Housing associations receive government funding to develop homes for people in need. In England they are regulated by the Homes and Communities Agency which sets the standards they must meet and offers guidance on good practice.
The HCA's Tenancy Standard covers allocations and requires that:
- '...(associations should) let their homes in a fair, transparent and efficient way. They shall take into account the housing needs and aspirations of tenants and potential tenants.'
- There should be clear application, decision-making and appeals processes.'
The HCA also specifically expects that associations:
'...develop and deliver allocations processes in a way which supports their effective use by the full range of actual and potential tenants, including those with support needs, those who do not speak English as a first language and others who have difficulties with written English.'
In Wales, the Regulatory Code for Housing Associations Registered in Wales requires that associations ‘should ensure that people in housing need are aware of and have access to the association’s housing’ (1.3.1.) and have a fair allocations policy (1.3.3). It also tells associations (2.3.1) that they should actively promote:
- respect for diversity
- equality of opportunity
- the elimination of discrimination in all their activities, and
- good relations between people of different racial groups.
Housing associations are independent bodies. If they choose, they can offer all of their vacancies to local authorities, but they can also decide to allocate some of their vacancies themselves. If they do so, they must do so fairly and without discriminating and it is good practice to ensure that the needs of new migrants are met on fair terms. Local councils must only offer new tenancies to people legally defined as eligible), and the same applies where they arrange for someone to be housed by a housing association. If an association offers a tenancy to someone from its own waiting list, then in England they must do the same immigration checks as are done by private landlords. See the page on housing associations and local authorities - the legal differences in relation to housing of new migrants for more details on how associations differ from local authorities.
Although housing associations in England have to make immigration checks, they must be very careful to treat people fairly or they may be in breach of discrimination law (see the page on challenging discrimination). Such discrimination would also put the housing association in breach of the HCA's Regulatory Framework or the Welsh Government’s Regulatory Code and almost certainly be in conflict with their own equal opportunities and diversity policies.
And, as important, this sort of discrimination will stop housing associations doing what they are meant to do: housing people in need.