Civilian housing

Overview

AFF is increasingly being approached by families who need advice on housing in civvy street; whether it is accessing social housing, exploring options for civilian housing or using FHTB to help with a house purchase. Below is a range of topics based on the questions families have come to us with. If you have any other questions not covered here, contact AFF at housing@aff.org.uk.

Contents

01   Sub-let Programme

The Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) has started a long-term project to sub-let empty Service Family Accommodation (SFA) to the private market, mainly on short term six monthly lets.

Empty SFA don’t generate any income but still need to be maintained etc. so this is a good way for them to ‘earn their keep’.

Entitled and eligible Service personnel continue to take priority for SFA and should apply for accommodation in the normal way.

  • An initial 2,300 homes could be made available under these arrangements and around 70 sites across the UK have been identified including; Arborfield, Biggin Hill, Canterbury, Lyneham, Leuchars, Inverness, Warminster, Wittering, Aldershot, Woodbridge and Bordon. These void sites will be released on a rolling programme
  • All the planning has been designed to ensure that families are not affected. DIO:
    • Has chosen sites where there is adequate surplus accommodation.
    • Plans, where possible, to release houses in groups so they can be managed more effectively.
    • Will consult with local commanders etc. to understand any local issues, including security.v
    • Aims to ensure that Service families are not disadvantaged.
    • Will inform families
  • Every potential private tenant will be subject to credit and reference checks.
  • Tenants will be subject to credit and reference checks.
  • These properties will not be improved, but will be prepared and checked for maintenance and safety prior to occupation.

Investment for improving SFA will continue to be targeted at homes occupied by Service families and all revenue will go to DIO as part of its overall running and investment into the estate.

To find out more about this scheme, click here.

AFF Comment:
AFF was concerned that some military families would prefer to live with other military families rather than amongst civilian families in order to retain the support of ‘patch life’, and has been assured by DIO that any family living amongst houses selected for the PRS will be offered a move to a ‘military’ area.

Removals will be paid for if you are on a normal license to occupy, but if you are on a surplus license, you can move but removals will not be paid for. Disturbance expense for entitled families is a matter for the local chain of command to decide; however, DIO will underwrite disturbance costs on request. AFF has also been assured that there is no time line to decide to move.

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02   Will I get social housing?

Social housing is very scarce and most councils having long waiting lists – the Armed Forces Covenant means that you will not be disadvantaged by not having a local connection, however, it will NOT mean that you get to the top of the list.

If you have more than £16,000, most councils will not consider you for social housing so, if you have been made redundant, left with a medical discharge payment or at the end of Service with a pension and lump sum, you need to look at alternatives.

Even if you are at the top of the list, it could still be years before you get a house; it is worth remembering that, if you leave SFA and are homeless, the council will have a duty of care to put a roof over your head. However, this may be a hostel or B&B which isn’t ideal for a family.

As soon as you know you are leaving (or even if you are just considering it in the future), it is worth finding out all the options open to you – contact JSHAO for more information.

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03   Leaving SFA as a divorced spouse/separated civil partner

AFF is aware that many councils no longer consider divorced spouses/separated civil partners to be part of the Armed Forces community and don’t give them the leeway on a local connection which they give to Serving personnel when they leave.

Whilst we never think that a marriage will end in divorce, it is worthwhile considering having your name down on the social housing register for where you would settle if this did happen (close to family so that you have a local connection etc.). The earlier you register, the longer you will have been on the list should the worst happen. AFF has spoken to several local councils about the best way to apply for social housing and the advice they give is to:

  • Phone them as your first action – do it as soon as you know you need help and don’t leave it until the last minute; the more time you give them the more ability they will have to help you by your deadline date.
  • Make sure that when you contact them you let them know that you are a separating Forces family,
  • Let them know if you have any special circumstances e.g. medical, schooling/public exams etc.
  • Let them know if you are leaving due to domestic violence
  • Let them know if you have a reason for not having a local connection anywhere (e.g. child of a Forces family or if you grew up in care)
  • Remember that social housing is very scarce so think carefully before refusing an offer (especially if you are homeless) as the council may consider that they have carried out their duty of care to you and remove you from the list.

AFF has written a brief and is lobbying to get recently divorced spouses/ separated civil partners to be included in the Armed Forces Covenant’s definition of family. We are also asking individual councils to change their policy to reflect the needs of this vulnerable group; click here for the AFF brief.

If you are experiencing issues accessing social housing as a result of the above, contact AFF at housing@aff.org.uk

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04   Improved social housing support for Service personnel and their families

Local councils all have different criteria to get onto their housing register but if one of those is the need for a local connection, they cannot refuse to register you if you have left the Armed Forces within the last five years.

