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Last edited 19 Sep 2019
Housing associations are independent, not-for-profit organisations that provide social housing for those in need. They are also known as ‘registered social landlords’ or ‘private registered providers of social housing’.
The overall responsibility for housing associations falls either to a voluntary committee, board of management or paid non-executive individuals.
Homes England provide funding for new affordable housing and improvements to existing social housing. They also act as regulators for the housing associations throughout England, other than in London where the responsibility lies with the Greater London Authority (GLA).
NB: In November 2016, the Office for National Statistics reclassified housing associations as private bodies rather than public bodies. This removed £70 billion from public debt and opened the way for housing associations to increase their borrowing, reversing their classification as public bodies in 2015.
Housing associations provide homes to people on low incomes or in need of extra help. They provide approximately two and a half million rented homes in England (ref. NHF, 2014). It is possible to apply for homes either:
- Directly through the housing association.
- Through the local council.
Shared ownership schemes are offered by housing associations including:
- Newbuild Homebuy: Individuals buy shares in a home with the remainder rented from the housing association.
- Social Homebuy: Tenants buy a percentage in a home with the remainder rented from the housing association.
- Open Market Homebuy: A fixed amount is loaned to individuals by the housing association to buy a house of their choice to be repaid on sale of the house.
 Right to acquire/right to buy
The 1996 Housing Act introduced the Right to Acquire. This is a statutory right for housing association tenants to acquire their homes at a discounted price from the open market value. The right is applied to eligible tenants living in eligible properties. A tenant can buy their home with a joint tenant or with up to 3 family members who have lived in that property for the past 12 months.
Under the Act, 800,000 housing association tenants have the ‘right to acquire’ their homes at a small discount, but in 2015, the government proposed extending the Right to Acquire scheme to a further 500,000 housing association tenants and giving them the same discount as council housing tenants under the Right to Buy scheme.
In September 2015, the NHF proposed an alternative voluntary scheme for housing associations, which communities secretary Greg Clark accepted, on the condition that the sector agree the proposals within a week of the announcement. Agreement was confirmed in David Cameron's speech to the Conservative Party conference in October 2015. See Right to buy extended to housing association tenants for more information.
Housing associations are key partners in regeneration schemes around England. This includes the Market Renewal Pathfinders in northern and central England. Housing associations are also involved in refurbishing and enhancing ex-council estates through stock transfer programmes.
Individuals’ who may require help to live independently are supported by housing associations. For example:
- Sheltered housing for older individuals.
- Rehabilitation for individuals with alcohol or drug problems.
- Supported housing for people with disabilities.
- Job and skills training alongside housing for young or homeless people.
 Temporary accommodation
In September 2018, in a speech at the National Housing Federation Summit, Prime Minister Theresa May affirmed the "central role" of housing associations and announced £2 billion funding for new affordable and social housing.
As well as setting out the steps that government has taken to date, including providing long-term certainty on rents and agreeing not to extend the local housing allowance cap to the social sector, the announcement of new funding was intended to give housing associations more long-term certainty, stretching ahead to 2028/29. However, critics raised the point that the funding will only be available from 2022.
But she called on housing associations to step up their output, saying, "rather than simply acquiring a proportion of the properties commercial developers build, I want to see housing associations taking on and leading major developments themselves. Because creating the kind of large-scale, high-quality developments this country needs requires a special kind of leadership – leadership you are uniquely well-placed to provide."
"For many people, a certain stigma still clings to social housing. Some residents feel marginalised and overlooked, and are ashamed to share the fact that their home belongs to a housing association or local authority. And on the outside, many people in society – including too many politicians – continue to look down on social housing and, by extension, the people who call it their home …We should never see social housing as something that need simply be 'good enough', nor think that the people who live in it should be grateful for their safety net and expect no better."
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki.
- Affordable housing.
- British post-war mass housing.
- Build to rent.
- Chartered Institute of Housing.
- Core and cluster accommodation.
- Draft housing strategy for London.
- GLA Housing Design SPG.
- Growth and Infrastructure Act.
- Help to buy.
- Homes England.
- Housing contribution to regeneration.
- Housing cooperative.
- Housing health and safety rating system.
- Housing policy.
- Housing standards review.
- Housing tenure.
- Interview with David Orr, NHF.
- Lyons review.
- Public v private sector housing.
- Real Estate Investment Trusts.
- Rent to buy.
- Right to buy.
- Right to buy extended to housing association tenants.
- Shared ownership.
- The Shared Ownership and Affordable Homes Programme 2016 to 2021.
- Social housing.
- The London Plan.
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