The Almshouse Association Case for Support

Compassion, Community, Companionship

Almshouses were the first form of community housing for people in housing need established in the medieval period. For over 1000 years almshouse charities have been providing a unique form of warm, safe, secure, homes for local people in need. Today, there are some 1,700 independent almshouse charities in the UK providing homes for approximately 36,000 residents.

Almshouses are much more than buildings, although many almshouses are some of the most beautiful historic buildings in our towns and villages. The spirit of almshouses can be found in the traditional values of kindness, compassion and companionship in the provision of homes that encompass neighbourliness and social interaction without impacting on individual privacy.

These are special communities that often alleviate isolation while offering independent living. These micro- communities, led by a charitable spirit, bring profound health and well-being benefits as evidenced from a 2018 almshouse study by CASS (now Bayes) Business School which recorded that ‚Äúon average residents live up to five years longer than they‚Äôd be expected to elsewhere.‚ÄĚ

The UK is facing an affordable housing crisis with harsher times ahead for both young families and older tenants. Currently, 8.4 million people in the UK live in unaffordable, insecure and unsuitable housing. The Local Government Association (LGA), representing more than 370 councils in England and Wales, has warned that the scale of elderly homelessness in the UK is set to double.

For people who are in true housing need, almshouses can provide a life changing opportunity.

This ancient model of community housing forms a small but vital part of the solution to the UK’s affordable housing problem.

Established by its member almshouse charities in 1946, The Almshouse Association, as a registered charity, is the only organisation in this country providing a vital communication link for almshouse charities and is an anchoring component of the almshouse movement committed to:

  • promoting good practice and high standards
  • supporting member charities in providing good quality housing for those in need
  • promoting the welfare and independence of residents, and
  • preserving the historic tradition of almshouses for the enjoyment of future generations.

The majority of almshouses have less than twenty dwellings and only a modest income derived solely from weekly maintenance contributions from the residents.

Some of these smaller charities are struggling, as Trustees are unable to fund the cost of essential repairs and improvements. Our challenge is to ensure that they are given much needed financial assistance to upgrade their accommodations and continue as their benefactors intended.

The Association supports its almshouse charity members through:

  • a range of information, advisory and support services
  • a Rolling Fund that has been carefully developed over the years from regular donations, major gifts and legacies.

Almshouses are frequently run by lay trustees and often supported by part- time staff. There are around 12,000 Trustees of almshouses, many of whom rely heavily on the Association for advice on a wide range of issues in an increasingly complex legislative and regulatory framework.

Our important advocacy service to member almshouse charities is made available to them in a number of different ways:

  • Supporting Trustees in maintaining the highest standards of accommodation by advising them on a broad range of issues, such as administration and management, duty of care, governance and compliance. The Association‚Äôs guidance manuals are widely acclaimed throughout the sector. ‚ÄúStandards of Almshouse Management‚ÄĚ provides step by step advice on a wide range of issues.
  • Trustees, clerks, scheme managers, wardens and consultants are made aware of best practice throughout the almshouse movement by the Association‚Äôs quarterly publication ‚ÄúThe Almshouses Gazette‚ÄĚ.  This publication has a circulation of 3,000 copies reaching a readership of 30,000 people.
  • Holding training seminars throughout the country to promote best practice and compliance.
  • Lobbying government on matters relevant to its members and maintaining a close working relationship with the Charity Commission, Homes England and the Almshouse Parliamentary Group.
  • Enabling almshouse charities to bid for Social Housing Grants for major new build and modernisation projects via a National Almshouse Partnership.
  • Provision of information and support by telephone, email and on the Association‚Äôs website.

The Almshouse Association is funded by member subscriptions, but these only accounts for 50% of expenditure. However, a significant number of almshouses require re-modelling and modernisation, conversion of bedsitting rooms to flats and the installation of new bathrooms and kitchens so that the residents may enjoy safe and easy access. In some cases, specialist modernisation is also necessary so that elderly and frail residents with disabilities can use wheelchairs throughout their homes, particularly for access to level entry showers.

The Rolling Fund was established as a means by which the Association could assist almshouse charities by way of interest free loans, as well as helping the Association to extend its overall services to members.

Current demand from almshouse charities means that the Rolling Fund is not sufficient to meet the ever-growing need, as many struggling charities, especially the smaller ones, are unable to fund the cost of ongoing essential repairs, such as roofing, guttering, re-pointing, replacement windows and modern boiler systems. 

Over the last three years, interest-free loans made available from the Rolling Fund have more than doubled and currently stand at over £500,000 per annum.

A combination of the growing demands upon almshouses and the opportunities to extend our housing model means that we need to seek more funding from individuals, families, grant makers and other funders whose objectives match our own.

