Civilian Housing

Civilian Housing


During service in the Armed Forces or on leaving, there are a range of civilian housing options to be considered.  

There are several housing schemes that are available to the Service and ex-Service community, including Forces Help to Buy and the Key Worker Living Programme.

What are the options?

If you are thinking of buying your own home or are just about to leave the Royal Navy or Royal Marines and want to know what housing options are open to you, take a look at the information and guidance on civilian housing on the government’s website.


Part of the Defence Transition Services (DTS) team, this tri-Service focal point can provide you with a wide range of information about the civilian housing opportunities available to you, throughout your service career and during your resettlement with transition to civilian life.  


DTS also deliver an annual programme of civilian housing brief to help inform and guide serving personnel and their families about the choices available. These briefings are open to all SP and their families at any point during their service career and cover house purchases (incl FHTB) private rental, affordable home ownership and social housing. Independent financial advice during these briefings is provided by members of the Service Insurance and Investment Advisory Panel (SIIAP). 


This page also contains information about the MOD Referral Scheme, Single Service Leavers and the Services Cotswold Centre. 

At a glance
Affordable Housing Options

Service personnel (and ex Service personnel within 12 months of discharge) have priority status for government affordable civilian housing initiatives. Schemes include Forces Help to Buy (see below), shared ownership and the mortgage guarantee scheme.

Housing Options Scotland’s (HOS)

Housing Options Scotland’s (HOS) “Military Matters” programme supports members of the Armed Forces community with any housing needs or issues. The charity offers free, independent information, advice and support to those who get in touch, and they can help with all kinds of housing tenure – from renting privately to social housing and home ownership.

MOD Referral Scheme

This scheme may be able to help you if you are looking for Affordable Housing to rent on leaving the Service. All applicants are strongly encouraged to register with the local authority of their choice and explore the local rental market options as they attempt to secure civilian housing post-discharge.


The MoneyHelper website has put together a section on understanding your money when buying and renting which may be useful when considering your options.

Services Cotswold Centre

Located on the A4 between Chippenham and Bath this secure and peaceful site can provide short term housing for welfare purposes, between assignments, on discharge, home leave or a simple break away in the country. 

Single Service Leavers

Single Persons Accommodation Centre for the Ex-Services (SPACES) is designed to help single service leavers find appropriate accommodation and reduces the likelihood of ex-serving personnel sleeping rough or becoming homeless.

Council Tax

You are liable to pay Council Tax if you own your own property in England, Scotland or Wales. If you live in your own house as your family home, you will be expected to pay the full amount of Council Tax unless you are eligible for a discount through your local authority or Council Tax Relief (CTR) if deployed on specific operations* 


  • To check if you are eligible for any discounts through your local authority.  
  • For further information on CTR please read JSP752, Chapter 11, Section 3.  


If you rent out your property, you will have to pay the full amount between lets.  

Sole/main residence

If your sole/main residence in England is left empty due to Service-related reasons, then you should be eligible for a council tax discount of 50% on that home for the duration it remains unoccupied. However, in order to qualify for that discount, you must demonstrate that your current home is job-related, by meeting at least one of the criteria set out within the regulations approved by Parliament. 


These regulations state that a dwelling is job-related for a person if it is provided for you by reason of your employment or for your spouse or civil partner by reason of the spouse’s/civil partner’s employment, in any of the following cases: 

  1. Where it is necessary for the proper performance of the individual’s duties that they should reside in the dwelling; 
  2. Where the dwelling is provided for the better performance of the individual’s duties and their employment is one of the kinds in which it is customary for the employer to provide dwellings to their employees; 
  3. Where there is a special threat to the individual’s security which means that special security arrangements are in force and the individual resides in the dwelling as part of these arrangements. 


It is for the local authority to consider Service personnel’s particular circumstances and evidence and decide whether the provisions apply or not. If the local authority is satisfied that the provisions have been met, a 50% discount will apply. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (formerly the Department for Communities and Local Government) has written to local authorities to remind them of their duties under the Armed Forces Covenant.

Second home

If this is a second home that is furnished and is only used at weekends or for holidays and your main home is your SFA (and in GB) then you may be entitled to a reduction. Contact your council to ask them.  

What does this mean for Service personnel?

If their home is unoccupied because the Service person has been provided with Service accommodation (by reason of employment), then Service personnel should be eligible for this forces discount. However, it is ultimately for them to demonstrate to their local authority their eligibility by providing evidence to satisfy at least one of the three criteria above. They may also be eligible for the discount if the dwelling has been provided to the spouse or civil partner by reason of that person’s employment. 


