Can You Get Council Housing If You Work?

Historically speaking, the concept of council housing (known as almshouses at the time) stems as far back as the 10th century. This was a period when the need for providing housing to poor, elderly and distressed members of the community was initially recognized in the United Kingdom. In today’s times, council housing or social housing is a low cost housing facility that may be availed by those individuals who meet the desired criteria for eligibility by local councils.

Through this article, we will explore the details of the eligibility process for council housing as well as review the steps for those interested to proceed with their applications. We will also discuss the potential factors that may impact the ranking of individuals in a priority list and options available to those whose applications have previously not been successful.

Can You Get Council Housing If You Work?

Yes, individuals who are working and have an income may still be able to avail of council housing. While local councils follow an “allocation scheme”; according to which each council establishes its own set of rules to determine their individual eligibility criteria to provide council housing, chances are that applicants facing the following conditions may be considered earlier than others for provision this residential facility:

  • homelessness
  • low income or low savings
  • cramped living conditions
  • deteriorating medical condition due to living conditions

Therefore, one may conclude that council housing is available to those individuals who may have a job and are working. However, to rank higher as an eligible candidate, the above factors will remain a priority for local councils considering applications.

According to the English Housing Survey of 2019-2020 (a nationwide analysis of people’s housing conditions), nearly 45 percent of social renters were employed; with 31 percent working full time and 14 percent working part-time. They also constitute the majority of the social rented sector which accounts for 4.0 million households. The data from this survey further suggests that 25 percent of social renters were retired, while 24% were in full-time education who were inactive. This relates to being out of work either due to a disability, long-term illness, or having to look after a family. 

(Figure 1.4: Economic activity of HRP, by tenure, 2019-20)

What Is The Eligibility Criteria For Council Housing?

Applicants who have been assigned priority by their local council are more likely to avail housing earlier than their counterparts. To appear higher on the priority list, individuals must be faced with any of the following conditions:

  • homelessness 
  • disability 
  • long-term health condition
  • medical treatment
  • overcrowdedness or poor living conditions

How To Apply For Council Housing?

To apply for council housing, candidates are required to apply to their local council (mostly online), who will then consider it based on their criteria for awarding priority to those from certain demographics and or social classes. To find out details about your local council click on this link Find your local council

Even if the local council accepts and prioritizes the application, it does not mean that the applicant will be provided with occupancy rights immediately. They will simply be confirmed to be eligible and added to a waiting list. The time between application and occupancy varies from council to council and may also depend upon the size of the waiting list.

How To File An Application For Council Housing?

Candidates are advised to share as many relevant details as possible in their application and also include any supporting evidence to back up their claims. This may include medical reports or doctor’s notes, in case the application is being raised on medical grounds. 

Details of the following may be required:

  • income and/or benefits
  • employment history
  • long-term medical conditions or disabilities
  • savings 
  • assets in possession such as automobile
  • visas or immigration documents (if the applicant is not from the UK)

These details not only determine whether or not a candidate is eligible; but may also increase their rank in a list of priority applicants. Furthermore, they also help to determine the size of housing that may be required by them.

How To Communicate Changes While On The Waiting List? 

Any situational changes in the applicant’s living conditions must be communicated to the local council on an immediate basis. While an improvement in these conditions may prioritize their ranking in the waiting list, certain conditions may also move them up a rank. These may include:

  • change in medical needs
  • development of a new medical condition 
  • addition to the family 
  • change in income
  • lack of safety in current residence
  • change in current contact details

Failing to communicate any relevant change that may impact the decision for council housing provision may be considered as a deliberate attempt to share false information about the application by the local council. They may choose to evict the candidate from any future housing facility that is provided or revoke the application.

What Happens Once The Application is Accepted? 

Once an application is accepted, the local council assigns candidates to a group (also referred to as or ‘band’) and assigns a level of priority.

A high priority indicates that the candidate can expect to be assigned a home urgently. However, there are chances that despite being assigned a high priority label, some individuals may have to wait a long time. 

Can Applicants Choose Their Own Homes?

Applicants will need to check with their local councils whether a place of residence will be chosen and assigned by the council or the residents be given the option to choose. In the case of the latter, once the application is approved, the local council may share an online platform where the process of “bidding” takes place.

If a candidate finds a suitable home and prefers it as their residence, they may inform the council of their intent by applying for it online. This is called “bidding”. The council may then direct them on how to proceed with the next steps in the bidding process.

A bid is merely a show of interest from the candidates’ side and does not guarantee that they may be assigned the premises. Depending upon the priority band and the time taken as part of the waiting list, the council decides whether the property is to be assigned as a housing facility to the bidding candidate or not.

In some cases, should candidates not approve of the housing facility assigned by the local council, they have the option of refusing it. However, too many refusals may lead to removal from the waiting list.

What Happens After A Home Is Offered?

The local council contacts candidates directly to inform them once they’ve been assigned a council home. Additionally, they also indicate the time frame that a candidate has to accept or refuse the premises being offered. There is usually a small window for candidates to respond before the council home is offered to someone else.

In the case of mutual agreement, a contract is drawn up and signed. Candidates may be offered a fixed-term contract (this may be for a year or more) or a long-term tenancy agreement. The council indicates the dates when occupants may move into the premises. They will also inform you of the dates when rent payments will be expected.

It must be noted here that as per the English Housing Survey of 2019-2020, social rents are charged higher if the property is located in London as compared to that outside. On average, social renters in London have been estimated to pay a weekly rent of £138 as compared to that of £95 outside London.

What To Do If An Application is Refused? 

In case of refusal of their application for council housing, candidates may challenge the decision by asking the local council for a review.

Decisions about priority bands assigned by the council as well those stating refusal for housing may be requested for review if the candidate carries substantial evidence to prove their claim. It is only with proof of supportive documents that an application may be challenged for review.

What If The Council Revokes Eligibility Due To Immigration Status

There is a strong likelihood that an application for social housing may be refused by local councils based on the following:

  • the applicant is an asylum seeker in the UK
  • they have lost the right to stay in the UK
  • they have you no claim on public funds
  • they are not ‘habitually resident in the UK despite being citizens

In case of a change in immigration status, applicants should commence a new application to be considered for eligibility and addition to the waiting list.

FAQs: Can You Get Council Housing If You Work? 

Who gets priority for council housing?

Individuals faced with the following conditions tend to rank higher in priority in the waiting list for council housing:

  • homelessness 
  • disability 
  • long-term health condition
  • medical treatment
  • overcrowdedness or poor living conditions

Can you be refused council housing?

In case of refusal of their application for council housing, candidates may challenge the decision by asking the local council for a review. A review may also be requested if candidates do not agree with the assigned bands on the waiting list.

What qualifies you for social housing?

To qualify for social housing, applicants must be able to meet the following criteria:

  • be 18 years or older
  • eligible for housing under immigration laws
  • not refused suitable social housing in the past two years

How long does it take for a housing application to be approved?

Applications may be approved between 24 to 72 hours depending upon the landlord. However, it may take longer than that to be considered for social housing.

How long is the council house list?

Once an application is approved by the local council, candidates are placed on a waiting list. From that point onwards, it may take up to 7 years before a housing facility is offered to them.


Council housing

English Housing Survey 2019-2020 English Housing Survey: headline report

Getting a council home

Challenging the council’s decision about your housing application