth (HASL) have highlighted this week, Southwark council have spent a large amount of money and resources defending this case – money that could have been spent on tackling exploitative landlords and supporting Southwark residents. HASL are running an email campaign demanding that Southwark remove the ‘deliberate act’ provision and stop blaming families for their poor living conditions.
We will provide a legal update on the outcome of this case over the next few weeks.
We have today published a briefing on the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, many of whose provisions are now in force. Our explainer focuses on the six main changes in the act that relate to housing. We hope the briefing will be of use to advisors, frontline workers and survivors.
One major concern regarding the Domestic Abuse Act is that it does not cover survivors of abuse who have No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF). Such survivors find it very difficult to access housing support and may be forced to remain in abusive homes.
We will be publishing a further briefing on NRPF, DV and access to housing in the near future.
On Jul 1 2021 PILC published a research report on the key rights and social-justice issues faced by homeless and otherwise marginalised EU citizens living in the UK. The report, entitled Still Here: Defending the rights of homeless EU citizens after Brexit and Covid-19, is based on research, casework and litigation undertaken through our EU homeless rights project (2018-21).
Our report finds that EU citizens living in the UK experienced large-scale destitution and rights violations well before Brexit. Homeless EU citizens were especially at risk of not having their rights upheld by statutory agencies, while the legal exclusion or ‘differential inclusion’ of EU citizens with respect to social assistance was a major cause of destitution, including rough sleeping.
We identify three overlapping groups of EU citizens who were particularly exposed to poverty, hyper exploitation and rights violations before Brexit : working-class EU citizens from the ‘A8’ and ‘A2’ countries of Central and Eastern Europe; EU citizens or qualifying non-EU family members who may identify or be racialised as non-white; and survivors of domestic abuse.
Our advocacy report proceeds via an analysis of six key rights areas (access to housing; support for domestic-abuse survivors; access to welfare benefits; employment rights; access to NHS care; and access to community care), illustrated with examples from PILC’s casework and litigation.
We then discuss issues relating to EU citizens’ right to remain after Brexit, showing that the UK’s departure from the EU is likely to exacerbate the rights issues faced by marginalised Europeans. This section of our report looks at current and historic policies aimed at deporting homeless EU citizens and the shortcomings of the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS). We also analyse the experiences of destitute EU citizens during Covid-19, an issue first covered in detail in a 2020 report co-authored by PILC.
The final section of the report examines the homelessness sector’s work with EU citizens. We argue that the sector in the shape of local authorities and commissioned services is failing marginalised Europeans, and non-UK nationals more broadly. We suggest that a culture change is urgently needed, and that the sector must assert the right to shelter, welfare assistance and to remain of all EU citizens in the UK.
On 1 December 2020 the government amended the Immigration Rules to make rough sleeping a ground for cancelling or refusing permission to stay in the UK.
On 2 December 2020 PILC, instructed by the Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London (RAMFEL), formally wrote to the Secretary of State for the Home Department (SSHD) to request that the new rough sleeping rule be repealed. We argued that the rule was unlawful, disproportionate, discriminatory and violated the UK’s international obligations in respect of victims of trafficking. PILC also sent the SSHD a detailed report evidencing the potential effect of the new rule on non-UK nationals sleeping rough.
On 6 April 2021 the rough sleeping rule was amended so that permission may only be refused or cancelled where a rough sleeper has also:
repeatedly refused suitable offers of support; and
engaged in persistent anti-social behaviour (ASB)
On 20 April 2021 the Home Office published guidance on the interpretation of the rough sleeping rule. This guidance significantly limits the scope of the rule.
In light of the recent changes to the rough sleeping rule, we have updated our factsheet for homeless non-UK nationals and those supporting them.
What does this mean for PILC’s legal challenge?
Although the latest guidance appears to have significantly limited the scope of the rough sleeping rule, a number of concerns remain:
The rule may result in people who find it hard to engage with services as a result of mental health difficulties, lack of mental capacity or substance-misuse issues being targeted for immigration enforcement. The behaviour of such individuals may be interpreted as ‘anti-social behaviour’.
