Housing homeless families

22 April 2022

With historically high numbers of homeless families currently living in temporary accommodation, the National Housing Federation wanted to better understand how social housing is allocated to homeless families. We wanted to understand the difference that housing can make to people’s lives, and how housing associations and local authorities can work together to support more people out of homelessness.

We carried out in-depth, qualitative interviews with staff from nine housing associations and eight local authorities, and three families who had experienced homelessness and were now tenants of one of the housing associations.

Our key findings

Our research shows good practice in housing associations and local authorities working in partnership:

  • This includes matching homeless households to available homes, pilots for households disqualified from the housing register, providing access to furniture or enhanced void standards, local authorities using Discretionary Housing Payments to cover shortfalls in rent, and housing associations working reciprocally to allocate to homeless households with a poor tenancy history.
  • Local authorities and housing associations shared information and discussed allocations to homeless households in many ways, including conference calls and emails for specific cases, and local forums and steering groups for more general issues.


In this webinar, Bekah Ryder, Research Lead at the NHF presents the findings and recommendations from the report. We also hear from a local authority and housing association working in partnership along with speakers from DLUHC.

Watch the webinar

It also highlights the importance of remembering that people should be at the heart of all decision making around allocations:

  • Families are navigating a complicated system at a traumatic time, feeling they have to fight to be treated fairly.
  • Families want choice in where to live and to be treated as an individual, but this didn’t always happen as social housing supply does not meet demand.
  • Where families felt listened to and treated as individuals then they were full of praise for the service they received.

Homelessness is one form of housing need that must be met by existing social housing. Housing associations are consistently letting nearly a quarter of new general needs social rented homes to homeless households every year, rising to well over a third when supported housing is included. Housing associations and local authorities face high demand for social housing that is not met by supply. Looking forwards, we feel more can be done:

  • We believe that closer partnership working between housing associations and local authorities would maximise the opportunity social housing provides to prevent and address homelessness.
  • Yet without an increase in social housing supply, accommodating more homeless households will make it even more challenging to find homes for others in urgent housing need.
  • Adequate benefit levels and support, including help with the cost of moving and furnishing a new home, are critical in ensuring homeless households settle in to their new home and aren’t exposed to the risk of repeat homelessness.

Our recommendations

Our main recommendations for housing associations and local authorities

  • Work in partnership to put people at the heart of allocations.
  • Share information on nominations from the local authority housing register and any refusals of these nominations by housing associations.
  • Ensure consistency alongside flexibility, to ensure the path to social housing is clear and fair to all who need it.
  • Greater focus on tenancy sustainment in allocations.

Our main recommendations for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

  • Increase grant funding for new social rented housing.
  • More dedicated funding for homelessness support.
  • More guidance on tenancy sustainment within allocations.

Our main recommendation for the Department for Work and Pensions

  • Review the impact of welfare reform on housing affordability, including allocations.