Issue No 11


Modelling Council House Allocation
19 June 2001

Jack Carr & Andrew Lacey (Heriot-Watt)

This half-day meeting looked at the modelling of council house allocation and also at another social allocation problem, namely that of hospital beds. The participants were a mix of applied mathematicians and housing experts, both academic and those involved directly with public sector housing and homelessness, with one hospital consultant.

The five talks covered:
  1. mathematical models of housing allocation and homelessness
  2. aspects of what Shelter (the homeless charity) consider the important issues for homeless individuals
  3. stochastic modelling of hospital-bed occupancy
  4. aspects of housing policy where mathematics could help in the future (especially drawing attention to the limitations of verbal reasoning in planning)
  5. background on local versus large-scale behaviour, statistics, geography and demography which are currently under investigation in the university housing and urban studies departments.
The impetus for the meeting can be traced back to a legal precedent in 1995 that affected homeless applicants applying to their local authority for housing. Under what has become known as the Awua judgement, a local authority could discharge its responsibility for re-housing statutorily homeless applicants by placing them in temporary accommodation for up to 2 years. In particular, the judgement removed the responsibility of local authorities to provide suitable permanent accommodation to homeless applicants. The Awua judgement became enshrined in the 1996 Housing Act and was a turning point in homeless legislation. Prior to this, the 1977 Housing (Homeless Persons) Act, and later the 1985 Housing and 1987 Housing (Scotland) Acts, had given local authorities a duty to secure permanent accommodation for homeless households if they satisfied certain criteria.

The 1996 Housing Act concerned many homeless and housing charities, particularly Shelter. It was felt that local authorities would reduce the priority given to allocating homeless households in permanent accommodation as a consequence of the Awua ruling. Don Simpson, a housing consultant, trustee of Shelter and also a participant of the ICMS meeting, originally approached the European Study Group with Industry in 1996 to discuss the problem. The aim of the Study Group was to derive and analyse a model for the numbers of homeless and non-homeless people in a borough, in particular to see how these figures might be affected by different policies regarding various categories of people.

The meeting indicated a number of contrasting approaches, for instance, deterministic models possibly suitable for large populations in a local authority area, to stochastic modelling necessary to see the effects on bed occupancy an individual hospital ward for infectious diseases. Also a number of issues were identified as being suitable for further mathematical study. These include void management, arrears control, and social engineering. Further collaboration, possibly involving the Department of Mathematics at Heriot-Watt University, the School of Planning and Housing at the Edinburgh College of Art, Edinburgh and Glasgow Councils, and Don Simpson is likely.

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Biryuk, Andrei – Heriot-Watt University
Bramley, Glen – Edinburgh College of Art
Buck, Brendon – Shelter Scotland
Carr, Jack – Heriot-Watt University
Cobbold, Christina – Heriot-Watt University
Fidler, Darren – Heriot-Watt University
Gibson, Gavin – Heriot-Watt University
Greenhorn, Jackson – Glasgow City Council
Jefferson, Daniel – Heriot-Watt University
Knops, Robin – Heriot-Watt University
Lacey, Andrew – Heriot-Watt University
McCrossan, Mike – City of Edinburgh Council
Parker, David – University of Edinburgh
Pawson, Hal – Edinburgh College of Art
Penrose, Oliver – Heriot-Watt University
Robertson, Ian – Glasgow City Council
Simpson, Don – Housing and Management Consultant
Starr, John – Royal Victoria Hospital
Warren, Rupert – City of Edinburgh Council
Waugh, Andrew – Heriot-Watt University
Wearing, Helen – Heriot-Watt University
Webster, David – Glasgow City Council

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