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Oval office - Monday 17 February

Unfortunately we have had to close our Oval office located at Alverstone House, Magee St, Oval, London SE11 5TS today. We're sorry for any inconvenience this may cause. For any non-urgent enquiries, you can still contact us online


How social housing works

Who lives in social housing?

Anyone living in England can apply for social housing, via a waiting list held by their local authority. Eligibility is based on housing need, with priority given to:

  • The homeless
  • Those living in unsuitable or overcrowded housing
  • People with welfare or medical issues
  • Victims of domestic violence or racial and sexual abuse
  • Referrals from social services, the National Probation Service and refuges.

Housing associations

  • Are not-for-profit organisations working with local authorities to meet housing need
  • Provide homes for millions of families that otherwise could not afford one. Some associations have fewer than 10 homes, while others more than 50,000
  • Own, let and manage affordable tenancies and provide landlord services, individual support and help create supportive communities, to make tenancies work
  • Build homes for affordable rent, shared ownership and private sale, in partnership with local authorities and housebuilders. Private sales generate revenue to pay for affordable homes and services
  • Are sometimes referred to as Registered Providers and, in England, are regulated by Homes England.

Types of social housing

  • Social rented homes: low rent (typically 50-60% of market rent), secure housing, prioritised by need
  • Affordable rent housing: social housing with a higher rent (up to 80% of market rent), less secure housing, prioritised by need
  • Shared ownership: allowing people to part-buy and part-rent a home, buyers must meet certain income criteria
  • Intermediate rent homes: 80% market rate housing
  • Supported housing: for those with additional needs, eg extra care homes.

Types of tenancy

  • Secure tenancy: tenants can live in their home for the rest of their lives, if they keep to the tenancy terms. Can only be issued by local authorities
  • Assured tenancy: a secure tenancy issued by a housing association
  • Assured fixed-term tenancy: a fixed-term tenancy of more than three years, typically issued by a housing association
  • Assured shorthold tenancy: the most common tenancy used by private landlords.

For more information, go to Shelter’s essential online guide to housing.