What is social housing?
Searching for a new home, but struggling to see past the mammoth price tag of the monthly rent?
Perhaps your family has quickly outgrown your current abode, you’re being driven out by poor living conditions or you simply can’t afford to rent privately anymore. Whatever your situation, social housing could be the solution you’re looking for.
If you’re put off by complicated Government terminology and housing jargon, then don’t worry. We use easily understandable terms to clear up any confusion you might have around social housing, helping you to make sense of this potentially complex topic.
In this ultimate guide to social housing, we explore the definition of social housing, how it was created, why it’s important and, perhaps most importantly, who is eligible for it. Plus, we also unpick the difference between social housing, council housing and affordable housing to help you decide which option is right for your family.
With all of this vital information at your disposal, we hope that you’ll be able to make a more informed housing decision. Join us to discover how social housing can offer eligible households both financial and social security today.
What does social housing mean in the UK?
Social housing can differ from country to country, so it’s important to uncover what it means for UK citizens. So, what is social housing in the UK and how could it help you? Let’s find out!
Defined as lower-cost rented housing, social housing can be provided by any landlord that is registered with the social housing regulator. Known as social landlords, typically the landlord of social housing will be your local council or housing association.
As well as being far more affordable than private rented housing, social housing also gives tenants a sense of security by offering both greater financial and social stability. Some tenants may even secure an assured tenancy which allows them to live in their home for the rest of their life.
Not to mention, social housing is particularly useful for those who require more accessible accommodation. For example, people with a mental or physical disability or elderly persons, because council housing is often well-adapted to meet their specific needs.
Why does social housing exist?
While social housing has been around since the late 19th century, the first real plan to actually build social housing was embarked upon in 1919. It came as part and parcel with the Government-led Housing and Town Planning Act which aimed to provide government subsidies to finance the creation of half a million homes in just three years.
Despite these efforts, the UK economy suffered in the early 1920s which led to substantial funding cuts. As a result, less than half of the promised number of homes were constructed in this three-year period.
However, the incredible surge in demand for social housing couldn’t be ignored after the Second World War.
During this period, the Government struggled to prevent the poor conditions of private rented accommodation and was faced with a rising demand for housing from returning soldiers.
As a result, a push for better social housing occurred in 1930 and was spear-headed by Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour government to clear out private slums and provide good-quality homes for those in need.
Wildly-successful, social housing provided a certain standard of living and dignity that private renting could not for millions of ordinary people.
Nowadays, Government-mandated social housing provides an alternative to the often unaffordable private market for both prospective tenants and buyers alike. Social housing therefore helps the Government to deliver on their aim to provide access for these households to a good-quality and affordable home where the private market cannot.
Why is social housing important?
With several other schemes from the Government’s Affordable Homes Programme also offering more affordable routes to both buying and selling property, social housing may not seem vital. However, according to the Regulator of Social Housing, this sector already provides 4.4 million homes across England as of March 31 2021.
Even though social housing makes up a significant proportion of properties in the UK, there’s still a substantial demand for safe, good-quality and affordable homes, but why? With soaring private rental prices and record UK home prices, finding an affordable home privately has become near impossible for low-income households in particular.
This is clearly demonstrated by the considerable social housing waiting lists and mounting research conducted by the homelessness charity, Shelter. It found that a massive 17.5 million people currently live in unstable, unaffordable or even dangerous housing. Subsequently, it has described this ‘the housing emergency’ and is on a mission to highlight the ever-increasing need for safe, affordable and stable housing.
Stable (or even increased) funding for social housing is therefore vital in helping to tackle this housing emergency.
What is the difference between social housing and council housing?
Social housing and council housing are similar – more so than affordable housing and social housing.
While it would seem logical that council housing is provided by councils and social housing is offered by housing associations, this is not always the case because the latter can also be offered by councils.
The key difference will be the type of tenancy agreement you choose to sign and the resulting rights you have to the property. As council housing is designated to those in most need, it is typically prioritised for those with dependent children, people with physical or mental disabilities, those who have been an institution, the armed forces or care, as well as families with a pregnant individual.
