A (sort of brief) guide to social housing I have written this after seeing a few problems that people have had with social housing and their access to it. I must warn you that I am not a housing officer, they are the ones who make the final decisions, but I have worked in this sector for a few years now. This is a guide to show you what might be entitled to and what your rights are. Please note that most councils now have ALMOs (Arms Length Management Organisation) running housing. It may have a different name, but the council do still own the houses. It is still classed as a non for profit organisation and its accounts are scrutinised by the local council. It will usually have a different name, with the most common name being Town name Homes, E.g. Plymouth Homes. Firstly there is the Homeless aspect - There are 2 main points that a housing officer looks at 1) Priority versus Non priority. This is the most crucial part of the whole system. This is based on UK housing laws and what councils MUST adhere to. Priority means that the council MUST re-house you, or at a minimum, put you in to some sort temporary accommodation (possible a hostel), council run or B & B style until suitable accommodation is found. The people who MAY find themselves as a priority are People with dependant children (must be living with them & includes pregnant mothers) You have become homeless due to flood, fire or disaster People aged 16 & 17 (although they will NOT get a tenancy, they will be in support accommodation until 18 ) Vulnerable adults including the list below - Mental health problems (This must be severe, with suicide attempts, possible sectioning, depression on a Monday will not do), Having left the forces This only applies usually to the first year upon leaving and should be applied for BEFORE you actually leave through your RHQ. Fleeing domestic violence (family or neighbours) There must be police proof of this as well. You should also be expected to move to another borough for your own safety. Disabilities This does change massively, but the disability could be physical or emotional. What ever the disability is, you would need full medical proof of it. A good example would be amputation of a limb, mobility through a stroke or fall. If you are a non priority they (the council) only have a legal obligation to assist you, not house you. If your kids dont live with you (access does not count) the chances are you will be a non priority. Local authorities will only put non priorities in to temporary accommodation if they have it. If they have, they usually will as it brings them funding in through housing benefit and Supporting people. Just being homeless does not make you a priority case. 2) Intentional versus un-intentionally homeless. This again can have a dramatic impact or your status. The local authority will want to know WHY you are homeless. A few examples are, you have failed on your mortgage and sell you house to pay it off, you were in a care home but caused so many problems, such as violence the staff couldnt support you, or you gave up your tenancy / just moved out. All these are seen as times you could have stayed there if it wasnt for what you did. In the case of repossessions, when the bank repossesses your house, then you are classed as un-intentionally homeless. If you are intentionally homeless AND a priority, they only have a duty to put you in temporary accommodation. They DO NOT have a duty to re-house you. So you would have to go private or housing association and would not be entitled to a council flat / house. For a non priority AND intentionally homeless, you dont stand a cats chance in hell, but they should give you advice at least. Registering for a property Not too sure about if you own your own property, but if you rent privately / stay with friends, you are entitled to register with the local council and housing associations. Most housing associations WILL require you to be on the councils list before you join theirs, but not all. Bidding Almost all councils will have a bidding system and in some cases housing associations will. This can be a points system (within the council I work in) or stars, grades etc. you will get points or stars based on your needs. This covers priority (as mentioned above), medical needs (related to housing), overcrowding, if you owe money to any councils or housing associations for rent (this will drop you points or stars) and if you share facilities with non related people in the house you are in. The less needs you have, the less points or stars you gain. So if you rent your house / flat and have no medical issues, youll be quite low on the list, but can still bid. Obviously, the person with the most stars or points will be offered the property, if they turn it down (some councils have a system where you can put 2 or 3 bids on a week / fortnight) it will go to the next highest bidder. Housing associations Housing associations are good and well worth looking in to for the average person. Despite equal opportunities they will usually refuse people with drug addictions, even if clean for up to a year and people with major or lenghty criminal convictions (I have seen this on several occasions). If you look at it from their point of view, they generally have houses in non council estate areas, the rest of the area will be privately owned. So they want to take tenants on who will fit in to the local area and not cause them problems. Also people who are working are good for their books. Those with drug and alcohol addictions have a tendency to not sign on, not send sick notes off and then their Job seekers or income support is stopped. Once this happens, their housing benefit will stop as well and this means that the housing association must then either track the tenant down to sort out their benefits AND their housing benefit or evict them, which can take months. This means they (the housing association) are out of pocket and nobody likes that. The housing associations again will prioritise homeless and priority cases, but usually have a habit of interviewing the top three people on the list, so coming 3rd can still gave you a chance. It has been known for people not to receive letters / not attend interviews, so I have known people who came 5th to be offered a property with them. Private renting / Rent bond scheme This scheme is to allow PRIORITY people / families to access housing faster. They will stump up the deposit (for 6 months, after which you have to cover it) this will put priorities in to private rented accommodation and this will be covered by housing benefit. Once that tenant starts to work they will have to pay the FULL private rented rate. This realistically is a way of speeding up the re-housing process and getting people in to private accommodation, rather than social housing. Handy tips 1) Always go in as soon as you can, housing officers can get their back up if you go in just after lunch with 4 bags from Superdrug having done your shopping first. 2) Be polite, but be firm, swearing will get you no-where, but an act of polite desperation can be beneficial. 3) If possible, read there information first, either paperback (inside whilst you are waiting) or on their website, it will give you an insight in to what you might be entitled to. 4) If you know you are going to have a problem in the future, such as your house is going to be reposed by the bank in 2 months time, or you think your landlord hasnt been paying the mortgage on the house youre renting, then go straight in to the council. This could avoid you being homeless at all. 5) If you feel you have been pushed aside and ignored, go to Shelter. The Citizens Advice bureau is good and will help, but they usually have waiting list for appointments of a week or two. Most of the councils are petrified of Shelter and even just the name will move the council in to action. Housing myths 1) Get pregnant; get a house Not true. Across the country now are family intervention programmes. As soon as a parent goes to kick a child out, they step in to re-negotiate the child back home. For a pregnant teenager living at home, the baby will probably be born before the team thinks about giving her, her own property. The rules state that ANY person with a dependant child is priority and they are allocated points / stars accordingly. I have seen single males with medical problems have twice as many points as a single mother. 2) Asylum seekers get the best houses Not true. This is mainly highlighted in London and comes (as mentioned in a previous budget by the government) due to the extortionate amounts landlords are able to charge. This would be the case for any person in London on housing benefit, not just asylum seekers. I used to work with a lady who had a council house in London, which was only about 10 doors up and across the road from David Camerons house! Should she lose her job, housing benefit would pay for to live there! However the amounts landlords can charge / the councils Local Housing Allowance is being dramatically reduced. 3) Only people on benefits get council houses Not True. Anyone on the list is entitled to a property income is not taken in to this factor when allocating points or stars, unless due to a sudden drop in income means you are liable to lose your home, this will boost your star / points rating. 4) People leaving prison / those with substances misuse issues get priority finally Not true. On occasions places in hostels are sometimes saved for them. This is due to the fact they have usually presented homeless a couple of weeks before their release date, whilst they are still in prison. I have known people to have to stay in prison for a couple of weeks longer than they should because there hasnt been a hostel (bail or normal) available for them. Otherwise substance misusers will be on a waiting list just as others are for hostel places. Usually those folk that do not misuse are rung when a place is available and they say they have somewhere else to go, the substance users dont have and then end up in the hostel. I hope that provides a bit of an insight in to how the system works, please remember that out of the priorities system, councils have different ways of running things.