How is housing organised?

Housing is owned and managed by three main groups

  • social and affordable housing – owned and managed by registered housing providers
  • private rented housing – owned and managed by private landlords
  • owner occupied housing – owned and managed by the individual owner

Local authorities have some legal duties and strategic responsibilities relating to housing advice, lettings or allocations, homeless people, private housing and new housing provision in their area. They also have some roles in planning for and commissioning new housing including specialist housing.

Home Improvement Agencies assist vulnerable homeowners or private sector tenants who are older, disabled or on low income to repair, improve, maintain or adapt their home.

Homelessness agencies run a wide range of services including outreach, day centres, hostels and temporary accommodation and they have specialist mental health workers.

On this site, the term ‘housing organisation’ is used as an umbrella term to describe all types of not-for-profit housing organisation that has a recognisable governance structure.

Types of registered housing provider

There are three main types of registered provider managing over 4 million homes in England:

  • council landlords – around 100 district and unitary councils still own and manage approximately 800,000 homes in England
  • arms-length management organisations (ALMOs) – in 47 English local authority areas, the council-owned housing is managed at ‘arms length’ from the council through a separate board and governance arrangements
  • housing associations – in every local authority area there are several (often many) housing associations which are independent and not-for-profit. In many areas what was once council housing is now owned and managed by one or more housing associations.

All of these landlords – councils, ALMOs and housing associations – are registered with and regulated by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).

Most of these housing organisations provide a wide range of community services to people who live in the localities where they have homes. Click here to find out more about what housing organisations do

Private rented housing and home ownership

Local authorities have some duties, and powers, to enforce legal standards in relation to private housing. This is part of their Environmental Health role. Many also have accreditation schemes, and offer incentives to private landlords that meet a good standard of accommodation and management.

The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), which is based on a large body of research into the connections between epidemiological conditions and poor housing, is a key part of the legal framework. The HHSRSis the means by which the potential effect of housing condition on the health and wellbeing of the occupier s evaluated. Where there is a significant risk, the local authority has enforcement powers to intervene and safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of the occupier. Most ‘enforcement’ work is targeted at private rented housing (rather than at home owners) and they will intervene when a private tenant reports a problem.

Home Improvement Agencies exist in 81% of local authority areas and assist vulnerable and older residents living in private housing. You can find out more, including whether there is a HIA in your area, by going to the Foundations website.


Housing associations

There are over 2000 housing associations with a huge variety in terms of size, spread, the services they provide and specialisms.

Size: Every local authority area has properties that are owned by small (less than 250 homes), medium (between 250 and 10,000) and large (over 10,000) housing associations. The largest English housing association owns over 100,000 homes. Typically, a housing association owning 20,000 homes has a turnover of ~£100m per annum.

Spread: A housing association can be based in a single locality, or have homes across one or more regions or across the whole of England and beyond. Some of those that are locally-focused and committed to the place and the residents where they are located are members of a group called Placeshapers

Services and specialisms: As independent organisations, housing associations have significant freedom over what they do and how they spend money. Some specialise in meeting the needs of particular client groups including older people, people with complex needs or mental health difficulties, people with disabilities, homeless people. Some have a significant care business, with many customers in private homes as well as their own residents. Many invest significant amounts in a range of community-based health and wellbeing projects.