Housing association
Housing associations in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 are independent not-for-profit
Non-profit organization
Nonprofit organization is neither a legal nor technical definition but generally refers to an organization that uses surplus revenues to achieve its goals, rather than distributing them as profit or dividends...

 bodies that provide low-cost "social housing" for people in housing need. Any trading surplus is used to maintain existing homes and to help finance new ones. They are now the United Kingdom's major providers of new homes for rent
Renting is an agreement where a payment is made for the temporary use of a good, service or property owned by another. A gross lease is when the tenant pays a flat rental amount and the landlord pays for all property charges regularly incurred by the ownership from landowners...

, while many also run shared ownership schemes to help people who cannot afford to buy their own homes outright.

Housing associations provide a wide range of housing, some managing large estates of housing for families, while the smallest may perhaps manage a single scheme of housing for older people. Much of the supported accommodation in the UK is also provided by Housing Associations, with specialist projects for people with mental health or learning disabilities
Learning disability
Learning disability is a classification including several disorders in which a person has difficulty learning in a typical manner, usually caused by an unknown factor or factors...

, with substance misuse problems (drugs
Drug abuse
Substance abuse, also known as drug abuse, refers to a maladaptive pattern of use of a substance that is not considered dependent. The term "drug abuse" does not exclude dependency, but is otherwise used in a similar manner in nonmedical contexts...

 or alcohol
Alcohol abuse
Alcohol abuse, as described in the DSM-IV, is a psychiatric diagnosis describing the recurring use of alcoholic beverages despite negative consequences. Alcohol abuse eventually progresses to alcoholism, a condition in which an individual becomes dependent on alcoholic beverages in order to avoid...

), the formerly homeless, young people
Young People
Young People is a 1961 Mexican crime film directed by Luis Alcoriza. It was entered into the 11th Berlin International Film Festival.-Cast:* Teresa Velázquez - Olga * Julio Alemán - El Gato* Adriana Roel - Alicia...

, ex-offenders and women fleeing domestic violence
Domestic violence
Domestic violence, also known as domestic abuse, spousal abuse, battering, family violence, and intimate partner violence , is broadly defined as a pattern of abusive behaviors by one or both partners in an intimate relationship such as marriage, dating, family, or cohabitation...


Funding and regulation

Housing associations' day-to-day activities are funded by rent and service charges payments made by, or on behalf of those living in its properties. In this sense, housing associations are run as commercial entities and the majority do not depend on donations for their general activities.

New housing however tends to require subsidies to be economic, the source of which will depend on where the association is based:
  • In England
    England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

    , housing associations were funded and regulated by the Housing Corporation
    Housing Corporation
    The Housing Corporation was the non-departmental public body that funded new affordable housing and regulated housing associations in England. It was established by the Housing Act 1964...

    . However the Housing and Regeneration Act (2008) created two new bodies. From the 1st December 2008 the Homes and Communities Agency
    Homes and Communities Agency
    The Homes and Communities Agency is the non-departmental public body that funds new affordable housing in England. It was established by the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 as one of the successor bodies to the Housing Corporation, and became operational on 1 December 2008.-Background:On 17...

     (HCA) deals with funding and regeneration work and the Tenant Services Authority (TSA) take responsibility for regulation. From 2010 the TSA will regulate all providers of social housing and they will all be known as Registered Providers irrespective of the private, public, for profit or not for profit status.

  • In Northern Ireland
    Northern Ireland
    Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

    , the same role is carried out by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive
    Northern Ireland Housing Executive
    The Northern Ireland Housing Executive is the public housing authority for Northern Ireland. It is the enforcing authority for those parts of housing orders that involve houses with multiple occupants, houses that are unfit, and housing conditions.- Origins :...


  • In Scotland
    Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

    , this function is fulfilled by the Scottish Government.

  • In Wales
    Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

    , the regulation and funding of housing associations is carried out by the Welsh Assembly Government
    Welsh Assembly Government
    The Welsh Government is the devolved government of Wales. It is accountable to the National Assembly for Wales, the legislature which represents the interests of the people of Wales and makes laws for Wales...


Registered Social Landlord (RSL) is the technical name for social landlords that in England were registered with the Housing Corporation, or in Wales with the Welsh Assembly Government - most are housing associations, but there are also trusts, co-operatives and companies.

