Housing the Homeless: Administrative Law and the Administrative Process

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The homelessness legislation has prompted a vast amount of litigation; its many discretionary terms are encrusted with a substantial growth of case law. This work examines the extent to which such case law affects the way in which the act is implemented by local authorities. Do government administrators take any notice of administrative law? Do courts control the behavior of local authorities? The author suggests the answer to both questions is "no", a situation which has serious implications for both the ...

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1995 Hardback 1st Edition Very Good/ In Very Good Dustwrapper Pages. Small marker pen blob on inside front cover Homelessness. *****PLEASE NOTE: This item is shipping from an ... authorized seller in Europe. In the event that a return is necessary, you will be able to return your item within the US. To learn more about our European sellers and policies see the BookQuest FAQ section***** Read more Show Less

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Overview

The homelessness legislation has prompted a vast amount of litigation; its many discretionary terms are encrusted with a substantial growth of case law. This work examines the extent to which such case law affects the way in which the act is implemented by local authorities. Do government administrators take any notice of administrative law? Do courts control the behavior of local authorities? The author suggests the answer to both questions is "no", a situation which has serious implications for both the legality and legitimacy of the government process.

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Editorial Reviews

Charles Epp
Britain, unlike the United States, has a comprehensive national policy granting homeless persons an entitlement to housing provided by government. Not surprisingly, the policy has been subject to controversy: homelessness is commonly stigmatized, and yet the policy gives certain homeless people a priority status over other persons waiting, sometimes for years, for access to public housing, even while the public housing stocks are shrinking due to privatization. In HOUSING HOMELESS PERSONS, Ian Loveland provides both a detailed legal analysis of the British law and an empirical study of the law's implementation by three municipalities. Loveland finds significant illegality in the law's implementation, and his analysis contributes to our understanding of the conditions affecting the implementation of legal rights. The book's thesis is that implementation of rights to housing varied among localities both because elements of the law are vague and leave room for local discretion and because, even where the law is clear and precise, local authorities systematically have violated its requirements. Part of the problem, as Loveland shows, is simply that homeless persons have few resources, little understanding of the law, and the like, and therefore have little capacity to effectively challenge legal errors made by housing administrators. But the source of the problem is far more complex than that, and Loveland's analysis emphasizes that complexity. The book is organized into eleven chapters and an introduction. The introduction and chapters one and two summarize the political debate over homeless housing policy and its history. Chapter three provides a detailed analysis of the key provisions of the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977 and its legislative history. Chapter four introduces the three localities that are the subject of the empirical study, and chapter five summarizes the nature and institutional structure of the local authorities charged with implementing the Act. Chapters six through ten form the core of the empirical study; each focuses on variations among the three localities in implementation of key provisions of the Act. Chapter eleven, the conclusion, provides a theoretical discussion of the factors influencing implementation, particularly those that contribute to illegality. The Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977 embodied two goals that Loveland persuasively shows produced conflicting tendencies in practice. On the one hand, supporters of a broad housing policy pushed for a right to housing for homeless families. Thus the Act gave rights to housing to those in several "priority need" categories: pregnant women, those with dependent children, those who are "vulnerable," and those who are homeless due to emergencies like fires (69-70, 75-78). On the other hand, opponents of a generous policy pressed for provisions to screen out "undeserving" applicants of several types (and some members of Parliament considered the homeless per se to be undeserving). The final form of the Act excluded from the housing entitlement those who were "intentionally" homeless and those who had no "local connection" to the locality in which they sought housing assistance (78-95). The heart of the book is an empirical study of implementation of the Act by three local authorities selected, apparently at least in part, for variation on several dimensions. "Eastern" is a post-war "new town" of 160,000 residents with a deep shortage of public housing and an increasing homelessness problem; during the study, control of its local council was divided between Labour, Conservative, and Liberal Democrat factions. "Midland" is a relatively ethnically diverse city of 300,000, solidly controlled by Labour, that is suffering severe economic decline due to a loss of manufacturing jobs; nonetheless, its public housing stock is not as greatly pressed with overdemand as in "Eastern." "Western" is a locality dominated by Conservatives and divided between an affluent, white old town area and a poorer, more ethnically- diverse new town; the public housing stock, although shrinking, apparently is more adequate to demand than in the other cities. Loveland's data consist of interviews with housing policy administrators in these local authorities and material drawn from their applicant case files. Local authorities charged with implementing the Housing Act, Loveland shows, often acted outside their legal authority, but the extent of violations varied both among localities and over time. The extent of violations seems to have depended on several contextual variables, which may be summarized as follows. First, as housing pressures have increased due to increasing levels of need and declining housing stocks, local authorities seem to have become more attentive to the Act's provisions regarding who may be excluded. Ironically, then, there seems to have been a tradeoff between substantive benefits and legality. Second, in local authorities in which administrators have weak educational backgrounds, are poorly trained, and have low professional orientations generally, more errors seem to be made. Third, in local authorities in which senior administrators are knowingly intent on shirking the Act's requirements, more errors seem to be made. Fourth, in conditions in which external rights-advocacy groups (mainly the government-sponsored Legal Rights Service) place litigation pressure on administrators, administrators seem to become increasingly informed of the Act's legal requirements and thus seem make fewer errors over time. Finally, partisan control of local government seemed to have no substantial effect on implementation of the law, as administrators retained significant discretion, sometimes even acting directly contrary to the wishes of their presumed political controllers. There is much to commend this study. Loveland's emphasis on implementation is relatively unique in British legal studies, which is dominated by sterile black-letter legal research, and he rightly argues that his empirical focus tells us far more about "the law" than do studies of statutes and judicial decisions alone. Several of Loveland's research observations support a growing body of research on discretion and illegality in the administrative process, particularly regarding the inevitability of administrative discretion despite attempts at legislative control, and the key role of personnel training, administrators' policy preferences, and pressure from external watchdogs in influencing the extent of administrative illegality. Yet HOUSING HOMELESS PERSONS also has several frustrating weaknesses. The most significant is the book's lack of conceptual clarity regarding the main explanatory variables (level of housing pressure, degree of administrative professionalism, and the like). Loveland emphasizes the complexity of the influences on administrative discretion--and undoubtedly the influences are complex--but I found myself hoping in vain to be given some theoretical framework to bring clarity to the discussion. Similarly, there is little clarification of the study's empirical methods. Much of the analysis relies on anecdotal material drawn from housing applicants' case files. Anecdotal evidence is not a problem in itself (and the book's evidence in general is extraordinarily rich), yet Loveland provides no indication of how he selected the case files that he reports and whether they are representative or unique. In all, though, this is a valuable study of legal rights and their flawed realization for populations lacking significant resources, knowledge and skills. As Loveland observes, much of the rights implementation process seems to depend on the capacities of rights-holders to assert and defend their rights-claims C and yet most public housing recipients have little capacity to do so, and the state has provided few resources to aid them in that task. Our understanding of legal rights in the U.S., too, might be improved by similar studies here.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London
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Table of Contents

Abbreviations
Introduction 1
1 The 'Right' to Council Housing? 7
2 Homelessness in Britain: Historical Perspectives 39
3 The Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977 68
4 Eastern, Midland, and Western Councils 103
5 Doing the Job 127
6 Priority Need and Homelessness 157
7 Intentional Homelessness 193
8 Local Connection 222
9 Rehousing Homeless Persons 241
10 Legal Control of Administrative Discretion? 270
11 'Welfare Rights, Law, and Discretion' Revisited 303
References 351
Index 367
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