When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

The Housing Selection Scheme

The Housing Selection Scheme is the list of rules that the Housing Executive and housing associations use when deciding who they should offer housing to.

Social housing is housing owned by either the Northern Ireland Housing Executive or housing associations. You can apply for housing online or by requesting a paper application form from NIHE. Once your application has been registered, you will be considered for offers by all social housing providers.

Making your application

You can only be on one application for housing so you wouldn't be able to apply in your own name if, for example, you are already on your parents' application. Make sure anything you write on the form is correct.  You’ll have to sign the form to say that the information you’ve given is true. If you’re offered a home because of information that wasn’t true you could be evicted.

Choose the areas that you want to live in. Think about:

  • the number of social properties in the area
  • whether there are any new builds planned and
  • how often empty properties become available

You’ll be considered for properties owned by any social landlord in these areas. If you don’t want to be housed by a specific landlord you’ll need to state this in your application.

Give your form to the Housing Executive unless you already live in a housing association property.  If you are a housing association tenant and you’re applying for a transfer give the form to your housing association.

After the application

Your application form should be acknowledged within three working days of handing it in. The Housing Officer will look at the information you’ve given and decide how many points you should get. The Housing Officer may want to come to your current home to get a better idea of your housing situation.

If your current housing situation is so unreasonable that it looks as though you could be homeless or you're likely to become homeless the Housing Executive will have to interview you in person to see if you pass the 4 tests for homelessness.

If you've applied for a transfer and your housing officer thinks your housing situation is unreasonable enough to meet the homelessness tests they should refer you to the Housing Executive for a homelessness assessment. 

Once you’ve been assessed and awarded your points you’ll go on the waiting list. The points system is supposed to make sure that the people who are in the worst circumstances get offered a property first.  This means that the more points you have, the better your chances of getting an offer.

You need to renew your application every year. 

Allocating housing

When a Housing Executive or housing association property becomes available for letting the landlord will look at the waiting list to decide who to offer the property to first. The property will normally be offered to the person:

  • who has the most points and
  • requires this type of property and
  • has the area listed as an area of choice

Landlords will normally offer 1 in every 3 vacancies to someone who is on the waiting list because they have applied for a transfer from their current housing association or Housing Executive home

In exceptional circumstances, a landlord might offer a property to someone, even though someone else on the waiting list might have more points than them.  This should only happen if the landlord is convinced that the decision make sense and is a good housing management decision. The landlord should be able to justify this decision.  

This could happen if a ground floor, adapted property was available - it would make sense to allocate this property to someone with a disability even though someone else may have more points than them. 

There are rare circumstances where a landlord can decide to offer the property to someone even though they aren't the highest person on the list. This is allowed by Rule 48 of the housing selection scheme. This can only happen if the decision can be justified and there are no other people higher up on the waiting list who have a specific need for this type or property.

Changes to how social landlords offer properties

From 30 January 2023, people applying for social housing are entitled to two reasonable offers of accommodation. Before this date, applicants were entitled to three reasonable offers.

What these changes mean for new and current applicants

You’ll get two reasonable offers of accommodation if you:

  • apply for social housing from 30 January 2023, or
  • applied before 30 January 2023 but have not had any reasonable offers yet

You’ll get one reasonable offer of accommodation if you applied for social housing before 30 January 2023 and you've:

  • already turned down one reasonable offer, or
  • already turned down two reasonable offers

These changes are part of the Fundamental Review of Allocations. Visit the Housing Executive’s website for more information. 

Contact the Housing Executive if you're not sure about how many offers you'll get.