Housing associations are privately owned, not-for-profit organisations that aim to provide lower-cost social housing. They are independent but they are regulated by the government. They're also sometimes known as registered social landlords (RSL) or private registered providers (RP) of social housing.
Housing associations provide a wide range of housing. Some only own and manage a few properties, while larger ones might own whole estates. Housing associations offer similar types of housing as local councils, but some specialise in particular types of housing - for example family homes, Housing for older people, and accessible homes for people with disabilities.
Applying for a housing association home
Most housing association properties are secured by applying to join the housing register with your local council. If accepted, you may be offered a housing association, local council, or private sector home.
A small number of housing associations accept direct applications, mainly those who have homes for people over 55. You can contact your local authority to find out which housing associations operate in your borough.
Hanover Housing Association has affordable rental properties for people over 55.
Housing cooperatives are groups of people who live in and collectively manage their accommodation. This involves taking responsibility for arranging repairs, making decisions about rent and who joins or leaves the co-op. Living in a housing co-operative can be a good way to get affordable housing and may give you more control over where you live. It is usually most suitable for single people.
The Confederation of Co-operative Housing has details of service agencies that hold central waiting lists from which they send people to the co-ops that they service.
Swapping your housing association home
Housing Moves is the Mayor of London's housing mobility scheme that allows tenants of London boroughs or housing associations to move outside their existing borough to a different part of London. It is run by the Greater London Authority and the majority of London boroughs and housing associations participate.
If you want a change of location, or to move to another area, then a Mutual Exchange might be suitable for you. Services like HomeSwapper can help you find other social tenants who want to swap homes.
The Seaside and Country Homes scheme is run by central government and provides bungalows and flats for council or housing association tenants over the age of 55 who want to move out of the city to a seaside or country location.
Other information and advice
Gov.uk has useful information about housing associations, what you can expect when you apply and your rights as a housing association tenant.
Shelter has information on housing associations and how to apply.