Lettings policy

Everyone who joins the Council housing waiting list is assessed under our lettings policy and placed in a priority band. Each applicant is also given a band date, which is usually the date that they joined that band.

Applicants with older band dates are given priority over cases that have been waiting for less time within their band. You can find a detailed explanation about how housing bands work in our lettings policy.

See our lettings policy (google doc) and associated appendices:

Changes to our lettings policy

From October 2021, the Council has changed its lettings policy and how it allocates social housing.

Households who are not in the most urgent need will no longer qualify to join the register and will be offered additional, personalised support to explore other options to find a home – rather than spending years waiting in unsuitable housing.

Housing shortage

There is a severe shortage of affordable housing in Hackney. Almost 13,500 households are waiting for social housing in the borough but only around 600 social homes are available each year. This waiting list is growing all the time.

As the requirements of residents have changed, with more applicants in severe need, the current letting policy is no longer fit for purpose, and the Council is creating a fairer, more transparent housing register, better suited to the situation in Hackney today.

As a result, the lettings policy has been simplified. There will no longer be a complex points-based system; instead people will be allocated into bands based on their priority status (need).

Numbers on the register will be reduced in order to prioritise those in greatest need for the limited social housing available, and to prevent false levels of expectation.

Those in greatest need would include:

  • households with emergency need, such as people who have lost homes due to fire or flooding or who have had to move due to witness protection
  • households suffering severe overcrowding (more than two rooms short)
  • families who are statutory homeless
  • households with a significant medical need
  • people with a significant social need, such as facing a threat to life.

New policy

The new policy will also ensure that carers looking after vulnerable children are protected, and that families with children in one-bedroom homes or studios qualify for the new register.

Under the new register:

  • the bandings are reduced from five to four (A,B,C, and a transitional band)
  • the complex, points-based system has been scrapped, and people will be placed into simple bands based on their priority status (need)
  • the number of times that a non-homeless household can refuse a suitable offer will be reduced from three to two
  • some households, such as connected carers, will gain increased priority
  • households with the lowest or no housing need will no longer qualify for the list
Band Estimated wait times as of October 2021
Studio/1 2 3 4 5+
B 3 years 12 years 9 years 13 years 39 years
C 6 years 19 years 26 years 26 years 53 years

If you want more detailed information about the changes, see our frequently asked questions (google doc).

How will residents be impacted?

We understand that many residents are concerned about these changes, but for the majority of people the impact will be minimal.

  • cases in the existing emergency band will automatically move to Band A
  • cases in the existing urgent, priority and homeless bands will move automatically into Band B
  • individuals with a ‘category B’ medical priority, along with those seeking specialist housing such as over-55 sheltered accommodation, will be moved to Band C

Some cases in the general and reserve bands may not qualify for the new housing register. Some may have to update their details before we can decide if they qualify for the housing waiting list.

The vast majority of these households who no longer qualify for the Housing Register will be those with no urgent housing need, or who only lack one room.

Families currently on the register who are only overcrowded by one room and where a child will reach the age of 10 and/or 21 before 1 October 2023 – meaning they would then be overcrowded by two rooms – will receive protection.

Many residents are worried about the proposed changes and how they will be impacted. However, you do not have to do anything now – you can continue bidding.

If you are worried please do not contact us at this stage. We will write to everyone directly to explain how the changes will affect them, whether they need to do anything, and how they can be supported before the new register goes live in October.

We understand that households who no longer qualify to join the register have real concerns about their housing. As such, the Council has committed to and has invested in doing everything in its power to provide alternative, effective and genuine housing guidance to these residents.

We’ll provide personalised and empathetic housing advice to allow lower needs residents to make a decision that is right for their family.

The dedicated advice and support in finding suitable, alternative accommodation would include:

  • one to one sessions, for the first time, to help residents create a personal housing plan
  • employment benefit and budgeting advice
  • assistance identifying affordable properties and locations
  • for those eligible, financial assistance with rent in advance and deposit
  • bespoke and sympathetic support and advice – with access to 12 alternative housing options – to allow residents to make a decision that is right for their family, including signposting to information and online support tools
  • linking with local housing associations to ensure their registers are more open and accessible to all residents
  • making funding available to families to carry out home improvements that can alleviate some of their housing pressures

The Council is developing additional coordinated work, including mutual aid fairs, work with partner organisations, and further work to increase the supply of housing in the borough.

Alternative housing options

For many individuals going onto the Housing Register is not the only option for obtaining adequate housing. If you think that the wait is too long, or that you are unlikely to get housed, then the following options may interest you.

Homeswapper (existing social or council tenants only)

Homeswapper can help you to swap your council or housing association home with other social tenants. This is known as a mutual exchange.

