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What is sheltered housing?

How do you choose suitable sheltered housing, and what facilities do they offer? Our guide to sheltered accommodation explains your options.
3 min read
In this article
What is sheltered housing accommodation? Can I rent sheltered housing? Sheltered housing facilities
Sheltered housing and nursing care

What is sheltered housing accommodation?

Sheltered housing is accommodation specifically designed for older people (or younger disabled people) to allow them to live independently.


It usually consists of self-contained flats with communal facilities. In most cases, it’s available to people aged over 60, although some schemes may be open to those over 55 years old. When used exclusively for older people, it’s sometimes called ‘retirement housing’.  If the accommodation is part of a care home complex, it's also known as 'close care'.


Sheltered accommodation can be bought or rented, either by individuals or couples. Residents can pay for sheltered housing privately (out of their own funds) or, if they meet certain eligibility criteria they can apply to be allocated sheltered housing by their local council or housing association.


Schemes usually offer between 20 and 40 self-contained apartments/flats or bungalows on one site. All properties have their own front door, kitchen and bathroom, so residents can continue to live independently, and have the freedom to come and go as they please.


The main advantage of sheltered housing is that residents have help at hand if they need it. Most offer additional support in the form of:

Checklist (ticks)
  • A scheme manager (or warden) living on- or off-site, who gives advice to residents, ensures that communal areas are clean, and arranges maintenance and repairs.

  • A 24-hour emergency alarm system within each property, so that residents can call for help if they have a fall, for example.

They love the fact that if something goes wrong, it gets fixed quickly and easily.

Extra care housing

The majority of sheltered housing schemes require residents to have a certain level of independence. However, there is an increasing number of extra care housing available where people with a greater need of personal care can continue to live.


Can I rent sheltered housing?

Sheltered housing is available to buy privately or to rent privately or there is council and housing association sheltered housing available if you have limited resources.

Some developers  have a shared ownership option where tenants can part buy and part rent. Typically, you can purchase 25%–75% of the scheme and pay rent based on the share of the property you don't own.


Sheltered housing facilities

All sheltered housing schemes are different and will offer a range of services and facilities. Many schemes offer:

  • communal areas (such as gardens or a communal lounge) where residents can get together to socialise
  • social activities or entertainment, such as coffee mornings, crafts, bingo, bridge or quiz evenings
  • organised excursions to places of interest
  • guest rooms for family and friends so you can have visitors to stay over
  • communal laundry (washers and dryers).

Some larger sites may also offer restaurants, shops, hairdressers or even a gym.


Always check if there are any additional charges for these services, who they are available to (residents only, or visitors as well?) and what times they are available.


Sheltered housing and nursing care

Sheltered housing schemes don’t offer any medical or nursing care, so if you require specific medical care, you may find that a care home is a better option. If you’re not sure what level of care you require, read our guidance on getting a needs assessment.

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Further reading

Extra care housing

Extra care sheltered housing offers more support than standard sheltered accommodation, including personal care, ...

Last updated: 02 Nov 2018