The rule presents a significant risk to Roma people whose needs have historically not been met by support services and who have been disproportionately targeted for local-authority and immigration enforcement in recent years.
The ‘available support’ listed in the Home Office guidance is largely applicable to non-UK nationals with recourse to public funds. Little effective support to leave the streets is available to the group most likely to be affected by the rule: non-UK national rough sleepers with no recourse to public funds (NRPF).
We are concerned that the rule may be used coercively, with rough sleepers being offered ‘voluntary’ return and threatened with deportation if they refuse. It remains unclear who will decide whether ‘voluntary return’ is a ‘suitable’ support option. Although the Home Office guidance suggests ‘voluntary return’ as an option for those ‘who want to go home’, ‘voluntary return’ (or ‘reconnection’) has historically been offered to rough sleepers as a ‘single service offer’.
Anti-social behaviour powers raise significant issues around proportionality, due process and accountability. Rough sleepers are commonly targeted by ASB enforcement measures—often just for rough sleeping. The evidence threshold for the issuing of Community Protection Notices (CPNs) is significantly lower than for older ASB orders.
The rough sleeping rule lends itself to misuse or abuse by empowering individual local authorities to advise Immigration Enforcement around support available/refused and target individuals/groups with ASB orders or notices.
We remain committed to:
Pressuring the government to scrap the rough sleeping rule altogether.
Monitoring how the rule is being implemented on the ground and challenging the government in cases where it is being abused or misapplied
We will continue to provide updates about our legal challenge in this area.
What can I do?
If you or someone you know is affected by the rule, or if you believe the local authority in which you live or work may be planning to co-operate with the rough sleeping rule, please contact email@example.com
You can also support one or both of two active campaigns opposing the rough sleeping rule:
The Court of Appeal has upheld a High Court decision allowing developers Delancey to proceed with the demolition and redevelopment of the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre.
The Court found that there were no grounds for reversing the High Court’s decision.
The legal challenge was mounted as part of a hard-fought four-year campaign which brought together housing campaigners, students, tenants’ groups, local councillors and trade unionists in the fight for more socially rented housing and a better deal for traders displaced by the proposed development.
The decision will allow the mixed-use development of new shops and homes to proceed. with Out of 979 new homes 116 will be social rent units.
In the course of the legal battle Southwark Council conceded that a change was needed in its legal agreement with Delancey in order to secure socially rented housing.
Improvements won by the campaign
Despite this legal defeat, the Up the Elephant Campaign secured many improvements to the original redevelopment proposals:
Increase in socially rented housing from 33 units of social-rent equivalent owned and managed by developer to 116 proper social rent units owned and managed by the council or housing association
Provision of affordable retail space
An established traders’ panel
Temporary traders’ premises on Castle Square
Trader relocation and assistance fund of £634,700 and £200,000
15-year affordable retail lease (rents to be held at 75% market Yr 6-15)
‘We are naturally disappointed that the court has not found in our favour, but we can be pleased with the victories we have had in our fight with Delancey and Southwark. There was zero proper social rented housing to begin with and it is only by the efforts of local people that we have the 116 homes now promised.
But this socially rented housing still has to be delivered and Delancey’s track record shows that it is practised in passing these costs back to the public purse. We will continue to campaign to make sure that we get the promised 116 social rent units and that Southwark does not have to pay for them.’
There have also been gains for the traders – many now have somewhere to move to. [But there is] not enough space for everyone who needs it and traders are still in negotiation with Southwark for a new market space. We will continue the fight to get them a better deal, alongside the Latin American community who have made the Elephant their home.
We also got together a great legal team and are very grateful for the part that they have played in this battle, which has shone a light on the advantages our planning system affords big developers like Delancey, even when they fail to meet their affordable housing obligations. We will continue the fight to change this.‘
Tanya Murat of Southwark Defend Council Housing, which supported the campaign, said
‘We lost the legal fight, which was always the most likely outcome as planning law protects developer profits.
