This House of Commons Library Briefing Paper outlines the housing options open to serving and ex-military personnel, it does not cover service accommodation provided by the Ministry of Defence.Jump to full report >>
The principal responsibility for providing housing information and advice to military personnel lies with the armed forces up to the point of discharge. These services are delivered through the Joint Service Housing Advice Office (JSHAO). The Gov.UK website lists the type of assistance on offer to service personnel who are planning to leave the armed forces and who require housing assistance. The difficulties ex-service personnel can face in accessing suitable housing on discharge are well documented.
The Government published the Armed Forces Covenant on 16 May 2011. This document is described as “an expression of the moral obligation that the Government and the Nation owe to those who serve or have served in our Armed Forces and to their families.” The section on housing is reproduced below:
In addressing the accommodation requirements of Service personnel, the MOD seeks to promote choice, recognising the benefits of stability and home ownership amongst members of the Armed Forces where this is practicable and compatible with Service requirements, and also that their needs alter as they progress through Service and ultimately return to civilian life. Where Serving personnel are entitled to publicly-provided accommodation, it should be of good quality, affordable, and suitably located. They should have priority status in applying for Government-sponsored affordable housing schemes, and Service leavers should retain this status for a period after discharge. Personnel may have access to tailored Armed Forces housing schemes or financial arrangements, depending on their circumstances, to help them in purchasing their own property. Those injured in Service should also have preferential access to appropriate housing schemes, as well as assistance with necessary adaptations to private housing or Service accommodation whilst serving. Members of the Armed Forces Community should have the same access to social housing and other housing schemes as any other citizen, and not be disadvantaged in that respect by the requirement for mobility whilst in Service.
The Armed Forces Covenant: Today and Tomorrow, published alongside the Covenant, outlines measures taken to honour its implementation.
Under section 2 of the Armed Forces Act 2011, the Secretary of State is required to prepare an armed forces covenant report annually; which details progress made in‑keeping with the covenant’s requirements. The latest report was published in December 2015: The Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2015. The Governments of Wales and Scotland, and the Northern Ireland Executive, are responsible for delivering certain aspects of the Armed Forces Covenant in their areas. Both the Welsh and Scottish Governments contribute to the Armed Forces Covenant Annual Reports. The Welsh Government published a Package of Support for the Armed Forces Community in 2013 while the Scottish Government published Our Commitments: Scottish Government Support for the Armed Forces Community in 2012. Both documents refer to housing measures – some of which have been superseded by new legislation. In July 2013, the House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee produced a report that stated that the UK Government must identify any shortfalls in the provision of services to the Armed Forces Community in Northern Ireland and report on how these will be met.
Even prior to the publication of the Covenant, Governments had acted to implement various measures aimed at strengthening the position of ex-military personnel when seeking to access housing. These measures have included the addition of new “priority need” categories to assist homeless ex-service personnel; changes to the rules on local connection to ensure that barriers are removed in accessing social housing; and the inclusion of ex-military personnel as a priority category in terms of eligibility for certain low-cost home ownership initiatives.
Housing policy is a devolved matter and there are some variations in approach between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Commons Briefing papers SN04244
Authors: Wendy Wilson; Shiro Ota