A housing association is a privately owned or held organisation that provides low cost housing on a not-for-profit basis in the UK. Housing associations are a form of social housing, in that they provide homes for many people who would otherwise struggle to find them, and often receive public funding on order to do so.
Are housing associations the same as ‘council housing’?
No. A housing association is privately owned and run. It is not owned by or a part of local or national government, despite receiving some public funds. They do have to follow some very strict regulations in the way they operate, but they are private organisations. However, as of 2008 the High Court established that the decisions of housing associations were subject to judicial review, so the line is beginning to blur a bit.
Who uses housing associations?
Almost every type of UK resident can be found either living in or participating in a housing association on a financial level. Part of the reason for that is that ‘housing association’ refers to so many different types of organisations. A housing association might run several huge blocks of low-income flats in a city, or they might operate a small number of units on a new build development on a shared ownership model.
A housing association might have been set up to provide safe, dignified accommodation for people suffering with mental health problems. It might have been set up to assure shelter for refugees, the sufferers of domestic violence or any other vulnerable group.
Many do not cater to any special group at all, focusing on providing rental properties to ordinary UK residents of all kinds.
What could I expect when renting from a housing association?
Really, it isn’t very different than renting from an entirely private property management company.
Benefits of renting from a housing association:
- The cost of renting will usually be covered entirely by Housing benefit, if you qualify for the full amount of the benefit.
- The association is required to keep your house in good condition.
- This is an excellent way for vulnerable people to get a stable, affordable residence.
- Many housing associations participate in shared ownership schemes, making it easier to take your first step on the property ladder.
Drawbacks of renting from a housing association
- Be prepared to get on a waiting list to get a housing association property. This list will usually be run by the local council, much like applying for a council-owned property.
- Many housing associations are in somewhat ‘rough’ neighbourhoods, or at least those with low property values.
- A suitable property may not be available at all within your preferred city or town.
Of course, every housing association is different, so take some time to get to know one before getting on their waiting list. Once your tenancy starts, the most important thing is to make sure you understand the terms of your tenancy entirely – just like any contract, really.