If you have any trouble getting a council to accept you because they say you don’t have a local connection, AFF would like to know about it – please email details to housing@aff.org.uk

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05   Leaving the Army? The Joint Service Housing Advice Office can give housing advice

The Joint Services Housing Advice Office (JSHAO) provides advice and guidance, to you and your serving soldier, about housing options when making the transition to civilian life. They also provide information and advice if you remain in Service accommodation beyond the last day of your soldier’s Service.

Once your soldier is a veteran, and out of Service accommodation, you are responsible for sourcing your own housing, either by purchasing your own home or by renting accommodation privately or via Local Authorities.

At this stage, if you contact JSHAO for information you will be signposted to your Local Authority housing department or an appropriate veteran’s agency.

Sourcing civilian housing can take a considerable amount of time so make sure that you start planning well in advance of your leaving date.

For more information about this service, please contact the JSHAO.

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06   The MOD Referral Scheme - another way to get social housing

The MOD Referral Scheme operates a service that tries to help Service leavers, who are discharged from the Armed Forces and are in need of housing, find social housing.

Unlike local Authority policies, the scheme is beneficial because it does not demand that you have a local connection with the area in which you are applying.

You may apply for a reasonable number of areas by listing the locations or counties in which you would like to live. However, the scheme is wholly dependent on the goodwill of Housing Associations, and it is reliant on their provision of vacant properties in which they are unable to fill.

As a result of this, The Joint Service Housing Advice Office (JSHAO) and the Referral Scheme cannot estimate how many offers they might receive.

All applicants are strongly encouraged to consider alternative housing options as there are no guarantees of being housed through the scheme.

Eligibility criteria

Applicants must be Armed Forces personnel within six months of their discharge date and currently occupying Service Accommodation.
Or
Applications for the Scheme can be accepted from Service Leavers, married or single, and from separated spouses living in married quarters or hostel accommodation provided by SSAFA Forces Help and the Services Cotswold Centre.
And
It is important to note that while personnel in Single Living Accommodation (SLA) are eligible until six months post discharge date, those in Service Family Accommodation (SFA) are eligible until they leave that Service property.

Do Not Apply:

If you are married ex-Service or Single and beyond the six months after your discharge date.
Or
If you own or part-own a property or are privately renting, you will not be considered for housing through the Scheme.
Similarly
If you have sufficient capital to buy a property you are unlikely to be housed. Pensions and expected gratuities will also be taken into account when processing your application.

Completing an Application Form

If you are eligible, you will need to complete an application form. This form can be downloaded from the MOD website. To ensure your application is processed quickly and without complications, ensure that you include all the relevant information required. Further requirement details are available when you download your application.

Your application will be acknowledged in writing and you will be added to the database for consideration when properties become available. Each property offer is assessed by its appropriate allocation such as family size, location etc. with the most eligible and highly prioritised applicants details being forwarded to the Housing Association.

Be aware that applicants are restricted to one offer through the scheme.

For more information call 01252 787574 (mil: 92444 7574) or email AWS-JSHAO-Mailbox@mod.uk

You need to include evidence of the date on which you are required to leave your Service Accommodation:

SFA occupants – a copy of my ‘Notice to Vacate’ or ‘Certificate of Cessation of Entitlement to Occupy’ (provided by DIO Service Delivery Accommodation within six months of discharge)
Or
SLA occupants – a copy of my MOD Form 1166 (available from Unit Admin Office)
Or 
Overseas applicants – a copy of my ‘Certificate of Cessation of Entitlement to Occupy’ (available from the Station Staff Officer)
Or 
Applicants following marital separation – a copy of my ‘Notice to Vacate’ or ‘Certificate of Cessation of Right to Occupy’ (provided by Defence Estates at the start of the 93 day notice period)

The advantages

Unlike Local Authority policies, the Scheme is beneficial because it does not demand that you have a local connection with the area for which you are applying.

You may apply for a (reasonable) number of areas by listing the locations or counties where you would like to live. A member of the team will then get in contact to discuss the options available in those areas. You are not restricted by where you now live, where your family live or where you will work.

Single Service leavers and couples without children may also find it difficult to access housing provided by the Council.

On the MOD Referral Scheme, singles and couples are just as likely to be housed as families because applicants are chosen by their suitability for the type of property offered by the Housing Association.

The JSHAO and the MOD Referral Scheme have no housing stock, no internal connections with Local Authorities and unfortunately there is no guarantee that applicants will be housed through the Scheme.

All applicants are strongly advised to contact their local authority and consider alternative housing options, in addition to applying for the Scheme, in order to maximise the chances of being housed. The scheme attempts to provide another route into Social Housing, not replace such actions as directly contacting local authorities.

Service leavers with families, and separated spouses with children, may also wish to contact the Services Cotswold Centre, which offers temporary accommodation.

