Actually, I think I would also love to know the proper British English word for the type of housing that's called 'projects' in US (slums?), but it's a secondary question after all =). The main question is: is there a specific term that could describe a typical resident of such housing? Somebody with low income, who often gets in trouble with law enforcement and probably wears sportswear on any occasion.

If that helps: I just watched the movie "Kingsman: The Secret Service" and would like to find a term that could properly describe a type of person the protagonist was before turning to the gentleman kind of guy. Something slang or pejorative would fit, as long as it hits the bull in the eye.

  • 1
    Aren't they called "counsel flats" or "counsel tenancies"? I seem to recall John Lydon using one or both of those phrases several decades ago in one of his band's hit singles.
    – Sven Yargs
    May 23, 2015 at 1:06
  • 2
    @ Sven Yargs council because they were built and administered by the Town Council or the County Council.
    – Hugh
    May 23, 2015 at 1:56
  • @Hugh: Right you are. That's the trouble with basing spelling on heard Sex Pistols' lyrics.
    – Sven Yargs
    May 23, 2015 at 2:17
  • If you include housing association premises as well as council housing, this is called social housing
    – Henry
    May 23, 2015 at 12:28
  • They're the underprivileged or underclass, and we have lots of pejorative slang terms for them. But I'm not overly keen on ELU getting involved in answering the (to me, implicit) question How do I insult people who are less fortunate than me? May 23, 2015 at 12:28

5 Answers 5


The areas are known as council estates, and the properties, council housing, as they were built and managed by local government, typically a city or county council. Today, many of the properties are owned by private, non-profit housing associations, but the term council house is still commonly used to describe them.

There are a number of names for somebody with low income, who often gets in trouble with law enforcement and probably wears sportswear on any occasion, but these people are only loosely associated with council housing. They are known as chavs or scallies, from scallywag. There is also the term dosser, or dole dosser, coming from dole as a slang term for state benefits, especially unemployment benefits - He's on the dole.

Currently, chav would be the most common term to use, especially in the South, where scally is less common. It changes over time. When I was young, people used to call them yobs a lot, and hooligans when they were violent. In the 1990s, they often stole cars, and were called twokkers, from Taken Without the Owners Consent, which is how borrowing a car without permission is defined under British Law.

A gang of chavs...

  • Yeah, chav is what came to my mind as well. But its Wikipedia definition is a bit discouraging, especially related to the excessive use of bling. So i thought there could be a more fitting word.
    – Semisonic
    May 23, 2015 at 1:39
  • 2
    Most chavs do wear a lot of gold, if they can afford it. If you asked someone in the UK, what are chavs into, then gold jewellery, sportswear, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, drugs, booze and crime would generally be the answer.
    – Carl Smith
    May 23, 2015 at 1:50
  • "chav" is one of those extremely confusing words. It is often used for rich boys who dress in a certain way, having utterly no connection in that sense to poor street kids. So it's tricky.
    – Fattie
    May 23, 2015 at 16:30
  • Yeah, there are a lot of slightly wealthier people, who do the whole Burberrys and gold chain thing, and get called chav as well. But they're just another side of it, kind of like posh wannabes. Still, if you asked someone what's the UK word for somebody with low income, who often gets in trouble with law enforcement and probably wears sportswear on any occasion, they'd say chav more often than not.
    – Carl Smith
    May 23, 2015 at 16:39

There are three areas covered here.
Social housing describes estates and flats built by the local council, or for the local Council by a Housing Trust. (Is that what a 'Project' is?) But most of these estates or blocks of flats are not slums and not inhabited by problem families.

If your housing is subsidised you are "On benefits," colloquially, On social. But most of the tenants of the housing trusts are not subsidised. And most of those on benefits are not on Asbos, or assigned social workers or known to the police

What you seem to be describing is a sink estate, or a problem high rise which can be run by private landlords or by Trusts. Sometimes they are slums. But it is a question of whether they are a rough lot, with 'difficult families,' that makes the difference.

I hope that gives enough terms to get a toe-hold in the Thesaurus.

  • +1 council tenants vary considerably in wealth for historical reasons. Also parts of council estates will have been bought privately by individuals under a law known as "right to buy" so a council block of flats might contain a mixture of really quite well off individuals and really poor people. This is particularly true in London where housing is in short supply. May 23, 2015 at 8:59
  • 1
    As the OP said, he's simply asking about the "kid in the movie" in question.
    – Fattie
    May 23, 2015 at 16:30

council housing is the most common type of public housing in the U.K.


A wide variety of derogatory/slang terms are used to label residents of urban public housing. The best examples are:

lowlife; loser; chav; scum

Official descriptors include:

underclass; socially disadvantaged; underprivileged

[sources]: Oxford Dictionaries; Urban Dictionary


These people live on a council estate, usually in what would be called a council house or a council flat (source)

There's not a single, specific word to describe the residents of these estates (certainly not a neutral one), though there's plenty of ways in BrE to insult those of lower class than you (which may include council estate inhabitants) who may or may not have regular brushes with the law and may or may not wear tacky, gaudy sportswear (hoodies and baseball caps in particular):

  • chav (in some parts of the UK)
  • scallie (mainly northern England)
  • ned (Scotland)
  • townie (parts of the Midlands I believe, though not sure)
  • yob (some people use those, it's a boy, backwards)
  • bogan (that's the Australian version of the above)

A more neutral term but of potentially negative connotations, depending on the context, is working class but again that doesn't imply that a working class person is living on a council estate (nor indeed that they're actually employed).

Also, if you're a certain Conservative politician, you might employ the term pleb to refer to those of lesser status than you.

  • A pleb (plebian) generally a home owner with some education but not public school or inherited wealth. A council tenant would be a prole (proletariat). May 23, 2015 at 14:14
  • @PeteKirkham From the Wikipedia link which mentions the scandal involving a British MP and police officers: *"plebs" (a pejorative word signifying someone of low social class) *
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 23, 2015 at 14:39
  • Also in Scotland (but not London) a 'schemie' (someone who lives in a scheme - i.e. a council estate)
    – abligh
    May 23, 2015 at 14:45
  • "schemie" is the best one here really!
    – Fattie
    May 23, 2015 at 16:31
  • @Mari-LouA pleb means not Eton class, so /lower/ not /low/. It was applied to me as a son of school teachers who made it to Cambridge from a state school, and there's a big difference between my level of privilege and someone from a London council estate. May 23, 2015 at 20:34

In the U.S. it's considered public housing or subsidized housing as in ur housing is subsidized by the US government so u may pay nothing at all or u may up to 30% of ur income to rent the place u reside. The "projects" can vary in look from state to state.

  • 1
    Please use proper punctuation, spellings, capitalization and, you know, those stuff.
    – NVZ
    Jul 21, 2017 at 10:41

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