Knowledge Guides

What are Housing Associations?

Posted June 10, 2024
What are Housing Associations?

A housing association is a type of not-for-profit organisation that provides affordable housing to people in need.

Housing associations play a crucial role in offering homes to individuals and families who might not be able to afford to buy or rent properties in the private housing market.

What do Housing Associations offer?

Affordable Housing
  • Social and Affordable Rental Properties: Housing associations offer rental homes at prices that are can be lower than those in the private rental market. These are often referred to as social or affordable rents such as London Living Rent.
  • Shared Ownership Homes: They sometimes offer schemes like Shared Ownership, where tenants can part-buy and part-rent their home, making homeownership more accessible.
Specialised Accommodation
  • Supportive Housing: Many housing associations also manage special accommodations tailored to specific needs, such as homes for older residents, disabled people, or those with mental health issues.
  • Temporary Housing: They might provide temporary housing solutions for people who are homeless or fleeing domestic abuse.

How are Housing Associations funded?

Housing associations operate on a not-for-profit basis, meaning they reinvest any surplus income back into maintaining existing properties, building new homes, or providing additional services.

Their funding typically comes from various sources including:

  • Rents: The rent paid by tenants.
  • Government Grants: They often receive grants and subsidies from the government to help with building new homes and maintaining existing ones.
  • Loans and Investments: They can also take out loans or attract private investments to fund their activities.

Who can you get a home through a Housing Association?

Housing association properties are generally allocated based on need. This varies depending on the local authority and housing association.

Priority will usually be given to:

  • Low-income Families – Those who cannot afford private rental prices.
  • Vulnerable People – Individuals who have specific needs, such as older people, disabled individuals or those experiencing homelessness.
  • Key Workers – Sometimes key workers, like nurses. They may get priority if their income is not enough to afford to live near their workplace.
  • People in Overcrowded Housing – Families or individuals living in homes that are too small for their needs.
  • Individuals Facing Domestic Abuse – Those who need to move for their safety and well-being.
  • People with Medical or Welfare Needs – Individuals whose current accommodation does not meet their medical or welfare needs.
  • Young People Leaving Care – Young adults transitioning out of the care system who need stable housing.
  • People at Risk of Homelessness – Individuals or families who are at risk of becoming homeless due to various circumstances, such as eviction or financial difficulties.
  • Refugees and Asylum Seekers People who have been granted refugee status or asylum and need stable housing.

Accessing a housing association property usually involves:

  • Joining a Waiting List: Potential tenants often have to join a waiting list and undergo an assessment of their need and circumstances.
  • Meeting Eligibility Criteria: Criteria might include being a resident in the local area, having a low income, or experiencing particular hardships.

Governance and Regulation

Housing associations are subject to stringent regulation and oversight to ensure they manage their properties fairly and effectively.

Regulators such as the Regulator of Social Housing oversee how housing associations operate. These bodies ensure housing associations maintain their properties to a high standard, are financially stable, and are providing the required quality of service to their tenants.

What are the benefits of using a Housing Association?

Here are some additional benefits of housing associations:

  • Affordability: Housing associations often provide housing at below-market rents, making it more affordable for low-income families and individuals.
  • Quality and Maintenance: These associations usually have dedicated teams for maintenance and are committed to maintaining a high standard of living conditions. They regularly inspect and upgrade their properties.
  • Tenant Advocacy: Housing associations often have tenant representation on their boards or through tenant committees, ensuring that the voices and needs of the residents are heard and considered in decision-making processes.
  • Financial Assistance: Some housing associations offer financial advice and support to tenants, helping them manage their budgets, access benefits, and avoid debt.
  • Environmental Sustainability: Many housing associations invest in environmentally friendly technologies and practices, such as energy-efficient buildings, sustainable waste management, and green space development.
  • Community Stability: By providing long-term housing options and fostering community engagement, housing associations help create stable, cohesive communities where residents are more likely to know and support each other.
  • Development and Regeneration: Housing associations often engage in significant development and regeneration projects, improving the housing quality and overall environment in the areas where they operate.


Housing associations are a vital part of the social housing system, providing accessible and secure housing to millions of people. They focus on community wellbeing and stability, reinvesting their income to support their tenants and expand their housing stock.

For anyone struggling with housing costs in the private market, housing associations can offer a lifeline and a more secure living environment.