Choice-Based Lettings

Photograph of keys being handed from one person to another.Communities and Local Government is committed to ensuring that social housing tenants have more choice and control over where they live. We believe this is the best way to build communities that are stable, viable and inclusive.

The Homelessness Act 2002  (external link) - which revises the legislation governing the allocation of social housing by local authorities - includes a provision to facilitate the introduction of advertising schemes. The 2002 Act also requires authorities to include a statement in their allocation scheme about their position on offering choice to applicants. The Revision of the Code of Guidance on the allocation of accommodation,  which accompanies the legislation, clearly states the Government's view that allocation policies should provide for choice wherever possible.

How it works

Choice-Based Lettings (CBL) is different from the traditional way of allocating housing via the waiting list.

CBL allows applicants for social housing (and tenants who want to transfer) to apply for vacancies which are advertised widely in the neighbourhood (eg in the local newspaper or on a website).

Applicants can see the full range of available properties and can apply for any home to which they are matched (eg a single person would not be eligible for a three-bedroom house). Priority is given to those with urgent needs, but where possible properties are allocated on the basis of who has been waiting the longest. Authorities provide feedback that helps applicants to assess their chances of success in subsequent applications.

Communities and Local Government's CBL policy

Communities and Local Government's five year housing plan, Sustainable Communities: Homes for All, published in January 2005, set out the Government's plans for taking forward its CBL policy. The aim is to have in place choice nationwide by 2010. We want to build on the existing CBL target - for all English local authorities to have adopted CBL by 2010 - by extending CBL to cover, not only local authority and RSL properties, but also low cost home ownership and properties to rent from private landlords. The Department also wants to develop CBL schemes on a regional and/or sub-regional basis, recognising that housing markets do not follow local authority boundaries.

We monitor progress towards the target using statistical information provided by local authorities on an annual basis (the Housing Strategy Statistical Appendix or HSSA). The HSSA returns for 2006/7 showed that 36 per cent of local authorities had implemented CBL and a further 59 per cent had plans to do so.

Results so far

Research funded by Communities and Local Government into the original CBL pilot schemes found that social housing customers welcomed the choice, control and transparency of Choice-Based Lettings (CBL). They also considered that the extra effort required to take part in CBL, by looking through vacancies and bidding for suitable vacant properties, was worth it.

More recent research also funded by Communities and Local Government has generated positive findings about the longer term impacts of CBL.  In particular, Monitoring the longer term impact of Choice Based Lettings  found that CBL leads to improved tenancy sustainment and tenant satisfaction; encourages applicants to think more flexibly about their housing choices; tends to reduce rather than compound ethnic segregation; and that outcomes for homeless households are largely positive.  It also found that the costs of setting up CBL can be off-set by housing management efficiencies.  

Further information

Regional Choice Fund

Communities and Local Government is providing funding (nearly £7 million over five years) to local authorities to support the development of new sub-regional and regional CBL schemes.  This will enable all local authorities to be part of a sub-regional or regional scheme by 2010.  Bidding guidance for the fourth round of the Regional Choice Fund was issued in March 2008.

Register now  to receive Housing and Choice, the electronic newsletter about CBL,  which was launched on 2 May 2008. 

Further information about choice-based lettings can be found on the choicemoves (external link) website operated by De Montfort University.

Contact us

Further information or enquiries about choice-based lettings should be addressed to:

Frances Walker
Communities and Local Government
Zone 1/E2
Bressenden Place

Tel: 020 7944 3666
Email: choicebased.housinglettings@communities.gsi.gov.uk

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