What to do next?

Service personnel should approach their local authority to find out if they are eligible for the discount. In doing so, they may be asked to provide any confirmation they might have from their Service employer regarding the applicability of any of the three categories set out above. This could include a copy of their Assignment Order and/or the MOD Licence to Occupy. When a Service person believes that they should be eligible, but their local authority refuses to provide the full discount, you should contact us here at the Naval Families Federation and we can engage directly with the MOD Armed Forces Covenant team. 


 Further information 

This letter reminds local authorities about the position of Service personnel when applying for a job-related Council Tax discount. 

Forces Help to Buy

Eligible Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel can benefit from The Forces Help to Buy scheme to help them get on the property ladder. The aim of this scheme is to address the low rate of home ownership within the Armed Forces, as well meeting the aims of the Defence Accommodation Strategy in recognising the positive impact owning a home can have during an inherently mobile career.


FHtB was introduced in April 2014 as a pilot scheme and was extended until the end of December 2022. On 19 December 2022, it was announced that the FHtB Scheme will become an enduring policy from 1 January 2023.


Since the scheme began payments have been made to around 28,102 applicants, totalling over £429 million, which is an average of approximately £15,290 per claim. 

How much can be borrowed?

Serving personnel who meet the criteria can borrow up to half of their annual salary, interest free – up to a maximum of £25,000 – to pay towards the purchase of a property. 


FHTB is not related to other Government funded Help to Buy schemes but can be used in conjunction with the DCLG Help to Buy Schemes (Equity Loan and New Buy), Help to Buy (Scotland) and Help to Buy (Wales) and shared ownership schemes. 

Who can use this scheme?

Who can use the scheme?


All regular personnel who:

  • have completed the pre-requisite length of service;
  • are not a reservist or a member of the Military Provost Guard Service;
  • have more than six months left to serve at the time they apply;
  • meet the right medical categories.


However, there may be exceptions to these criteria, especially where there are special medical and personal circumstances. For full eligibility criteria please refer to JSP 464 (part 1 directive).

How to get it?

Service personnel can apply for the loan online through the Joint Personnel Administration (JPA) system and can seek advice on their application through their Chain of Command and Unit Personnel Office. Visit Discover My Benefits (DMB) for more information.

Find out about buying a home

If you are considering buying a home but have not done so before, you may wish to read some general information on how to buy one and understand better how the process works. 

Below are links to useful information: 

Social Housing

Most Local Authorities / Councils have long waiting lists for social housing. Whilst the Armed Forces Covenant means that you will not be disadvantaged by not having a local connection, it does not mean you will get to the top of the list.  


Most Councils will not consider you for social housing if you have more than £16,000. So, if you have left at the end of service with a pension and lump sum, a medical discharge payment or been made redundant, you will need to look at alternative options.  


Even if you get to the top of the list, it could still be years before you get a house. If you leave SFA and are homeless, the Local Authority has a duty of care to put a roof over your head, however this is likely to be a hostel, hotel or B&B and may not be ideal for you or your family.  


If you are thinking of leaving the Armed Forces or you have submitted your notice, it is worth looking at the civilian housing options available to you. Contact Defence Transition Services (DTS) for more information. 

Access To Social Housing for the Armed Forces Community
  • The Armed Forces Covenant is a promise from the nation to those who serve/ have served in the Armed Forces, whether Regular or Reserve, and their families. It commits that they should face no disadvantage compared to other citizens in the provision of public and commercial services. It also recognises that special consideration is appropriate in some cases, especially for those who have given the most such as the injured and bereaved.  


  • In 2012 the government introduced protections to ensure that members of the Armed Forces community are not disadvantaged in accessing social housing because of the requirements of military life.  


  • In 2018 the government introduced the Homelessness Reduction Act duty to refer which requires the Secretary of State for Defence to refer members of the Regular Forces, who may be considered to be homeless or threatened with homelessness within 56 days, to a local housing authority of their choice, with the individual’s consent. A person who is vulnerable as a result of having been a member of HM Armed Forces (Regular) has a priority need for accommodation. 


  • On 27 June 2020, a single standalone piece of statutory guidance was published by the government on allocating social housing for the Armed Forces community. The purpose of this guidance is to assist Local Authorities when considering applications for social housing by members of the Armed Forces, veterans, and their families. More specifically, the guidance sets out how local authorities can ensure that estranged spouses and civil partners of serving personnel are not disadvantaged when applying for social housing, and that members of the Armed Forces and veterans suffering from mental ill health are given the priority for social housing that they deserve. 

Posted on: 24th November, 2022
Updated on: 19th December, 2022