This section deals with the Housing Selection Scheme, how the housing needs of applicants are assessment and the allocation of properties.


The Housing Selection Scheme was jointly developed by NIHE and the Housing Association movement, in conjunction with various professionals within the Department of Health, and was approved by the Department to ensure consistency by all social landlords in NI.

The Housing Selection Scheme represents a single gateway into social housing in NI, let on a permanent basis, whether owned and managed by NIHE or any Housing Association in NI.  It provides a one-stop-shop for applicants and promotes equitable treatment by using common criteria to assess the housing needs of all applicants.

This guidance provides an overview of the arrangements by which Registered Housing Associations let their general needs accommodation, with the exception of dwellings for Low Cost Home Ownership (Equity Sharing, Leasehold Schemes for the Elderly and Improvement for Sale).  It deals in particular with

  • the housing needs assessment of applicants and
  • the allocation of properties

NB. This guidance should be read in conjunction with the Housing Selection Scheme manual and it is important that Associations are aware of the content of that document.


A common waiting list of those applicants who have applied for accommodation is maintained within each NIHE District Office and also within each Association.  Designated officers are responsible for maintaining the waiting list and ensuring that every offer of accommodation has been made in accordance with the Housing Selection Scheme.  

The Housing Selection Scheme applies only to lettings made on a permanent basis i.e. the scheme does not apply to accommodation let on a temporary basis.  Where accommodation is let on a temporary basis, applicants for such accommodation will have to apply separately to the specific landlord.

Rule 84 of the Housing Selection Scheme allows Associations, with the prior approval of the Department, to make allocations otherwise than in accordance with the Scheme e.g. where particular housing is designated exclusively for a specific group.

For more information on this see Local lettings Policy

Eligibility and Housing Need

In relation to Housing Selection Scheme applicants, the Housing Executive is responsible for:

  • assessing the eligibility and the housing needs of all applicants for social housing within the scope of the Housing Selection Scheme, in accordance with the Housing Selection Scheme procedures
  • defending the procedures and any individual assessment so made
  • demonstrating that equal opportunities measures have been adopted and implemented

Associations should be aware however that the landlord assumes the above responsibilities in respect of tenants applying for a transfer.  (The Housing Executive undertakes the registration and assessment of transfer applications for a number of Associations - those Associations should ensure that their published lettings policy incorporates this arrangement).

Associations must work with the NIHE to enable the latter to fulfil its duties.  Associations should note the following:

  • lettings policies are flexible, non-discriminatory and responsive to demand, while contributing to the need to be inclusive
  • Associations should be able to demonstrate their co-operation with NIHE in homelessness reviews, in the formulation of homelessness strategies and in the delivery of the NIHE homelessness functions
  • criteria are adopted following consultation with statutory authorities for accepting or rejecting nominees and other applicants for housing
  • applicants are excluded from consideration for housing only when their unacceptable behaviour is serious enough to make them unsuitable to be a tenant and only in circumstances that are not unlawfully discriminating


Associations are required to offer all lettings made on a permanent basis to applicants on the common waiting list, taking into account housing need as determined and the suitability of the accommodation for the particular applicant.

Associations are responsible for their own allocations and they must therefore be in a position to:

  • defend their allocation procedures and any particular allocation and
  • demonstrate that equal opportunities measures have been adopted and implemented. To assist in this process, Associations must maintain records of applications and allocations on a religious and gender basis

If an Association allocates any of its properties on a temporary basis it must be in a position to defend its actions.  The Department reserves the right to carry out inspections to verify information held in relation to temporary allocations.  For the purposes of this guidance temporary allocations are those where the landlord does not intend that the tenant or licencee remains indefinitely provided he or she complies with the other terms of the agreement.

Where an Association has delegated authority for allocations to a Joint Management Partner those allocations for permanent accommodation must be made in accordance with the Housing Selection Scheme. Any deviation from this procedure requires the Department's consent.

Allocation Policies

Associations should have a written allocations policy, approved by the Department, and all allocations should be made in accordance with this.  Associations must make publicly and freely available a summary of:

  • who is eligible for their accommodation
  • how members of the public may apply for tenancies, including any arrangements for nominations or referrals from the Housing Executive and other organisations
  • their policies and procedures for deciding on priority as between applicants, in sufficient detail to enable applicants seeking accommodation to take a reasonable view of their own priority and
  • their policies and procedures for responding to tenants wishing to move (whether or not by way of exchange of dwellings) to other dwellings let by that Association or another landlord

Monitoring of Allocations

Associations must ensure that all lettings are recorded in the NI Continuous Recording of Lettings system (NICORE).

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