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Get On The List

For young people leaving the family home, getting into social housing can seem impossible. But there are options. And although the system seems stacked against us, with a bit of knowledge we can put ourselves in the best position

According to figures from the housing charity Shelter, there were 1,114,477 households on the waiting list for a council house in 2018. For any of us looking to get on the list, it can be disheartening that we’ll be behind over a million households. Believe it or not, that figure has actually come down – from a peak of 1,851,000 in 2012. Still, it can feel hopeless.

So how can we beat the system and give ourselves a better chance of getting into social housing?

Sign up!

Yes, the waiting list for social housing is long. But the best way to shorten the wait is to apply to be placed on the list today. The applications are usually handled by the local council – although for some housing associations we have to apply directly.

Often, but not always, we need to meet two basic criteria:

  • To be on a low income or with no (or very little) savings.
  • To have lived in the area in which we’re applying for some time – or have strong links to the area (a job or family nearby). This is called a ‘local connection.

Citizens Advice has lots of info on applying for social housing here.

Once we’ve signed up, we might be able to be fast tracked through the list if we meet further criteria…


Each council has its own housing allocation policy. This sets out who gets priority on the waiting list. But there are also overall priorities called ‘reasonable preference’ that apply to all councils in the UK. These apply if we:

  • Are homeless or fleeing violence
  • Live in overcrowded or very bad housing conditions
  • Need to move because of a health problem or disability

In this case we will be moved up a list, sometimes very quickly.

Other conditions that might make us a priority for social housing include:

  • Living in poor conditions
  • Living in overcrowded conditions
  • Having served in the armed forces
  • Needing to live in a specific area


For children of social housing tenants, the tenancy can be passed down if the parent on the tenancy agreement dies. For this to happen, the children need to be added to the tenancy agreement when they turn 18. The tenancy also usually needs to be a lifelong tenancy, and to have been signed before rule changes in 2012.

Succession is a one-off – so can only be passed down from one generation to another. Plus, the tenancy offered to the person who inherits the property will almost always be a 5-year tenancy, not a lifetime. This is due to changes the Conservative Government made in 2015.

For more information on succession, head over to the Shelter site.

Advice and Support

There is loads of advice and support available if we’re looking to get onto a social housing waiting list. The following organisations have great resources…

Citizens Advice
Independent Age’s links to the application process

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