Hounslow housing allocation scheme discriminates against refugees and those fleeing violence

The London Borough of Hounslow have consented to a court order agreeing to review its housing allocation scheme to avoid unlawful discrimination against refugees and those fleeing violence, following a claim for judicial review.

The claimant, BN, was a refugee who had fled severe gender-based violence in her home country. Since her arrival in the UK in 2020 she had lived in Hounslow. In 2023, she applied to join Hounslow’s housing register but was refused on the basis that she did not meet the residence criterion under Hounslow’s allocation scheme, which requires applicants to have lived in the borough for 5 years.

BN issued a claim for judicial review of the residence requirement, on the basis that (1) it indirectly discriminated against her contrary to section 19 of the Equality Act 2010 on grounds of race (as a non-UK national) and sex (as a woman), (2) it discriminated against her as a refugee and as a victim of gender-based violence, contrary to Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), read with Article 8, and (3) Hounslow had breached its public sector equality duty (PSED) under section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 by failing to consider the impact of the residence requirement on non-UK nationals (including refugees) and women (including those fleeing gender-based violence).

The day before the case was due to be heard by the High Court, Hounslow agreed to settle the case, accepting that it had discriminated against BN contrary to the Equality Act and Article 14 ECHR, and breached its PSED, and agreeing:

  1. To carry out a review of the residence criterion;

  2. Pending any amendments arising out of the review, to disapply the criterion in relation to applicants who are refugees and/or who have fled non-domestic gender-based violence; and

  3. To publish details of the disapplication on its website within 14 days of the order, to ensure that potential applicants are aware of their entitlement to join its housing register.

In order to promote open justice, Mr Justice Fordham handed down a short judgment recording the full terms of the order (R (BN) v Hounslow LBC [2023] EWHC 3083 (Admin)).

Jamie Burton KC and Daniel Clarke represented BN, instructed by Beatrice Patrick of Hopkin Murray Beskine solicitors.