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’. They provide houses for rent and sometimes offer shared-ownership schemes. They are required to be registered with the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) and are represented by the National Housing Federation.
The overall responsibility for housing associations falls either to a voluntary committee, board of management or paid non-executive individuals.
The typical activities of a housing association are funded by the income from their rented properties.
The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) 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).
 Homes for rent
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 National Housing Federation, 2014). It is possible to apply for homes either:
Houses are offered to those who most suit the property, and the rates of rent are fixed by the government.
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.
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 National Housing Federation 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.
 Supported housing
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
Temporary accommodation for individuals in need can be provided by housing associations. They may lease additional homes from private landlords in urgent cases, particularly for families.
 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 and Communities Agency.
- Housing contribution to regeneration.
- Housing health and safety rating system.
- Housing standards review.
- Housing tenure.
- 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.
 External references
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