While most people are aware of the traditional and fine almshouse buildings dotted all over the UK, few know exactly what they are or realise how vibrant the almshouse movement is today.
There are more than 36,000 people living in about 30,000 almshouses with another 750 in the pipeline. Often established through legacies, and as charities run by local trustees, they are established in perpetuity, exempt from Right to Buy.
Almshouse charities are woven into the fabric of almost every local community. They are responsive to local need, and have a proactive philosophy of encouraging neighbourliness, reducing loneliness, and maintaining affordable community housing.
Residents pay a weekly maintenance contribution set well below the average local rent and usually well below the ‘affordable housing’ level. The charge helps maintain the almshouses, allowing residents to live independently in a supportive community that removes the strain on lengthy local authority waiting lists.
At its heart, the almshouse movement is all about people. Almshouses create communities, a sense of belonging, and provide social connection, which in turn has a positive impact on residents’ wellbeing.
A 2016 study by Age UK found that there are 1.2 million chronically lonely elderly people. Social isolation and exclusion affect people of all ages and social groups, particularly those who are poor, as well as young care leavers, the bereaved, divorced, the disabled, and the chronically ill.
The problems associated with insecure, unaffordable and unsuitable housing and the serious negative consequences of social isolation, then, are unfairly concentrated in those people who are already struggling and disadvantaged. These are the people for whom the almshouse movement exists.
With a greater need for affordable homes today than ever before, the Almshouse Association has the experience, expertise, management structure and national reach to more than meet these challenges.
We will continue to champion the almshouse movement, so that it can adapt and flourish, and continue to provide good quality, affordable community housing, for the welfare of residents within their local communities.