New research on adapting allocations policies in response to the coronavirus crisis

28 July 2021

Housing homeless and vulnerable people has always been a key part of what the housing association sector does. Many housing associations were founded  with a clear aim of helping to tackle rising homelessness. Today, housing associations play an important role in ending homelessness, whether they are specialist organisations or general needs providers.

Partnership working between housing associations and local authorities is essential to tackling homelessness. The NHF and the Local Government Association have worked together over the past three years to promote good practice on how housing associations and local government have worked together to address and prevent homelessness in their areas.

Figures show that pre-pandemic housing associations continued to house the same proportion of homeless people as over the past decade. During the pandemic, housing associations worked to provide additional support to homeless people and were an integral part of the Everyone In initiative to rehouse rough sleepers. Some housing associations also adapted their allocations to further support those affected by the pandemic.

To understand this further, we surveyed housing associations on changes to their allocations approach during the pandemic.

In our survey, 42% of respondents said that during the pandemic their approach to allocating homes changed. Respondents had been housing more homeless people (statutory and non-statutory), for example. 

The majority of respondents (82%) said they would like to be able to do more to house people with the highest level of need. When asked what they would like to have in place to support them in doing so, the most commonly cited reason was ongoing access to floating support (56%).

This was followed by:

  • Resettlement support (47%).
  • Building new homes that respond to local need (47%).
  • Hardship funds (42%).
  • Provide more social rent tenancies (42%).
  • Provide more supported accommodation (39%).
  • Use of Housing First (39%).
  • Giving homeless people higher priority in Choice Based-Lettings banding criteria (31%).

A third of respondents provide furnishing or access to it for their lettings. Much of this provision for furnishings was introduced prior to the pandemic. This was principally via partnerships with local organisations or housing associations’ own furnishings funds.

The majority of respondents (74%) anticipate increasing demand for social housing among people with rent arrears/higher support needs once the coronavirus support measures are lifted.

Looking beyond the pandemic, housing associations are planning to make a variety of changes to deal with this likely increased demand for social housing, and with the increased vulnerability of applicants. These changes include:

  • Introduce or expand community/tenancy sustainability work, such as increased Money Advice provision and a commitment not to evict into homelessness should a customer engage with support.
  • Increase the supply of affordable housing and their supported living portfolio, such as through bids into the Next Steps Accommodation Programme (NSAP).
  • Work more closely with local authorities on housing rough sleepers and planning issues.
  • Review allocations policies to ensure that housing needs and housing demand are reflected in light of the pandemic, such taking on tenants with higher levels of debt.

If you’d like to find out more about this research, please contact us using the details below.

Who to speak to

Email the Research team