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Social housing offers some of the most affordable housing in the UK. Its purpose is to help people find a safe and secure place to live who are otherwise unable to afford the cost of privately buying or renting a property.
Learn more about social housing in this article, including who provides it, benefits, whether you’re eligible, the different ways of finding it and how to apply.
We help care and retirement seekers find what they’re looking for.
Social housing is a low-cost form of rented accommodation. It’s sometimes called council housing, depending on the type of tenancy agreement you enter. Within the social housing sector, rent prices are determined by local income levels. The goal is to provide housing which remains much more affordable than what’s on offer within the private rental sector.
It’s also different from renting privately as housing is allocated based on how much somebody requires it.
The Regulator of Social Housing ensures the social housing sector remains an affordable and viable solution with high-quality homes throughout the country that can accommodate different needs.
Social housing is provided by either:
If you rent social housing, you’ll be classed as a social tenant or housing association tenant.
The most common types are:
Social rented homes - Lowest rental costs of these options - usually around 50-60% of typical market rent costs. This is prioritised by needs
Affordable rent housing - Rent is slightly higher than social rented homes but still cheaper than what’s on the private market - up to 80% of typical market rent costs. This is also prioritised by needs
Shared ownership - This allows people to either part-buy or part-rent a home, assuming they meet certain criteria
Intermediate rent homes - Rent costs 80% of the market rate
Supported housing - A specialised form of housing for people with additional needs
As of October 2022, there were around 4.4 million social housing homes across England. This includes 31,000 new social housing properties that were created over the year.
The amount of affordable rent and low-cost homes to buy increased during 2021/22, while the number of social rent homes decreased.
During 2022, the cost of social housing rent increased by an average of 1.6%. In England, the average social rent was £94.31 per week. This varied from region to region, with the most expensive weekly rent being in London (£116.16) and the cheapest in the North East (£78.89).
There are lots of ways to find social housing in England, Scotland and beyond. Most people apply through their local council. If you’re unable to apply online, get in touch with your local council and ask for an application form.
Shelter also has a postcode search to help you find your local housing office and borough council. Enter your postcode and you’ll be provided with links to that council’s housing register application page, as well as their telephone number and email address.
Here are other services you can use to find social housing in the UK:
Homefinder UK finds permanent social housing for homeless households and those finding it tough to access affordable housing in their local area.
When you register through this site, your application will be automatically sent to your local council or landlord, who will then have 21 days to verify your application.
Once your application has been approved, you can then express interest in different eligible properties through Homefinder UK - you can express interest in up to three properties at a time. This is known as choice-based lettings.
A case manager will contact you to discuss the areas you’re interested in. They’ll help you find affordable housing/a social housing property going forward.
Homehunt is one of the UK’s leading social housing providers - with properties available to rent or buy. Their properties are available across the UK and from numerous landlords.
This site is completely free to use. All you have to do is search by your location or postcode, and choose whether you’re looking for affordable accommodation to rent or buy.
You can sign up for alerts that’ll let you know when properties in your local area that fit your requirements become available.
Peabody is partnered with the Regulator of Social Housing and offers various tenancies to people looking for houses and flats to rent.
You can also find homes to swap through Peabody (meaning moving from one social housing property to another), along with a variety of other social housing and similar property options.
Places for People offers rental accommodation throughout the UK. They work with local councils or local authorities and have various other partnerships to help you find social rented housing.
You can find a list of their local partners here. The housing associations listed here are based in different regions of the UK. Each listing includes the areas their partners cover, their telephone number, email and a link to their website.
Due to high demand yet low supply, councils have placed restrictions on who can apply. However, councils will accept applications from:
Even if you’re given priority (more on this below), it could still take a long time to find a social housing property. Social housing is in high demand across the UK and some areas may have much longer social housing waiting lists than others.
Councils decide eligibility based on priority - often through a points system or banding system based on an individual’s or family’s needs.
Often, individuals meeting the below criteria are often prioritised for social housing:
Having lived in the area for several years, having a job or family there can also help you be prioritised for social housing.
If you’re a carer for a family member or somebody else nearby, your application may be processed quicker as you’ll be classed as having a ‘local connection’ to the area.
Your local council will have its own guidelines around who can apply and who has priority. You can find out more through your local council’s website.
Most people apply for social housing online. You can either do so through your local council, or by directly applying to a housing association, including those we listed in the previous section.
The application process for social housing can vary slightly, depending on the council or housing association. However most applications forms will require:
When filling in the application form, be sure to provide as much detail and context as possible. You can contact your local council if you need any help filling in the form. A carer, family member or friend may be able to help as well.
If your local council or authority accepts your application, you’ll then be placed in a group or band, depending on your level of priority. People in more urgent need of social housing will be given higher priority.
You can ask the council how long the waiting list is in your area and how long they think it could take to get to the top of this list (some councils include these estimates on their website).
Once you receive an offer, you’ll only have a short time to accept it. You don’t have to accept, but may be moved back down the list if you don’t.
If your application for social housing is refused, you should ask your local council to review the decision or explain their reasoning as to why they made that decision to begin with.
You can also ask them to review your application if you don’t think you’ve been given the right level of priority.
Other options include renting from a private landlord or seeking assistance with paying your current rent.
More affordable homes - The biggest advantage is affordability. In some cases, you’ll only pay around 50-60% of local market rent, making it the most affordable home option in many parts of the country
It’s allocated on a needs basis - Social housing is given to the people who need it most, with people who are local to a specific area often given preference as well
Provides much-needed stability - Social housing usually provides secure tenancies. This gives the people living in it much better rights and protection against eviction than people who privately rent
Quality control and a good standard of living - Despite the low rental costs, social homes still tend to meet the standard for ‘decent housing’. Many social housing properties benefit from excellent insulation and other types of energy efficiency
Allows for greater independence - Having a place to call home can make a huge difference to your mental wellbeing. What’s more, people living with a disability or health condition are given the necessary adaptations to live independently, such as stairlifts, ramps and wider doorways
Home swaps - In some cases, housing providers will offer home swaps with other council tenants. This allows you to move from one area to another at a later date
Finding a care home near you can be a stressful and time-consuming operation. Thankfully, we’ve removed much of the difficulty from this process and will quickly connect you or your loved ones to the UK’s best care homes.
These two types of housing are similar, yet have some differences. Affordable housing is privately owned, while social housing is owned by the council.
Social housing is a low-cost housing option provided by landlords registered with the Regulator of Social Housing. It’s provided by either a housing association or a local council. In some cases, social housing provided and managed by councils is known as council housing.
In 2022, the average weekly social rent in England was £94.31. According to Statista’s study of average weekly rent for social renters between 2008 and 2022, this figure has increased from just £71 in 2008.
Some of the drawbacks associated with council housing include a lack of flexibility and choice in where you live, mismanaged projects in some cases and a general lack of investment. This lack of investment may lead to corners being cut which affect your experience when living in one of these households.