Social housing waiting lists
Local authorities maintain records of people who are qualified for social housing support and who have not yet received it. As social housing becomes available, the local authority allocates it to people who are on its record of qualified households – more commonly known as the housing list.
Before offering you accommodation, the local authority must review its assessment of your application and confirm that your household still qualifies. From 2016 on, local authorities are also required to review all applications on their housing lists each year and prepare a summary report - see 'Summary of social housing assessments' below.
As well as the main housing lists, local authorities also maintain lists of people who have applied for a transfer from their current accommodation.
Getting on the social housing list
When you apply for social housing, the local authority assesses your application to determine your household’s eligibility and need for social housing. If you are accepted as being qualified, your details are placed on the housing list. The local authority will also notify any other local authority in whose area you have specified an area of choice.
While you are on the housing list
Each local authority draws up its own rules for deciding the order of priority on the housing list. These are called allocation schemes and are generally published on the local authority’s website.
Some local authorities operate a points system, giving each household on the list a number of points depending on its circumstances. If your circumstances change – for example, you have a new baby – you should tell the local authority so that it can update your household’s record. You should also tell the local authority if your address has changed since you went on the housing list.
If you want to know your position on the housing list, ask the local authority. Your position may go up or down depending on the circumstances of other people on the list and as your own circumstances change. In practice, priority is generally given to families and older people rather than single people or couples without children.
If you are in private rented accommodation while waiting for local authority housing, you may be eligible for Rent Supplement. People who have been on Rent Supplement for a long time may switch to the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS).
The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), which will eventually replace long-term Rent Supplement, is gradually being introduced. If you are housed under HAP, you will no longer be on the local authority’s housing list, as HAP is defined in Section 37 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014 as being a social housing support.
However, you can apply for transfer from HAP to another form of social housing. If you apply for a transfer within 2 weeks of getting the letter confirming your HAP payment, any time that you spent on the housing list can be taken into account when your local authority considers your application. If you apply for a transfer at a later date, the time that you previously spent on the housing list will not count.
Allocation of housing
The allocation process
In general, as houses and flats become available for letting, they are allocated from the housing list in order of priority, taking account of all the relevant circumstances. However, a new system of choice-based letting, which has been piloted in some local authority areas, is now being extended. The Choice-Based Letting (CBL) allocation system allows social housing applicants to express their interest in available properties.
When the local authority is planning to offer you accommodation, it must review its assessment of your household’s eligibility and need for social housing. It must also confirm that your application is still valid as regards connection with the area and selection of area of choice.
If you have chosen to be considered for accommodation provided by a housing association or other approved housing body (by ticking the 'voluntary/co-operative housing' box on the social housing application form) one of these organisations may contact you if suitable accommodation becomes available.
Refusing an offer
If you are offered a house or flat that you do not want, you can refuse it without affecting your place on the housing list. However, if the local authority thinks that you do not have a good reason for refusing the offer, it may reduce your priority on the list. If you refuse more than one reasonable offer in any 12-month period, you will be suspended from the list for 12 months, during which you cannot claim Rent Supplement.
Refusal to allocate housing
If you or a member of your household has previously been in local authority housing, the housing authority will not allocate housing to you if you or a household member has:
(a) Damaged a dwelling or site previously provided by any housing authority, without repairing the property or paying for repairs
(b) Breached the terms of a local authority tenancy agreement, leading to the authority ending the tenancy
(c) Built up rent arrears for 12 weeks or more in any period of 3 years as a local authority tenant, without either paying them off or arranging to pay them
However, the Social Housing Assessment (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2011 allow local authorities, in exceptional circumstances, to consider providing social housing support to households in situations (a) or (b) above.
Summary of social housing assessments
Section 21 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 requires each local authority to prepare a summary of the social housing assessments carried out in its area. A national summary of social housing assessments is carried out periodically. The most recent Summary of Social Housing Assessments (pdf) was in 2013. From 2016 onward, this will be done every year.
The 2016 summary is being carried out under the Social Housing Assessments (Summary) Regulations 2016. Local authorities are contacting all households on their housing lists to confirm that they are still qualified for social housing support. The information being requested covers income, family size and current housing conditions.
It is important for all households to respond to the local authority in good time with the details requested. If your address has changed since you went on the housing list, you should contact the local authority and give it your current address.
Where to apply
For more information about the social housing waiting list, or if you have any queries about the summary of social housing assessments, contact your local authority.