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Council and housing association sheltered housing

Local councils, housing associations and some charities, provide sheltered housing for those with limited financial resources.
4 min read
In this article
What is affordable housing? Who is entitled to affordable sheltered housing? How do I apply for social housing?
Almshouses Abbeyfield Society

What is affordable housing?

For people with limited resources, sheltered accommodation is available from local councils or housing associations. Some charitable organisations and landlords registered with the social housing regulator (known as social landlords) also offer affordable or social housing.

Checklist (ticks)
  • Affordable rents with financial assistance available through Housing Benefit for those on a low income.
Checklist (crosses)
  • Less choice of available properties. High demand in certain areas can lead to waiting lists.


Who is entitled to affordable sheltered housing?

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

Different councils and housing associations have their own eligibility criteria – here are some of the questions they may consider when assessing you.

  • Are you unintentionally homeless?
  • What is the condition of your current home? For example, is it unsuitable for your needs due to stairs or difficulties with using the bathroom?
  • Is the property you currently live in considered to be ‘overcrowded’?
  • D you have a medical or social need to move, such as an illness or disability?
  • Do you need to move to be nearer family in order to receive or provide care?
  • Are you unable to buy a property or afford a private rent, and need to rent from a social landlord instead?
  • Are you an existing council or housing association tenant? If so, you’ll need to speak to your housing officer about transferring to sheltered accommodation.
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If you’re not eligible for a council or housing association property, there is also a much smaller private rental market for sheltered housing, with properties available to rent at a market rate.

Read more about Renting sheltered housing privately.

How do I apply for social housing?

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

Sheltered housing schemes in your area

You can obtain a list of sheltered housing schemes in your area, run by housing associations, from HousingCare.

If you are considering moving into a sheltered housing property, use our checklist to help you think through the practicalities, costs and legal issues.


Almshouses offer low-cost sheltered housing to people of retirement age, with limited financial resources, who live in the local community. This type of accommodation is a British tradition dating back to the 10th century, and is mainly run by local volunteers.

Each almshouse is run as an independent charity and they often have unique eligibility criteria when assessing you, such as:

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

The Almshouse Association provides information about how to find an almshouse charity in your area. HousingCare also has details of local almshouse schemes.


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 10 residents. Each house has a communal lounge, an on-site house manager and an alarm system, and usually provides two cooked meals a day.


If you’re interested in moving to one of their properties, you should apply directly to the home you like. The Abbeyfield website has a list of its properties, with contact details.


Use our calculator to find out how much you'll pay for care in your area and what financial support is available.

Further reading

What is sheltered housing?

How do you choose suitable sheltered housing, and what facilities do they offer? Our guide explains your options.

Buying sheltered housing

We look at how to buy sheltered accommodation, what protection buyers have, understanding leaseholds and charges.

Last updated: 25 Aug 2020