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What is social housing?

Social homes have rents pegged to local incomes and provide a truly affordable, secure housing option for people across the country

Who provides it

Social housing is provided by either housing associations (not-for-profit organisations that own, let, and manage rented housing) or the local council.

As a social tenant, you rent your home from the housing association or council, who act as the landlord.

Its value

Social housing aims to:

  • be more affordable than private renting

  • provide a more secure, long-term tenancy

For social renters, this means better rights, more control over their homes, and the ability to put down roots.

Lauren and her daughter recently secured a social home after many years on the waiting list.

'This time last year I could never have imagined being free from benefits – but now it’s completely achievable and that feels wonderful.'

'Now I’m in a social home, I worry about money much less. I know I can afford my rent and it’s a weight off my shoulders to know it can’t go up from one month to the next.'

'Our bungalow is humble, but it’s brought so much joy and freedom to me and my daughter. Everyone should have a home that makes them feel safe.'

How it should work:

Be affordable

Social homes are the only type of housing where rents are linked to local incomes, making these the most affordable homes in most areas across the country.

Rents for social homes are significantly lower than private rents. Rent increases are also limited by the government, which means homes should stay affordable long-term so people aren’t priced out of their communities by rising rents.

While the way social rents are set isn’t perfect, they should always be affordable to local people, including people on low incomes.

Be there for people who need it

Social housing should be there for anyone who needs it. At present, the law states who is entitled to social housing and should get preference on the waiting list. But councils have lots of flexibility on who qualifies locally and social landlords can refuse to let to people if they so choose.

There are over a million households currently on social housing waiting lists in England. Unfortunately, the current chronic shortage of social homes means there aren't even enough for the people who most urgently need it - those facing street homelessness and families.

Be stable

People in social housing usually have secure tenancies, giving them greater protection from eviction and enhanced rights compared to those renting privately. They provide the foundation people need to get on in life, meaning families can put down roots, plan for the future and make their house a home.

While recent governments have taken steps to reduce the security of social tenancies, we will continue to fight for all renters to have the security they need.

Be quality-controlled

On average, social homes are more likely to meet the standard for ‘decent’ housing. They are better insulated, more energy efficient, and more likely to have working smoke alarms than other types of housing.

Over the years, investment in maintaining and improving homes has been patchy, and social housing today is far from perfect. That’s why we will keep fighting until the country has enough decent homes for all.

The problem we're facing

Right now, we’re facing a national housing emergency. Successive governments have failed to provide the good quality, stable social housing people need, leaving millions shut out and struggling to find a secure home.

This is why we’re campaigning to ensure the government invests in a new generation of social homes. Demand more social housing: sign our petition

Applying for social housing

It can be difficult to understand how to apply for social housing. Read our trusted advice on eligibility, how to apply and what to expect.

More about social housing