Information, advice and hostel accommodation is also available from SSAFA Forces Help. Single Service Leavers should contact SPACES (Single Persons Accommodation Centre for the Ex-Services), who may also be able to help. Details for these Associations can be found on our website.

Additionally, for those who would benefit from adapted and sheltered (both supported and unsupported) accommodation, this type of housing is accessible through the Scheme. Please contact JSHAO on 01252 787574 (Mil: 92444 7574) or email AWS-JSHAO-Mailbox@mod.uk.

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07   LAUNCHPAD: a perfect transition solution

If you are looking to settle in the Newcastle area upon leaving the Army, then Avondale House could be the solution.

It provides the perfect environment for a responsible transition to civilian life, especially as public and private sector organisations in Newcastle are helping resident veterans and their families to find jobs, houses, training and other support, as required. Click here for further information.

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08   Looking to settle in Scotland? Military Matters can help

Military Matters is a specialist housing advice project that is open to all members of the Army community: serving, veterans and family.

The service they offer is available free of charge to anyone interested in living in Scotland.

Their focus is Scotland simply because they are funded by the Scottish Government and Poppyscotland but you don’t have to currently live in Scotland to use their service.

Their small team of Housing Advice workers spend time getting to know your individual circumstances and then produce a tailored advice report which provides information and guidance on what options you may wish to consider, and also the options that may not be suitable.

The focus is very much about home ownership rather than social renting, and for that reason, the team know about current incentives such as the Forces Help to Buy (FHTB) scheme and the Scottish Governments Low Cost Initiative for First Time Buyers (LIFT) Schemes.

They do still work closely with colleagues in the veteran’s social housing sector, so if this is something that suits your circumstances, they can help to signpost you to the right place.

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09   Forces Help to Buy (FHTB) scheme

The Forces Help to Buy (FHTB) scheme is an advance of salary scheme, which is available to help Service personnel who want to buy their first home and to enable the option to self-build amongst eligible Service personnel. Click here to find out more.

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10   Applying for a mortgage: have you been disadvantaged by being in the military?

As part of the consultation on the Armed Forces Covenant, AFF has been included in discussions with ministers regarding improving access for Service personnel to housing, both private and social, for those leaving the Services or for those who simply do not wish to live in military provided accommodation.

The Housing Minister, Grant Schapps, said; ‘.……until now we’ve had a mad situation where living on a base or serving abroad has disadvantaged people in the Armed Forces applying for a mortgage. So the Government will also be working with credit reference agencies and Royal Mail to ensure that this is no longer the case.’

AFF would like to hear from families who have experienced difficulties in obtaining a mortgage because of a poor credit history due to credit reference agencies failing to recognise BFPO addresses abroad, or because of constant changes of address on posting. Please email your feedback to AFF at etam@aff.org.uk

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11   Selling your own property - Have you thought about Capital Gains?

Several families have approached AFF, concerned that they are looking to sell a property that the non-serving spouse bought prior to their marriage and will have to pay Capital Gains Tax (CGT) on any profit.

AFF is not a financial advisor and we strongly recommend that anyone selling a property talks to their local Tax Office to get advice which relates to their specific situation. Having contacted HMRC for clarification, the basic principle is laid out below:

When a property is sold, any profit made is called Capital Gains and, over a certain threshold, is taxable. Dependent on the owner’s circumstances, certain reliefs may be given to reduce the amount of tax payable.

HMRC has confirmed that if the owner has to move to live in “job-related accommodation” in order to be with the serving spouse that they will not lose their entitlement to Private Residence Relief (PRR).

PRR means that, so long as it has been your only home and that you have only used it as your home, that you will pay no CGT. However, if you have rented your house out then this period of time will be taken into consideration in the calculations.

Note: According to HMRC advice, signing a license to occupy means that SFA/SSFA is not in fact a ‘residence’ for PRR purposes at all, and if that is the case and the owner has no further residences other than the property he/she owns, then it will not be necessary to nominate that property as the main residence for PRR purposes.

So, if you have lived in SFA, own a house that you intended to move back into at some time, and have never let it out, and sell it, you will pay no CGT. If you have let it out, if you own more than one property or if you have privately rented at any time then these factors will affect your relief and you may have some CGT to pay.

If you have any doubts, contact your local Tax Office for more information.

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12   Bedroom Tax

Whether or not a member of the Armed Forces lives at home with their parents is a matter for the local authority (LA) to decide based on all the available facts. Click here for more information.

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13   The Cotswold Centre - a temporary housing solution

If you have been the subject of emergency evacuation from overseas or you are in transit between postings, retiring, or you have welfare housing issues; the Services Cotswold Centre at Corsham provides a secure, affordable, place to stay.

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