Recent update on the Agudas Israel Housing Association case: application to European Court of Human Rights rejected

Article 27 June 2022 Experience

An application to the European Court of Human Rights for review of the Supreme Court ruling in R. (on the application of Z) v Hackney LBC has been declared inadmissible.

The case concerned a single mother of four children (two of whom have autism) who was on the waiting list for social housing in Hackney. She applied for housing via Agudas Israel Housing Association, an Orthodox Jewish charity (the ‘Charity’). The Charity, in agreement with the London Borough of Hackney, allocated its available accommodation on the basis of certain criteria, one of which was that potential tenants were members of the Orthodox Jewish Community. This is on the grounds that the Orthodox Jewish Community suffers disadvantages when being allocated social housing (including discrimination on the basis of large families and levels of poverty). The woman’s lawyer argued that she had been discriminated against as a result of this policy.

The Supreme Court in R. (on the application of Z) v Hackney LBC held that the arrangement between Hackney Borough and the Charity was objectively and reasonably justified “in light of the unmet need for social housing for the OJC [Orthodox Jewish Community]”.

The woman therefore applied to the European Court of Human Rights (LF v UK (19839/21)) under Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) and Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life).

The European Court of Human Rights did not consider that this case fell within the remit of Article 8, as is does not entitle someone to be provided with a home, but could consider that Article 8 was engaged in relation to Article 14 in the event that the difference in treatment was not in pursuit of a legitimate aim.

Article 14 allows for Member States treating groups differently in order to correct “factual inequalities” between groups and such difference in treatment will only constitute discrimination under Article 14 where there is no objective and reasonable justification for the difference. The Court upheld the previous judgements and found that the policy of allocation by the Charity (and its agreement with the London Borough of Hackney) was proportionate and justified, noting in particular the Divisional Court’s observation that the Charity’s properties in Hackney accounted for only 1% of the social housing lettings in the borough, yet members of the Orthodox Jewish Community accounted for over 80% of Hackney’s waiting list for accommodation with six or more bedrooms and 50% of the waiting list for properties with five or more bedrooms.

The application was therefore rejected as being “manifestly ill-founded”.

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