Funding for new homes (often termed 'social housing grant') amount to sizeable public investments. In its 2008-11 Prospectus, the Housing Corporation stated that in the three year period to 2011 subsidy would be "at least £8 billion". The majority of this would go to housing associations for use in development projects. Since 2003, in an effort to seek greater value for money, much of the funding by the Housing Corporation for new house building has been channelled to fewer than 80 "developing housing associations" that have achieved "partner status" through Partner Programme Agreements.

Legally housing associations are often Industrial and Provident societies
Industrial and Provident Society
An industrial and provident society is a legal entity for a trading business or voluntary organisation in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, and New Zealand...

, and may or may not be registered charities
Charitable trust
A charitable trust is an irrevocable trust established for charitable purposes, and is a more specific term than "charitable organization".-United States:...


There are four industry bodies representing housing associations working in the UK, each covering a respective home nation. They are:
  • England - National Housing Federation
    National Housing Federation
    The National Housing Federation is the umbrella organisation for social housing providers in the UK.-Function:The National Housing Federation is the voice of affordable housing in England....

  • Scotland - Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA)
  • Wales - Community Housing Cymru
  • Northern Ireland - Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations (NIFHA)

National Housing Federation
The National Housing Federation is the umbrella organisation for social housing providers in the UK.-Function:The National Housing Federation is the voice of affordable housing in England....

 (formerly the National Federation of Housing Associations) claimed that at the start of 2003 they had around 1400 non-profit housing organisations in their membership, owning or managing approximately 1.8 million homes across England.

Legal Status

Housing associations are generally considered as private entities in that they are not owned nor directly controlled by the state. This status however has been challenged by a number of legal rulings in the last few years. In 2004 the British government accepted an EU ruling that considered housing associations as public bodies for the purposes of procurement.

More recently, the UK high court in Weaver v. London and Quadrant Housing Trust [2008] has ruled that housing associations were public authorities and as a result could be subject to judicial review in certain circumstances. The court stated that the Housing Association sector was
permeated by state control and influence with a view to meeting the Government's aims for affordable housing, and in which RSLs work side by side with, and can in a very real sense be said to take the place of, local authorities'

This issue has wider political significance given that housing associations borrowing (which stood at approximately £30bn in 2006 ) does not currently contribute to the UK's public sector borrowing requirement - the control of which is both a stated government objective and part of the EU's criteria for membership of the European Single Currency.


A feature of Housing Associations is that, although the larger Housing Associations usually have paid staff, a committee or board of management made up of volunteers has overall responsibility for the work of the organisation. A board might include residents, representatives from local authorities and community groups, business people and politicians. There are more than 30,000 voluntary board members running housing associations throughout England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...



Housing associations first appeared in the second half of the nineteenth century as part of the growth in philanthropic
Philanthropy etymologically means "the love of humanity"—love in the sense of caring for, nourishing, developing, or enhancing; humanity in the sense of "what it is to be human," or "human potential." In modern practical terms, it is "private initiatives for public good, focusing on quality of...

 and voluntary organisations brought about by the growth of the middle class
Middle class
The middle class is any class of people in the middle of a societal hierarchy. In Weberian socio-economic terms, the middle class is the broad group of people in contemporary society who fall socio-economically between the working class and upper class....

es in the wake of the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...


They increased in importance over the last decades of the twentieth century due to changes to council housing
Council house
A council house, otherwise known as a local authority house, is a form of public or social housing. The term is used primarily in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Council houses were built and operated by local councils to supply uncrowded, well-built homes on secure tenancies at...

 brought in by the Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

 government, when rules were introduced that prevented councils subsidising their housing from local taxes, channelled grants for construction of new Social housing to Housing Associations and allowed Council tenants to buy their homes at a large discount. This, combined with cost-cutting initiatives in local government and a housing benefit scheme that was more generous to housing associations than local authorities, led to many councils
Local government
Local government refers collectively to administrative authorities over areas that are smaller than a state.The term is used to contrast with offices at nation-state level, which are referred to as the central government, national government, or federal government...

transferring their housing stock to housing associations. These organisations are often referred to as Large Scale Voluntary Transfer organisations or Local Housing Companies.

In the 2000s, some larger associations formed regional clubs for purposes including lobbying government bodies. The G15 group of London’s largest associations was followed by East Seven in East Anglia.

External links

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