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Accessing Social Housing

Guide to supporting migrants

An online guide to help housing staff in Scotland support migrants and refugees get a home - and settle in the community - sets out the issues affecting migrants looking for a home and provides information about what housing officers should discuss with applicants and which issues to consider before allocating a house.

Looking for advice on social housing allocations? Our online practice guide helps social landlords find their way through the legislation and practice that is available for allocations.

In Scotland there are around 600,000 properties in the 'social rented' sector (those owned by local authorities and registered social landlords). Access to these properties is governed by landlords' allocation policies which the individual landlord has the discretion to develop. These allocation policies have typically been based on points-based systems reflecting applicants' needs.

Most commonly landlords in Scotland operate either a points only, or a group plus points, allocation policy. Under a points only policy the landlord uses the information provided by the applicant to assess each application and award points. Points could be given, for example, for medical or overcrowding reasons. Normally applicants can specify the particular areas or types of properties they wish to live in. When a property becomes available, the landlord considers all applicants for whom the property would be suitable and makes an offer to the applicant with the highest points.

Under a group plus points system, most commonly used by larger landlords, applicants are awarded points and are placed in different groups.

Housing Exchanges

A tenant under a Scottish Secure tenancy who wishes to exchange the house which is the subject of the tenancy for another house which is the subject of a Scottish secure tenancy must apply in writing to the landlord and (if different) to the landlord of the other house for consent, giving details of the proposed transaction and, in particular, of the other house.

A tenant with a Scottish Secure Tenancy who, wishes to assign, sublet or otherwise give up to another person possession of the house or any part of it or take in a lodger must apply in writing to the landlord.

Applying to move to another area

Existing tenants and new applicants may apply to another local authority in whose area they do not currently live. As a result of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001, an authority can no longer exclude anyone on the grounds that they do not have a local connection with their district. However, housing authorities are still allowed to apply the local connection rule when determining relative priorities between applicants who fall within one of the reasonable preference categories.

Choice Based Lettings and Common Housing Registers

Some landlords have been considering a greater element of choice in their allocation policies. Choice-based letting (CBL) systems are intended to offer a more customer-orientated approach to housing allocation systems. Commonly, CBL allows applicants for social housing (and tenants who want to transfer) to apply for vacancies which are advertised widely in the neighbourhood (for example, in the local newspaper or on a website).

A Common Housing Register (CHR) aims to make accessing housing simpler and fairer for people by enabling them to apply for affordable rented housing by completing just one application form and to receive 'joined-up' information and advice about their housing options. Tenants are selected from a single pool of applicants.

In some areas the development of CHRs goes back to the early 1990s, however, others are in various stages of development. To support the continued development of CHRs in Scotland, the Scottish Government has published an online guide to CHRs, which addresses the various issues that arise when developing a CHR and will also help those responsible for maintaining a CHR and for considering participation in a CHR.

The new guide resulted from consultation with 14 CHRs across Scotland and is based largely on their experiences. Sixteen CHRs are now in operation across Scotland and many others at an advanced stage. Building on each success will ensure quick progress towards allowing people across Scotland the opportunity to benefit from the significant advantages offered by CHRs in the near future.