The different types of social housing explained

The different types of social housing explained

Social housing is provided to people who either have a housing need or are on low income either by local authorities or housing associations. The housing association or local authorities acts as a landlord for the social tenant, the primary benefit being that it provides a safe and secure environment at a cheaper rate than private housing.

Whilst social housing is available to those who suffer from homelessness, it can also be provided as a preventative measure to stop more people falling into homelessness. Whether it be young families on low income, people suffering from fuel poverty or individuals who have been released from prison and are trying to integrate back into society, its aim is to be a long term solution for people.

However, there are different types of social housing and in today’s guide, we are going to break down what they are, how each one can differ depending on the situation of each individual, as well as how much time people usually spend in each.

Emergency housing:

Emergency housing in the UK refers to temporary accommodation provided by local authorities to homeless people and families in need of immediate crisis shelter. It is a short term option whilst the council looks into your housing situation, as well as deciding how they are to help you in the long term. Those eligible for emergency housing include: anyone who is legally homeless, meets the immigration conditions, or has a priority need such as children, pregnancy, domestic abuse or anything else that makes you more susceptible to the risk of harm.

Some of the main types of emergency accommodation provided to vulnerable people in the UK include:

  • Emergency shelters: hostel-style facilities with shared bedrooms/bathrooms, usually overnight stays. These shelters provide basic amenities like meals and washing facilities.
  • B&Bs: these are rooms rented from budget hotels/B&Bs, often with shared facilities.
    Temporary flats/houses: self-contained units with their own kitchen/bathroom that offer a bit more independent living.
  • A hostel or refuges: this also includes supported housing hostels with extra onsite support or a safe housing for those fleeing domestic violence or abuse.
  • Direct placements: rooms rented from private landlords on an emergency basis.

When it comes to emergency housing, it must be affordable, you will not have to pay for it upfront. However, if you need help with rent then you may have to claim universal credit to help. The type of emergency accommodation provided depends on availability, household size, and specific needs/vulnerabilities of the applicant. But the facilities are generally basic, temporary, and intended for crisis, not long term. You can usually stay until the council makes a decision on your homelessness application and this takes at least two months.

Temporary housing:

Temporary housing is a short term solution for those experiencing homelessness and who are in a transitional housing phase awaiting a permanent housing solution. It is a statutory duty of local authorities to secure temporary accommodation for homeless applicants in priority need who qualify for assistance .To qualify, applicants need to be legally homeless, in a priority need category, not intentionally homeless and have a local connection.

Temporary housing could be:

  • Properties can be privately leased from private landlords: these could be shared with other tenants with separate bedrooms but shared kitchen and bathrooms.
  • Voluntary sector housing: this is housing for destitute asylum seekers, refugees, and people with no recourse to public funds, such as through hosting schemes or accommodation projects.
  • B&B or hostel: these are rooms rented from budget hotels/B&Bs, often with shared facilities.
  • Self-contained flats: individual flats leased by council offering their own facilities.

You can spend anywhere from months to years in temporary housing in some areas. During your time there, you will be responsible for all occupancy charges, bills and council tax. The chosen location of your housing takes into consideration the time it takes to travel to work, your children’s education and your caring responsibilities and support networks.

Similarly to emergency housing, you can get help with your rent through housing benefits, if you rent from the council or a housing association. If you pay your rent to a private landlord, you can use the universal credit housing element and if you still can’t afford the full rent amount, you can ask the council for discretionary housing payments. 

Permanent housing:

Permanent social housing means tenants can live in their home for the rest of their lives if they keep to the tenancy terms. This can only be issued by local authorities. If your application is accepted, you’ll go on to a waiting list of people who need a council home. Your council will then prioritise applications based on who needs a home most urgently.

Permanent housing could be:

  • Self-contained accommodation: a property (be it a house, flat or something else) which comes complete with its own private kitchen, bathroom and/or toilet, and living area.
  • Council housing: public housing that is rented to households who are unable to afford to rent from the private sector or buy their own home.
  • Housing with a housing association: homes provided by housing associations are ‘social rented’ and ‘affordable rented’ homes.
  • Supported housing: accommodation where residents receive support, supervision or care.

If you are in permanent housing, you cannot be evicted without a court order, and possession can only be granted on certain grounds.

Supported housing:

Supported housing is accommodation that is provided alongside supervision, support and care in an attempt to help people live as independently as they can. Those usually in supported housing can include older people, people with a learning or physical disability, people recovering from drug or alcohol dependence and people with mental ill health.

Supported housing could be :

  • Social dwellings: houses and flats that are owned by local government or by other organisations that do not make a profit.
  • Hostels: offer basic temporary housing. You usually have to pay to stay in a hostel. You can get housing benefits to help you pay if you’re on a low income.
  • Supported living complexes: housing where support and/or care services are provided to help people to live as independently as possible.
  • Sheltered housing: covers a wide range of rented housing for older and/or disabled or other vulnerable people.

Housing benefits can be used to help support people with their rent payments if they qualify. Recipients are able to claim more for supported housing than regular accommodation, this is because the housing benefit regulations which cap housing benefits, do not apply to “specified” supported housing. 

Housing associations operating in your area can be found by contacting your local council or contacting a housing association directly, you can find information on the housing association or local council that operates in your area here.