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For people with limited resources, sheltered accommodation is available from local councils or housing associations (social housing). Some charitable organisations also offer sheltered housing.

On this page you can find detailed information, including how to apply, on

1. Social housing
2. Almshouses
3. The Abbeyfield Society

Social housing

Residents must apply to their local council or housing association for a place in sheltered housing accommodation.

Properties are generally allocated to those that need it most through a system called 'choice-based lettings', so applicants will have their needs assessed against a list of criteria. Different councils and housing associations have their own eligibility criteria but these might include:

  • Is the applicant unintentionally homeless?
  • The condition of their current home. Is it unsuitable for their needs due to stairs or difficulties with using the bathroom, for example?
  • Is the property that the applicant is living in considered to be 'overcrowded'?
  • A medical or social need to move, such as an illness or disability. Or does the applicant need to move to be nearer family in order to receive or provide care?
  • Is the applicant unable to buy a property or afford a private rent themselves, and needs to rent from a social landlord instead?
  • Is the applicant an existing council or housing association tenant? If this is the case, tenants will need to speak to their housing officer about transferring to sheltered accommodation.

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Pros: affordable rents with financial assistance available through Housing Benefit for those on a low income.
Cons: less choice of available properties. High demand in certain areas can lead to waiting lists.

How to apply

Housing associations are not-for-profit organisations that provide social rented housing, including standard and extra care sheltered housing.

Your local council can refer you to a housing association, or you can contact them directly to express an interest in a place. Each association will have its own eligibility criteria, which may be different from the council’s, and you will need to fill out an application form. If you have not been offered a place in one association, you may be able to get a place in another.

In England and Wales: this page of GOV.UK offers a search facility to find your local housing department by postcode.
In Northern Ireland: the Housing Executive gives information about sheltered housing on its website.
In Scotland: the Government website has a House Key service that offers a search facility to find sheltered housing schemes, by area. Registered Social Landlords may be a suitable housing option regardless of a person's income. Allocation of accommodation is based on need rather than income and capital.


This type of accommodation is a British tradition dating back to the 10th century. Almshouse charities are mainly run by local volunteers.

They offer low-cost sheltered housing to people of retirement age, with limited financial resources, who live in the local community. As each Almshouse tends to be its own independent charity they often have unique eligibility criteria, the most common are:

  • living in the area for a certain length of time
  • having worked for a particular profession during your working life
  • being a single older lady
  • identifying with a particular religious faith.

For details of local almshouse schemes, go to HousingCare.org.

Abbeyfield Society

Abbeyfield is a non-profit organisation offering a range of accommodation for older people, including sheltered housing. Abbeyfield sheltered housing is often a rented room in a converted house with around ten residents. Each house has a communal lounge, an on-site house manager and an alarm system, and usually provides two cooked meals a day.

Anyone interested in moving to one of their properties should apply directly to the home they are interested in. You can find a list of Abbeyfield properties, with contact details, on their website.

Sheltered housing schemes in your area

You can obtain a list of sheltered housing schemes in your area, run by housing associations, from this HousingCare.org page of the Elderly Accommodation Counsel’s website or by telephoning 0800 377 7070.

More information

Page last reviewed: July 2016
Next review due: August 2018