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Affordable housing through housing associations

Find out about Registered Social Landlords (RSLs), commonly known as housing associations, and how to become a RSL tenant or receive help with home ownership.

What is an RSL?

RSLs are the main providers of new social housing. There are over 1,800 RSLs in England, currently managing around 1.7 million homes and housing at least twice that many people.

Registered Social Landlord is the technical name for a social landlord who is registered with the Housing Corporation: most are housing associations, but there are also trusts, co-operatives and companies. RSLs are run as businesses but they do not trade for profit. Any surplus is ploughed back into the organisation to maintain existing homes and to help finance new ones.

Most RSLs are small and own fewer than 250 homes. However, the largest 13 per cent of RSLs - those with 2,500 plus homes - own over 80 per cent of all the sector's homes. Many new RSLs have been formed to manage and develop homes transferred to them by local authorities.

Communities and Local Government sponsors the Housing Corporation to invest public money in RSLs and protects that investment by ensuring that it provides decent homes and services for residents. RSLs receive investment to provide homes that meet local needs. Through regulation the Housing Corporation seeks to ensure that people will want, and be able, to live in these homes, now and in the future.

How to become a RSL tenant or get help with home ownership

Generally, people housed by RSLs are those defined as being in 'housing need' but eligibility criteria differ. Some RSLs, for instance, specialise in providing housing for those who need special support such as people with mental illness or drug problems. All housing associations must have written policies on the type of housing services they provide, who can apply for housing and how applications will be considered. You can ask to see these policies. Housing associations take the majority of their new tenants from local authority waiting lists, so it is usually best to contact your local council housing department in the first instance.

Low cost home ownership

As well as providing homes for rent some RSLs also help people to buy their own homes. 

The Right To Acquire scheme gives eligible tenants of Registered Social Landlords the right to buy their property at a discount. You may also be eligible for the Social HomeBuy scheme which offers help to buy a share of the market value of your home. Full details about both schemes, including who is eligible and who to contact, can be found using the links below.

To find out about the full range of affordable housing schemes available, read the guide to low cost home ownership schemes from the link below.

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