Social housing: don’t assume you’re not eligible for a council property

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While there is a chronic shortage of social housing in the UK, with councils operating long waiting lists, it may be worth investigating whether you are eligible.

The rules vary across the country, so research your local authority’s rules to find out if you can apply.

Some individuals will assume they would never be eligible for a flat or house you rent from a housing association or council, or that even if they are, they may have to sit on a waiting list for years, but as with all these things, there is an element of postcode lottery, so for some, this is definitely an option to explore.

Rents for these homes are typically significantly lower than for private accommodation.

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Last month, in an opinion piece for the Guardian, Nicholas Fearn told how he and his partner had moved out of his parents’ council house and into a flat owned by a housing association.

Councils have lots of flexibility on who qualifies locallyShelter

“Given that I work part-time and I’m freelance, we assumed we wouldn’t be eligible for social housing,” he wrote. “But deciding we had nothing to lose, we applied to get on the waiting list of one of the local housing associations. To our surprise, we got on it within weeks and began bidding on properties. A few months later, we were offered a two-bedroom flat.”

Fearn wrote that while those with the highest needs are prioritised first by law, “others might be eligible, too, depending on availability of housing – and it turned out we qualified”.

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The charity Shelter says 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”.

It adds: “Councils have lots of flexibility on who qualifies locally.”

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