Affordable housing

Housing and accommodation costs – especially in London – can prove a significant drain on an artist’s resources, but a number of housing options exist that are more affordable than renting from private landlords.

There are a number of different housing options, particularly in London, which has a long history of housing associations and co-operatives, council housing, shared ownership (sometimes called ‘part rent part buy schemes’, and usually reserved for keyworkers) and live / work spaces, along with the usual open market rentals.

Many housing co-operatives and associations began in the late 1970’s / early 1980’s when illegal squats were converted to official usage; many councils and private landlords with properties being squatted turned the properties over to collectives, who legalised their positions by using government and private financing to convert to housing associations.  Housing associations and co-operatives are a form of social housing (along with council housing), and generally have specific criteria applicants must meet to be considered, such as housing need, poverty, dependents or long-standing links to a particular area.  The listings below include where to access information on individual housing associations and co-operatives where you can find their specific requirements.  Waiting lists can be very long, due in part to high demand because of affordable rents, in some cases several years.

As well as regular housing associations and co-operatives, there are a number of short life housing co-operatives and associations in London as well.  There generally provide short term housing provided by housing associations and co-operatives that cannot house their own tenants in a property – if they are to be sold or refurbished, or if they have recently been refurbished and not allocated, or if there are ‘problem’ tenants.  Housing can be in a poor condition, and is insecure – i.e. is for an unspecified and non-guaranteed length of time, but are generally easier to get in to than regular housing associations and co-operative.  Some short life housing associations and co-operatives are listed below, and some short life housing is provided directly by regular housing associations and co-operatives as well.

Council housing is made up from property owned by individual borough councils and provided to people with strong links in the area with extreme housing need.  Waiting lists are very long (unless you qualify for immediate housing) and housing is generally only given to those in the direst need, allocated traditionally on a points system.  Recently, some councils have introduced a system whereby existing and potential tenants can bid for homes, but this is on a council-by-council basis – information on your local council website.  You should begin on your local council website if you are interested in applying.  Many housing associations and co-operatives require you to be on the waiting list for council housing, and most councils will refer people unsuitable for council housing to suitable housing associations and co-operatives.  Anyone can join their council house waiting list by filling in a form from their local council, but councils are not obliged to provide everyone with housing.

There has been an increased interest since the 1990’s in live / work accommodation, where a property can be used both for living and working.  They tend to be a little more expensive (offset by no separate work space charges for a separate property) and are generally offered through market rental sources.  Some larger London studio groups, notably ACME studios’ Fire Station and Sugar Row developments, provide live / work accommodation for artists, with predictably long waiting lists.

Another way to rent cheaply is to become a live-in guardian for companies such as Camelot and Ad-Hoc. You live in unusual accommodation protecting empty buildings (both private and commercial) from illegal squatting and will need to move often, but the rent is a fraction of the market rent.

Shared ownership housing offers people usually unable to afford their own home the chance to buy a share in a property and rent the rest from the other owner, usually a registered social landlord such as a council or housing association or co-operative.  Generally, keyworkers are offered properties first and any surplus stock is (part) sold on the open market.  As you decide to purchase more of a share in the property so your mortgage element goes up and the rental element goes down.  At each section purchase, the property is revalued to ensure you are paying a fair amount for the increased share.

In addition, there are general housing information providers listed, notably Shelter and Citizen’s Advice Bureaux, and a selection of sources for market rate housing. Find out more about your rights and test your knowledge on the Shelter Evict Rogue Landlords page, and make sure you don’t fall for the most popular ways of conning you from your hard earned money. Finally, make sure any deposit you pay to a private landlord is held in a Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme to make sure you get it back at the end of your lease.


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