A mutual exchange is a home swap between two social housing tenants. It can happen for many reasons, such as needing more (or less) space, moving for work or to be closer to family. It’s a great option for social housing tenants who can’t access the housing register. It gives the individual more control and means they are able to choose a home that suits their needs better in a place they want to live.

Once registered on HomeSwapper, applicants will be asked to create an advert, telling people who may wish to swap properties about their home. The advert should be clear, accurate, detailed and up-to-date and should include great photos and comments about the property and the area. They will be able to search other people’s adverts to see if there is a property which you would like to swap with.

Visit to register with homeswapper

Hackney Mutual Exchange

The Council runs its own mutual exchange scheme. Council tenants can apply to exchange properties with other council tenants within the borough or with tenants from another council, housing association or other housing providers.

Applicants can get a mutual exchange application form by contacting your local neighbourhood housing office on:

Housing Moves (existing social or council tenants only)

The Housing Moves scheme is the Mayor of London’s scheme to help social tenants in London to move to other boroughs.

The Housing Moves scheme has changed, following a recent review of the scheme.

We (the Mayor of London) have taken the difficult decision to change Housing Moves.

From 1 July 2022, the scheme will be available to victims and survivors of domestic abuse and former rough sleepers rather than social tenants more widely.

Housing Moves is now permanently closed to new applications except those from the above groups.

Seaside and Country Homes (existing social or council tenants only)

The Mayor of London also runs a scheme to help council or housing association tenants who are aged 55 and over to move out of London to the coast or into the countryside

More than 3,000 properties, mainly two bedroom bungalows, and one and two bedroom flats, are exclusively available to eligible applicants. These are dotted all along the south coast, from Cornwall in the south west to Norfolk and Lincolnshire in the east. Places are also available across the countryside, from Dorset to Cambridgeshire to Shropshire.

Many have private gardens or outdoor communal areas and are in peaceful, purpose built developments. They are ideal for single people, couples or others who have retired or wish to do so.

The Seaside and Country Homes scheme is very popular, so it cannot guarantee a move to everyone who applies.

People freeing up the largest homes are given the greatest priority. If your current home has one or two bedrooms you are likely to be successful only if you are willing to move to a lower demand area.

register for Seaside and Country Homes

Downsizing – cash incentive scheme (Existing council tenants only)

If you are a council tenant, you can get paid for downsizing – households moving from properties with more bedrooms than they need, to smaller properties in the borough may benefit from our cash incentive scheme.

We give grants and assist with removal costs if you are rehoused.

Once accepted under the scheme, applicants will be a high priority for rehousing. They will be able to bid for suitably sized properties advertised each week under the choice based lettings scheme.

To find out if you qualify, contact us on: 020 8356 2456 or email: downsizing.rehousing@hackney.gov.uk.


Homefinder is a national housing mobility scheme helping individuals and households who want or need to move. This might be to find a home that better matches their household size, personal or financial circumstances. The scheme is available to anyone willing to move nationwide including:

  • homeless households
  • applicants living in temporary accommodation
  • private sector tenants threatened with homelessness
  • victims and survivors of domestic abuse and grooming
  • overcrowded families
  • social tenants
  • ex-offenders and veterans

The scheme helps find permanent social housing for individuals who are looking to move to other parts of the country. Most available properties are in the midlands, wales and northern England, with few properties available in London and the south.

Visit to register with Homefinder

Homes for Londoners

Homes for Londoners is run by the Mayor of London and can help Londoners on low to middle incomes search for Shared Ownership, London Living Rent and other forms of affordable home ownership. The properties advertised include:

Help To Buy

A government scheme that could make buying a home more affordable, helping residents buy a brand-new home sooner than they think. Applicants only need a 5% deposit, in London the government lends up to 40% of the value of the property via an equity loan which is interest-free for 5 years, and the applicants secure a mortgage on the remaining amount

Shared ownership

An affordable home ownership scheme which makes it easier for first-time buyers to get on the property ladder. Buyers purchase a share of property, and pay rent normally to a housing association on the remaining share. The purchaser has the option to increase the share they own during their time in the property via a process known as ‘staircasing’, and in most cases can staircase all the way to 100%.

Discounted market sale

A low-cost home ownership product where a new build property is purchased at a discounted price. This discount is usually around 20% and the scheme is to help low and middle earners get onto the property ladder.

London Living Rent

A type of intermediate affordable housing for middle-income Londoners who want to build up savings to buy a home. London Living Rent provides high-quality rented homes on stable tenancies, with rents based on a third of local household incomes. Money they save on rent can go towards a deposit for their own home.