But Southwark Council could have stopped the Elephant and Castle scheme by refusing to take up CPO powers. Instead they sided with developer Delancey, a firm who partner with the Qatari government, have taken millions in taxpayer funded loans and are implicated in the ongoing cladding scandal. We won’t forget that.
This has been an inspiring campaign which has proved that if you fight for more you can get it. There was no affordable retail space, trader’s panel or trader’s relocation fund before we began our campaign. We won all these concessions from Delancey, although sadly many traders will still be left out in the cold.
It is a tragedy that we have lost the opportunity to rehouse more people who rely on council housing for a decent home. Southwark has a policy that should have got us at least another 55 socially rented homes and even that would have meant less than 200 out of nearly a thousand new homes. Southwark must stop caving in to developers like Delancey if we are ever going to solve the housing crisis.’
Paul Heron of PILC, solicitors for the claimant Jerry Flynn, said:
‘Southwark Council should now be on notice that local people expect the maximum amount of affordable and social rented housing from major developments and will challenge any that do not provide it. While we have lost this case, we have demonstrated we have the capacity to hold Southwark and big developers to account and we will not hesitate to mount more challenges where we think it is justified.’
Sally Causer of Southwark Law Centre, which also supported the campaign, said:
‘We applaud all the people who have fought so hard to save the Elephant and Castle community. Although the result is disappointing, we can’t imagine how much worse the situation for traders and the community would have been without the campaign. The work goes on. The campaign has secured a commitment to an over-300% increase in social rent units. Southwark Law Centre will continue to support traders to make sure they get the best deal and work with campaigners to ensure that the commitment to social rented housing is honoured. We hope that Southwark Council will also apply proper scrutiny to the development’.
The legal challenge
The appeal was heard by Sir Keith Lindblom, Lord Justice Baker and Lord Justice Lewis at a remote hearing on 16 and 17 March 2021. The judgement (Case No: C1/2020/0447) can be found here. The appellant was Jerry Flynn, a member of the 35% Campaign and the Up the Elephant campaign. The defendants were Southwark Council and Elephant and Castle Properties Ltd.
The appeal was against a High Court decision upholding Southwark Council’s approval of plans to redevelop the shopping centre. The original case was heard at the Royal Courts of Justice on 22-23 October 2019.
The challenge focused on socially rented housing in the mixed-use scheme. Developer and shopping-centre owner Delancey have permission to build nearly a thousand new homes, but only 116 will be socially rented and these will not be provided for nearly ten years. The challenge argued that there could be, and should be, more social housing and that there was doubt that even the 116 social rent units promised will be provided.
The demolition of the centre will displace independent traders, half of whom have been allocated no space in Delancey and Southwark’s relocation plans. Many of the traders are from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds. The Elephant’s Latin American community fear that the development will destroy a vital social hub: http://35percent.org/2019-03-30-no-room-for-traders-in-the-new-elephant/
The hearing was a ‘rolled-up’ hearing, meaning that both the decision on permission to apply for a judicial review and the case itself were dealt with together.
The order for the hearing noted that the application was “…one of those exceptional cases where the public interest in the issue which the claimant raises is such that if permission is refused this should occur after a hearing.”
The Up the Elephant Campaign is a coalition of local people and groups fighting for a fairer regeneration at the Elephant and Castle have made a legal application to overturn the planning approval for the redevelopment of the Elephant and Castle shopping centre. Over £11,000 was raised through crowdfunding to support the case:
Planning approval for the demolition and redevelopment of the shopping centre was granted to its owners Delancey on 10 July 2018, two years after a planning application was submitted in Oct 2016 (ref 16/AP/4458). The application generated over a thousand objections and was deferred on three occasions.
The mixed-use development is being undertaken in partnership with the University of the Arts London. It will occupy two sites, including the sites of the current London College of Communication aand the Elephant shopping centre, both of which are to be demolished. The LCC will get a new campus and there will be a new Northern Line tube entrance.
There will be 979 new Build-to-Rent homes of which 330 will be “affordable”, but only 116 will be social rent units. There will be about the same amount of retail floorspace as at present.