What is social housing?

This content applies to England only.

what is social housing

Social housing is let at low rents on a secure basis to those who are most in need or struggling with their housing costs. Normally councils and not-for-profit organisations (such as housing associations) are the ones to provide social housing.

Social housing is affordable housing

A key function of social housing is to provide accommodation that is affordable to people on low incomes. Limits to rent increases set by law mean that rents are kept affordable.

Social housing is allocated on the basis of need

Unlike in the private rented sector, where tenancies are offered by the landlord and letting agent to whomever they choose, social housing is distributed according to the local council’s allocation scheme. Since the Localism Act 2011, councils can decide who is or isn’t eligible to go on the waiting list for social housing. Out of those who meet the council’s criteria, legislation requires that certain groups be given 'reasonable preference'.

Social housing is owned and managed by registered providers

Registered providers (often known as social landlords) are the bodies that own and manage social housing. They tend to be non-commercial organisations such as local authorities or housing associations. Housing associations are independent, not-for-profit organisations that can use any profit they make to maintain existing homes and help finance new ones.

It is now possible for commercial organisations to build and manage social housing, although this is not yet common practice.

Social housing is regulated

Registered providers are financially regulated and funded by the government through the Homes and Communities Agency, which is responsible for the construction of new social homes. The government department currently responsible for overseeing the social housing sector is the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG).

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