People in the UK illegally cannot apply for council housing

14 August 2023
What was claimed

Council housing is readily available for people who are in the UK illegally.

Our verdict

Those who are in the UK illegally are not eligible to apply for council housing.

A post on Facebook suggests that council housing stock is “readily” available for “illegals” when “British” households have “been on the lists for years”, but those who are in the UK illegally are not allowed to apply for council housing. 

Council housing is only available to eligible households. A person’s immigration status is taken into consideration when determining whether someone is eligible for council housing. People who are in the UK unlawfully, for example those who have not been granted leave to remain or have overstayed visas, cannot apply for council housing.

People seeking asylum are also not eligible for council housing. Asylum seekers, while awaiting the outcome of their application, are often housed by the Home Office. At first, asylum seekers tend to be placed in what’s known as initial accommodation, such as a hostel or hotel. Dispersal accommodation is longer-term accommodation. The government has contracts with private companies to provide this. 

This accommodation is only available until a decision is made in an asylum case, including any appeals. After that, whether their claim has been successful or not, people must leave this accommodation.

If an asylum seeker’s claim is approved and they are granted refugee status or humanitarian protection, then they are legally allowed to remain in the UK and are allowed to apply for council housing. They must join the local authority’s waiting list. 

According to figures released in June 2023, as of 31 March 2022, there were 1.2 million households in England on local authority waiting lists. Waiting times vary from local authority to local authority. Nearly 60% of those given social housing in 2021/22 spent less than a year on the waiting list, 29% spent one to five years and 12% were waiting over five years for accommodation. Refugees made up 0.9% of those given new social housing in 2021/22.

Councils use a point system, or bands, to decide who gets priority for homes. Priority groups are those who are homeless or fleeing violence, live in overcrowded or very bad housing conditions, and those who need to move for health or welfare reasons—regardless of nationality.

Full Fact has written before about false claims circulating online regarding people who are in the UK illegally. False or misleading claims online have the potential to harm individuals and groups. Online claims can spread fast and far and are difficult to contain and correct. Internet companies must take responsibility to ensure that they have clear and transparent policies on the treatment of misinformation on their platforms, and then apply them consistently.

Image courtesy of AKP Photos

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