Common Housing Register (CHR) - building a register: a practitioner's guide

A practical guide to the development of common housing registers between local authorities and registered social landlords in Scotland. The guide draws on the experience of those areas in Scotland who have successfully implemented a CHR.


What is a CHR?

A Common Housing Register ( CHR) is a tool which aims to make accessing housing simpler and fairer for people. Specifically:

"A CHR enables people 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 Scotland, a range of CHR models are already operational and many more are in development. Although approaches vary, all full CHRs should share three key components:

  • a single access route for applicants;
  • a single database of all applicants seeking housing; and
  • shared provision of housing information and advice.

Typically, an applicant will register their need and housing preference by completing a single application form. They will receive information and advice about the range of options available to them. They will then be registered on a common waiting list held by two or more housing providers. Participating landlords then prioritise and select potential tenants from this single pool of applicants.

It is extremely important to recognise that establishing a CHR is often an incremental process. It may involve putting in place one of the key components while continuing to develop others on the way to implementing a fully functioning CHR.

Why develop a CHR?

CHRs bring benefits to both applicants and landlords. CHRs should be based on the commitment that the process will both simplify and maximise access to housing.

  • The applicant perspective

Social housing is now provided by a far wider and more diverse range of organisations than ever before. Existing systems where each landlord in an area has their own waiting list, based on lengthy paper application forms and home visits are increasingly viewed as unnecessary obstacles for applicants. Indeed some of those with the most urgent housing need may be the least equipped to negotiate this complex system.

Potential benefits of a CHR for applicants include:

  • providing simpler and fairer access to housing for all applicants;
  • promoting mobility within and between landlords for existing tenants; and
  • greater choice of landlords, housing areas and types for applicants and tenants.
  • The landlord perspective

For landlords working in a system of multiple waiting lists with unknown levels of duplication a CHR makes it possible to see who is in greatest need within an area. A single list enables a more robust estimate of housing need in the area. CHRs can also improve the use of social housing stock by providing a wider range of tenants for the stock available.

Potential benefits of a CHR for landlords include:

  • assisting with strategic planning through fully understanding demand;
  • improved use of stock through better matching of supply and demand;
  • improved housing management including reducing voids; and
  • realising operational efficiency through joint working.

"The development of a CHR is not a cost saving exercise - rather a service provision enhancement." (EdIndex Partner) 1

The Policy Context

The fundamental aim of CHR policy is to simplify and maximise access to affordable rented housing. Without a CHR, prospective tenants may unintentionally limit their chances of finding a suitable house, either because they are unaware of the range social housing providers in their area, or because they are overwhelmed by the number of different application forms they need to fill in.

Housing law in Scotland requires that social housing is allocated on the basis of an objective assessment of housing need. Without the single list of applicants which a CHR produces, it is extremely difficult to see who, in a particular area, is in greatest need, and allocate accordingly.

CHRs also support the provision of consistent, quality advice to prospective applicants and tenants of social housing. Indeed, Councils have a statutory duty to ensure the provision of housing and homelessness advice and assistance to all people, free of charge, in their areas. This goes hand in hand with a simplified application process.

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