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Social Housing Speed Read – the impact of Brexit

Over the last three years, a day has not gone by without hearing about the potential impact of Brexit on all manner of sectors in the United Kingdom.

In particular, European citizens residing in the UK have expressed their concern about their residency rights once the UK leaves the European Union. Inevitably the rights of EU nationals already living in the UK and new arrivals from the EU will change as negotiations progress. In response to these concerns, the Government have published the ‘Citizens’ Rights – EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU‘ policy paper which aims to set out citizens’ rights in the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal, both for EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU.

The policy confirms the continued eligibility of EU citizens to access social housing, including supported housing and homelessness assistance, on the same terms as are currently available. In order to reinforce this commitment the Government have set up the EU Settlement Scheme which went live on 30th March 2019. The Scheme enables EEA nationals living in the EU and all people with EU rights to reside, to apply for ‘EU Settled Status’. This status provides a right for individuals and their family members who have resided in the UK for five years or more, to apply to the Home Office for a right to enter or remain in the UK after Brexit.

The paper continues by explaining that provided the five year condition is satisfied, residents will be eligible for housing and associated benefits. This therefore confirms that residents will be entitled to the same benefits on the same terms as are currently available.  The introduction of the Scheme is supported by the Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Eligibility) (England) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (SI 2019/861). The Government have amended the 2006 regulations to ensure that only those habitually residing in the UK, are able to access social housing benefits. Applicants who may fall into this category include, European Economic Area jobseekers and primary carers of EEA dependants.

The paper concludes by setting out the rights of UK nationals residing in the EU in a no deal scenario. Whilst it is recognised that no imminent legislation is proposed, the paper establishes that arrangements will be made to ensure the continued access to social housing on a UK nationals return from the EU, if such individual was in receipt of UK benefits whilst living in the EU. However, the paper is somewhat vague on the scope of these rights. Whilst it is recognised that a reciprocal deal with the EU is needed to ensure UK nationals continuing to live in the EU are provided with certainty that their rights will be similarly maintained, the reality of negotiations may lead to these rights being somewhat different to those expected.

If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or any other questions as a social housing provider, please do not hesitate to contact John Murray or a member of our expert Social Housing Team.


Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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