While this is not an exhaustive list of those who qualify for council housing, they are generally classified as those with the ‘highest housing need’. For those who do not qualify for council housing but still require a degree of support, social housing is the next best thing.
Who qualifies for social housing UK?
Unfortunately, no one has the right to social housing, and as the demand often outweighs the number of homes that councils and housing associations have to offer, there are some restrictions on who can apply.
Legally, applications can be taken from any British citizen who is living and settled in the UK aged 18 or above as well as citizens from other countries that have the right to stay in the UK for an unlimited period. However, a low income, limited savings and a local connection are all factors that can increase your chance of successfully securing social housing in the UK.
There are also three criteria in particular that will dramatically increase your chances of being accepted for social housing. This includes;
- Being homeless
- Living in cramped accommodation
- Suffering from a medical condition as a result of your current dwelling
Even if the above criteria do not apply to yourself or any member of your household, but you still have a low income and require more affordable, secure housing, it’s well worth applying. This is because local councils will have their own set of rules on who can apply and who should be given priority – this is called an ‘allocation scheme’.
To find your local allocation scheme rules and regulations, you can either contact your local council directly or look online. Not to mention, if you are rejected but still believe your application for social housing should have been accepted, then you can ask for a review to be put on their waiting list or be given higher priority.
How to apply for social housing
In order to apply for social housing in the UK, you should contact your local council or housing association. At this point, you’ll be added to a waiting list. Unfortunately, there’s no telling how long you may have to wait for a suitable property to become available, especially if you have specific requirements that need to be met. For example, if you have several children, you may require a larger house with more bedrooms.
It’s well worth noting that you can apply for social housing from several different housing associations at the same time to potentially help reduce your waiting time. However, it’s important to understand that no applicant is guaranteed to get a property and if you are accepted and you refuse a suitable home, the social landlord could refuse to find you another.
What are the different types of social housing tenancy?
There are three different types of social housing tenancy in the UK. If your application is accepted, you’re likely to be offered a starter tenancy to begin with. Think of this tenancy like a probation or trial period that typically lasts for 12 months.
After a year, your type of tenancy will either change to an assured tenancy or a fixed-term tenancy unless your housing association or local council has chosen to extend your start tenancy or evict you.
An assured tenancy generally means you’re allowed to live in the property for the rest of your life whereas a fixed-term tenancy (as suggested by the name) lasts a certain period – often five years. Your social landlord will determine whether your tenancy is renewed at the end of this period.
Is affordable housing the same as social housing UK?
No, affordable housing and social housing are totally separate. While both types of housing are cheaper than market level, this is where the similarities end.
To be exact, affordable housing is defined as “housing for sale or rent, for those whose needs are not met by the market (including housing that provides a subsidised route to home ownership and/or is for essential local workers)” as laid out in Annex 2 of the National Planning Policy Framework.
While social housing also provides housing for those whose needs are not met by the market, this type of housing is prioritised for those who are in most need. As outlined in the previous section, this commonly includes those with disabilities, children or no home. Plus, social housing is considerably cheaper than affordable housing.
In simplistic terms, affordable housing with regards to rent is set at 80% of the average local market rent. Social housing, on the other hand, is set at around 50% of the average local market rent, making this type of housing much more affordable for households with a lower income.
If you’re in need of expert advice when it comes to finding affordable housing at no extra cost, Pick My Pad has you covered. A valuable part of the Mistoria Group, we are able to provide specialist guidance and help in practically any property-related service you may require.
Contact us at Pick My Pad
Looking to put down roots in the Greater Manchester area? Pick My Pad is on hand to help. With decades of combined experience, our team specialise in providing free, no-obligation advice for both DSS and no-income tenants.
Boasting dedicated teams for letting, selling and buying properties, we’re experts when it comes to finding affordable properties for our clients. Having built a considerable base of local knowledge including detailed information about the best schools and crucial transport links, we offer a bespoke service to ensure we provide the best service for every client.
To discuss your housing requirements, please give us call on 01617903999 where you’ll be directed to one of our friendly and experienced team members. Alternatively, you can also contact us online where we’ll be in touch shortly. You’re just a call away from discovering your perfect home.