Affordable housing

Private landlord housing in London is the most expensive in England. There are other housing options that are more affordable than renting. Often these are short-term and may not be suitable for everyone.

If you are homeless and in need of emergency help you should contact your local council. The housing charity Shelter also has an urgent helpline.

Apart from renting on the private market other options for housing include:

  • Guardian schemes
  • Short life housing
  • Housing associations and housing co-operatives
  • Council housing
  • Shared ownership
  • Artist residencies, artist housing and live / work spaces

Guardian schemes

A live-in guardian protects empty buildings from vandalism and squatters. The accommodation is often in poor condition and may not be residential. Guardians often have to move house a lot. They are resident for security and not accommodation. You pay rent to a guardian company, who charges the building owner a fee as well. Rent is often very low. Guardian schemes are for profit.

There are many general guardian companies in London including:

Art Guard is a guardian company developed by The Mill Co. Project for artists to find affordable housing in London. Artists living in an Art Guard property can apply to become members of Mill Co. studios.

Short life housing

Short life housing is temporary accommodation. It is often organised by the people who live there in a co-operative structure. The housing is more likely to be in residential buildings. Because the people who live there run it, it tends to be more democratic and is unlikely to be profit making. You can often apply direct to short life housing co-operatives. To get housed by some you need to get a referral from another agency, like a local council.

Short life housing can take a few weeks to a few months to get a property. Many will expect you to share.

Short life housing is often provided as a license. This means you have no right to remain in accommodation after the owner asks for it back. Property can be in a poor state of repair. In return for staying in insecure accommodation the license fee tends to be very low.

Short life housing co-operatives in London include:

Check the directory on Self Help Housing for a full list. Short life housing is available outside of London too.

More detail on how short life housing works is on the Self Help Housing website.

Housing co-operatives

Housing co-operatives are a type of social housing. The properties are often publicly owned. This means the housing is for the public good instead of for profit. Housing co-operative are open to people to cannot afford to buy a home.

Housing co-operatives are democratically run by their members. They might have paid staff but decisions are made by members committees. All the members will be residents.

They often only house people without dependents or with links to the area they work in. Waiting lists for a property is likely to be very long, often some years. Most housing co-operatives do not accept applications. Many will only take applications on referral by a short life housing association or a local council.

Find out more about housing co-operatives in London. Housing co-operatives are a part of community led housing.


Cohousing is a group of privately owned residencies with some shared facilities. This might be a shared garden or spaces that any resident can use. Usually people buy a private house to join, or work with people they know to set it up. They are a way of pooling some resources for people who are able to afford a home.

Members run their own cohousing schemes. They might have paid staff but residents will make decisions.

Because they are privately run, a cohousing project might focus on particular people. Cohousing projects are usually for people with a common interest like people who are older, women, or LGBTQAI+ groups.

Find out more about cohousing, and see a list of cohousing projects in the UK. Cohousing is a part of community led housing.

Housing associations

A housing association could provide social housing, property for sale, or a mix of both.

The most common type of social housing is social rented homes. These are usually rented at about 50% of the local market rent. Affordable rented homes are usually rented at around 80% of the local market rent. Not everyone is eligible for a housing association tenancy at social or affordable rent. You usually have to be on the council’s housing register and meet other eligibility criteria.

Housing associations also sell shared ownership property. This a more affordable way to buy your own home. You start by buying between 25% and 75% of a home and pay a reduced rent on the rest. You can buy more of the property until you own 100%.

Housing associations might also have supported accommodation for:

  • older people needing support or care
  • disabled people who need homes with adaptations
  • homeless shelters
  • hostels
  • domestic abuse refuges
  • residences for young people leaving care.

Your local council or health authority might have to refer you for supported housing.

Find out about the different ways you can rent or buy a housing association property from the National Housing Federation.

Council housing

Council housing is property owned by individual local councils. It often takes many years to get. Housing is only given to those in the extreme need.

Some councils will refer people to housing associations and co-operatives instead. You can join the council house waiting online. Councils are not obliged to provide everyone with housing.

Find you more about council housing from the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Artist residencies, artist housing and live / work spaces

Artists have other options for housing too, including:

In London some of the artist housing options are:

  • The ACME Fire Station residency. This 5 year residency for 8 artists provides accommodation and a studio.
  • Bow Arts has a small number of flats and studios for artists in east London.
  • A House for Artists. 12 lifetime tenancies at 65% of market rent. Residents commit to deliver a free public event half-a-day a week.

Tenants rights

Whatever way you find to live you should know a little about your rights as a tenant. Some useful resources include:

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