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Supreme Court to hear appeal over arrangements by housing association to allocate properties only to members of religious community

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal over whether a charitable housing association’s arrangements for allocating housing, which amount to direct discrimination on the ground of religion, were lawful.

The Agudas Israel Housing Association ("AIHA") is registered as a smaller private provider of social housing. It owns property in Hackney, principally in parts of the borough which are inhabited by members of the Orthodox Jewish (Haredi) community.

AIHA's arrangements for the allocation of social housing in accordance with its objects are such that, in current circumstances, properties owned or controlled by AIHA are allocated only to members of the Orthodox Jewish community.

In Z & Aanor, R (On the Application Of) v London Borough of Hackney & Anor [2019] EWCA Civ 1099 the appellants – a mother and her four young children who are not members of the Orthodox Jewish Community – challenged those arrangements.

Hackney Council has nomination rights to property owned by AIHA. In making its nominations, the London borough nominates applicants who fall within AIHA's criteria for allocating property. In practice, this means that Hackney only nominates members of the Orthodox Jewish community.

In consequence, the appellants challenged Hackney's policy. Although in form the challenge was one to Hackney's housing allocation policy, in substance it was primarily a challenge to AHIA's allocation policy.

Both the Divisional Court and the Court of Appeal concluded that the arrangements were lawful.

Christopher Baker and Rea Murray of 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square, instructed by Asserson Law Offices, represented the housing association in both the Divisional Court and the Court of Appeal. 

The set said the issues to be considered by the Supreme Court related to the defences of positive action and the charities exemption under ss158 and 193 respectively of the Equality Act 2010.

“This will be a landmark case, as it is the first time these defences will have been considered by the Supreme Court,” it added.

Matt Hutchings QC of Cornerstone Barristers will represent Hackney before the Supreme Court, having appeared for the council before the Divisional Court and the Court of Appeal.

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