What is sheltered housing?

There are many different types of sheltered housing (also known as retirement housing). It is usually a group of purpose-built one or two bedroom flats or bungalows. It might be a good option if you want to live in a smaller home that is easier to manage.

Some have a scheme manager or warden and there should be 24-hour emergency help through an alarm system.

Features of sheltered housing

Scheme managers or wardens are responsible for looking after the buildings and making sure the residents are safe and well. Most properties are self-contained.

Sheltered housing usually has:

  • a community alarm system
  • communal areas, such as a lounge, laundry room, guest flat and garden
  • adaptations to make getting around easier and safer

Some schemes will also arrange social activities.


  • privacy and independence
  • help in an emergency
  • more secure than private accommodation
  • a more manageable property
  • if you rent, the provider is responsible for any repairs


  • there may be a waiting list
  • some areas have a limited choice
  • service charges can be high
  • if you buy, it may be difficult to sell in the future
  • there may be rules about pets or visitors

Sheltered housing may not be suitable for people with higher care needs.

How to find sheltered housing

If you want to rent:

Most sheltered housing for rent is let through a local authority or housing association. There is a small amount of private rental accommodation but the rents may be higher.

Each council has its own allocation policy. To find out how to apply, contact your local council housing department.

Some housing associations will only offer housing to people on the council housing waiting list but others may accept direct applications.

If you are already a council or housing association tenant, ask your landlord for information about how to apply.

If you want to buy:

Sheltered housing to buy is usually built by private developers. Once all the properties have been sold they will probably be managed by a management company.

Retirement housing is usually sold on a leasehold basis. Before you buy, you should get independent advice on your rights and responsibilities.

If you are considering moving into sheltered housing some of the things you should ask about include:

  • costs, including any extras
  • transport links and car parking
  • how much support you can expect
  • any rules, for example about pets
  • the role and responsibilities of the scheme manager or warden

Contact your local authority to find out about sheltered housing in your area.



Almshouses are a type of sheltered housing for older people on low incomes that enables them to live independently.  They are run by charities and have been around since the 10th century.

Each almshouse has its own eligibility criteria. For example, they may only help people who:

  • live in a certain area
  • worked in a particular trade

To find out more about almshouses go to almshouses.co.uk/

Next steps

You will find contact details for your local council on gov.uk/find-your-local-council

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