We recently acted for a client who was a long way down the road to recovery from addiction but was met with what seemed to her to be an impossible obstacle. She was unable to secure stable housing and move on in her life when she could not get on the housing list in Dublin. She faced either rough sleeping or having to return to her home town where all her problems began. MLRC was able to intervene on the client’s behalf and ensure that she was able to access the housing list, and therefore access suitable transitional housing to support her ongoing recovery.
Our client was refused access to the social housing list on the basis that she did not have a local connection to the Dublin area. She had been accommodated in Dublin in residential treatment for over six months when she applied to go on the list. She had also been in receipt of a social welfare payment in Dublin for this lengthy period. A letter from the Gardai was submitted with her application that set out in stark terms the risks to our client if she returned to her home town, and apply to go on the housing list there. The letter stated that she would be at risk of harm by an ex-partner and would also risk slipping back into addiction, in the absence of the supports accessed in Dublin and given distance from the source of her difficulties. We were instructed to assist this client with an appeal against the decision to refuse her access to the social housing list.
In our legal submissions, we argued that in accordance with the Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011 the local authority must first consider whether or not our client was normally resident in the functional area. Noting the absence of a definition of ‘normal residence’ in the Regulations, we argued that continuous residence for what was by that stage nine months at a stable address and with clear centre of interest in the functional area, taken together with the receipt of a social welfare payment for that period, was sufficient to establish normal residence.
We argued that if the local authority did not accept that normal residence was established, our client had in fact a local connection by virtue of her close relationship to her cousin, who lives in the housing authority area. We were able to cite the broad definition of ‘relative’ contained in the Regulations that includes a relative with whom the applicant has “close links … in the form of commitment or dependent.” Such links were established in supporting evidence from the client and her cousin.
The third limb of our argument relied on Regulation 5(c). We contended that the local authority could exercise its discretion and conduct the social housing assessment despite normal residence and local connection not being accepted. We referred to the range of supporting evidence provided and the particular circumstances and vulnerabilities of the applicant and argued that it would be appropriate to exercise that discretion favourably in this case.
The appeal was successful and the local authority agreed to conduct the social housing assessment, determining the application favourably. This means that our client is on the social housing list and can immediately access supports such as the Housing Assistance Payment. More significantly, it means that our client can take up a place with a specialist Approved Housing Body and move into secure transitional housing, where her recovery can continue in a supported way. She could not have accessed this placement without being on the social housing list.
Our client is hugely relieved to have overcome this huge obstacle to her continued recovery and feels that she could not have resolved her housing difficulties without the intervention and work of MLRC on her behalf. We are delighted to have been able to secure this positive outcome for our client.