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Housing with support as a model for housing with care and support

What is housing with support?

Housing with support, also be known as retirement housing, is an umbrella term which includes sheltered housing, retirement flats, retirement bungalows and warden-assisted housing.

Housing with support offers older people independent living in self-contained housing with the knowledge that support is available if required. The accommodation consists of purpose-built, self-contained homes, usually flats or bungalows or occasionally luxury apartments, for sale, shared ownership or rent. The support offered is usually limited to help from a scheme manager (warden), or support staff and 24-hour emergency help through an alarm system which can be activated by pulling a chord or pressing a button on a pendent. Staff are not usually available 24 hours, and do not assist with personal care or carry out tasks like shopping or housework.

Generally, the scheme manager is expected to:

  • manage the scheme and respond to the emergency alarm when on site
  • get to know the residents and provide individual support, for example emotional support and make sure they know about local services;

help with welfare benefits and social care, encouraging residents to ask for additional support from statutory and voluntary organisations when appropriate.

However, there is variation in terms of the role of scheme managers and the support offered to people living in the scheme.

Housing with support offers a stepping stone between living completely independently and moving into housing with care or a care home. Facilities often, but not always include communal areas, such as gardens or lounges and there may be social activities for the people living there. Schemes may also have a guest bedroom which visitors can use for an overnight stay.

Schemes usually consist of between 15 and 60 self-contained homes which may be bedsits (studios), flats, bungalows or luxury apartments.

Number of units

There are approximately 363,000 housing-with-support units in England and Wales although the figures on this can vary depending on the definitions used.

Who lives in housing with support?

There is a minimum age for residents, usually 60, sometimes 55 and occasionally 50 years old. The accommodation is usually suitable for older people who are able to live independently and need a low level of support. Where more support is needed, this would typically be arranged via a home care (domiciliary care) provider in the same way that it is for people living in mainstream or general housing.


Housing with support for rent is usually managed by local authorities or housing associations and demand can be high in some parts of the country. Some people are eligible for the housing benefit part of Universal Credit to help pay the rent. Housing benefit can also cover some or all of the service charge, provided the person’s income and capital is low enough, and as long as the payment of service charges is a condition of occupying the accommodation, rather than an optional extra. Council tax, water rates and energy bills are usually additional costs.

The cost of some or all of a person’s care and support may be available through the local authority or sometimes via NHS funding.


Unlike care homes, housing with support is not inspected or given ratings by an official body. Those who manage leasehold housing with support may be a member of the Association of Retirement Housing Managers (ARHM) and follow their Code of Practice, but this is entirely voluntary.

Any homecare (domiciliary care) provided by an external provider will be registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Commissioning and provision

Housing with support is primarily provided by housing associations, local authorities, voluntary sector or charitable providers, that is, typically not-for-profit organisations. However, some private sector ‘for-profit’ organisations do provide supported housing, either as landlords and/ or as support providers.

Many schemes have complex operational models in which buildings are leased and services (such as support, care or housing management) are subcontracted or commissioned to other organisations (sometimes referred to as ‘agency managed’ supported housing); for example, a supported housing scheme may have a housing association landlord but a voluntary sector organisation may provide the housing management and support services.

Housing with support units by sector and tenure type

Mixed tenure10K4K6K

Note: Mixed tenure includes a mix of rent and leasehold. Other tenures include shared ownership, for example.

Source: British Property Federation (BPF)

Case study

Promising practice examples

Role of housing in the future of care and support

Commission report: A place we can call home

Promising practice:

Population survey

Cost-benefit tool

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