Discounted market rent

designed to help potential first-time buyers who cannot yet afford to buy a home, but want the chance to save for a deposit to purchase a home within the next five years. It gives them the opportunity to rent a brand new or refurbished home, or a home that is being re-let at less than the market rate. The rent varies depending on the development, but is normally approximately 20% lower than what tenants would expect to pay for a similar home in a similar area if they were renting from a private landlord.

Private rent

Some private rent schemes may be advertised that have rent and deposit discounts available for NHS staff and key workers.

Visit Homes for Londoners for more information.

Hackney Sales

The Council is building more than 3,000 new homes at more than 30 locations across the borough.

Some of these homes will be for rent at Hackney Living Rent. Rents would be set at a third of average local incomes – around £900 per month for a two-bedroom property in Homerton. With the equivalent average market rent around £1,800 per month, tenants could save nearly £11,000 a year by renting from the Council.

It’s for people on middle incomes that wouldn’t normally qualify for social housing. The Council, through the not-for-profit company set up to manage market rent and living rent homes, will be a responsible landlord. We won’t charge excessive fees, we’ll offer secure and stable tenancies without unreasonable rent increases, and we’ll be responsive to any repair or maintenance issues.

To be eligible you must be:

  • renting or working in Hackney
  • have a household income of less than £60,000
  • be unable to currently buy a home (including through shared ownership) in your local area.

For more information, visit Hackney Sales.

The Council also sells new build properties in Hackney for shared ownership. When individuals buy a home through our shared ownership scheme, they are buying the share that they can comfortably afford while paying rent to the Council for the share that they don’t own.

This means they will take out a mortgage or pay in cash to buy a share (between 25% and 75% on most developments), and they will pay a subsidised rent for the share they haven’t purchased. Owners will also pay a charge for the maintenance of the building and communal parts, known as a service charge.

For more information, visit Hackney Sales – shared ownership.

Private rental

The vast majority of people in Hackney live in private rented accommodation. Most families choose to rent privately because:

  • it avoids spending years in single-room temporary accommodation
  • it gives them a degree of choice over the location of their new home
  • it gives them more choice over the type of property, including in some areas of the country houses with gardens

If you need alternative accommodation and decide to look for privately rented accommodation, the Council depending on your circumstances may be able to provide the following assistance:

  • one month rent in advance
  • security deposit paid
  • landlord compliancy check
  • longest possible tenancy terms
  • pre-inspection of the property
  • practical and financial help with removals
  • transport costs for viewing and moving it outside of London
  • financial assistance to provide white goods if they are not provided by the landlord.

Visit Private renting for more information.

Staying where you are

For many residents the preferred option may be to stay living in their current property. This may be the best option for some residents given the lack of local affordable or suitable alternatives.

If you are looking to stay where you are, but your property is overcrowded we may be able to help fund small items to make the accommodation more manageable on a day to day basis. This could include things like bunk beds to assist with freeing up floor space or the purchase of sheds to create more play space for children. For more information please contact us on 020 8356 3399.

If you want to stay where you are, but have a disability or medical condition the Council’s Social Services department may be able to help provide disability aids and equipment, and minor adaptations like grab rails to make your home more liveable. We can help do a referral. For more information please contact us on 020 8356 3399.

If you want to stay where you are, but are struggling to afford your rent or to keep up with your bills then you can ask for help from Hackney Money Hub.

Hackney Money Hub can support residents in a number of ways such as providing additional discretionary support towards housing and other costs for residents who are struggling.

To find out more and how to apply, see Get help through Hackney Money Hub.

If you want to stay where you are, but your rented property is in a poor state of repair, we may be able to help. If you are concerned about the condition we can investigate and, where appropriate, take action.

The types of issues they may be able to help with include:

  • minimum standards for privately rented homes
  • disrepair
  • drainage and sewerage defects
  • pest control
  • disconnection of gas or electricity by your landlord
  • fire, gas and electrical safety
  • sharing amenities

Contact the private sector housing team on 020 8356 4866 (Mon to Fri, 9am–4pm) or email: privatesectorhousing@hackney.gov.uk.

If you’re a Council or housing association tenant and have disrepair issues, please contact your landlord. If you landlord does not carry out qualifying repairs within a reasonable timescale you may be able to complain to the housing ombudsman.

Safer London

Safer London work with young Londoners and their families who are suffering from violent, sexual exploitation and abuse, and criminal abuse, helping people to feel safe and find secure homes. They aim to ensure that young Londoners and their families affected by violence and exploitation feel safe where they live:

Visit Safer London for more information.

Page updated on: 18 September 2023

Housing Advice Contact Line