An example of work that one of our members completed with the support of The Almshouse Association.

Click here to find out how you can support almshouse charities

We need another round of fundraising not only to address the growing demands of our almshouse members but also to meet the opportunities to play a greater role in the UK’s housing crisis by further promoting and growing our housing model. We have identified a number of areas for additional funding to underpin our dual mission of conserving our heritage and growing the contemporary, social impact of the almshouse movement.

Proposed area
of work
DetailFunding needed
Conservation of historic almshouses in the community.Almshouses have been in existence for 1000 years. They have provided a vital support of affordable housing and the buildings, some centuries old and have now become a key feature of our villages and towns. Listed buildings are expensive to maintain and conserve. A fund is being established to help charities with limited resources protect these great places of heritage.£1,000,000
(£200,000 per annum)
Decarbonisation of almshousesThere is a recognised value of older buildings giving a greater sense of ‚Äúplace‚ÄĚ and security to many. The heritage buildings held and maintained by almshouse charities add both to the historic landscape of our towns and villages but also the wellbeing of the residents. They are expensive to heat and maintain and the decarbonisation and reduced energy costs are a strategic object of our organisation. The decarbonisation of older almshouses will make a great impact on the environment, on the charities but most importantly on the welfare of elderly residents. We are seeking to raise funds to decarbonise 100 of those charities most in need. ¬£30,000 can reduce carbon emissions and reduce energy costs by up to 70% in a historic almshouse building. ¬£10,000 can replace the windows in an older almshouse and ¬£5,000 can pay for insulation.¬£500,000
(£100,000 per annum)
Rolling Charity Support FundMore funding to boost the loans and grants awarded to member almshouse charities each year. The loans are for new build and refurbishment. The grants are not returned but are for those charities that are unable to repay a loan. 
Emergency grants of up to £3,000 can help a single charity in a crisis such as broken boiler or leak in the roof.
£500,000 loan fund
(£100,000 per annum)
£250,000 grant fund
(£50,000 per annum)
Accessibility for residents of almshouse charitiesMany residents love their homes but outdated bathrooms and kitchens impact their ability to live independently. ¬£20,000 can refurbish a kitchen and create a wet room in an almshouse improving the life of the resident for many years.¬£250,000
(£50,000 per annum)
Future FoundationsA feasibility and catalyst fund to encourage and enable benefactors to establish new almshouse charities in their name or for their area of support. The last new charity was established in 1986. A new almshouse charity would be a highly publicised event. An almshouse dwelling costs about £153,000 when built in a row. (not including the land). To carry out a feasibility study and planning work for a new foundation charity costs £10,000.£250,000
(£50,000 per annum)
Research and ImpactFor decades it has been widely understood that almshouses add value to the lives of residents. This unique model is now being recognised as an exemplar form of community housing. In order to better understand and replicate those elements that have the greatest impact on the lives of residents we wish to carry out research. A grant to our research fund can make a difference to the almshouse movement and raise its profile significantly in the sector and beyond. The impact of almshouses on the longevity of residents was carried out in 2021 by BAYES Business School and we hope to add to that ground breaking research. A grant of £45,000 would enable us to lift that study to the next level.£45,000
(£9,000 per annum)
Christmas FundThis fund was established by a philanthropist to make a Christmas gift of £15/£20 to every resident over the age of 90 years. This is a capital fund and the interest pays for the gifts. This fund has diminished over the last 20 years as the number of residents over 90 has doubled.£35,000
(£7,000 per annum)
Total funding goal£2,580,000
over 5 years
Specific funding proposals will be developed for each of the above areas of work and activity.

An example of how £2.5 million could be raised over 5 years in cash donations, 5-year commitments, grants and legacies.

Annual Gift to Pay to Charity (£)Total Gift Over Pledge Period (£)Number of Gifts RequiredTotal
TOTAL Р127TOTAL Р£2,580,000
127 commitments from individuals, families, grant making trusts and corporate partners.

The Association is a registered charity enabling cash donations, multi-year commitments, gifts of shares and other assets and gifts in Wills to be made in a tax effective way. The Association will, of course, be grateful for any donations received, but this model shows how major gifts, spread over a period of time, could help us to achieve our goal.

We need to assemble a powerful group of influential people who care about the almshouse movement and the way in which it can turn around people’s lives to enable fundraising at this level. We would therefore like to ask for your help to reach out to such individuals.

There are several alternative ways in which you could help:

  • Introductions and personal approaches to individuals and families who might be interested in supporting our work
  • Hosting a fundraising briefing and cultivation event of your own for a select group of prospective supporters
  • Introductions to grant making trusts and foundations
  • Creating opportunities with corporate partners and sponsors
  • Helping us to get our message out to a wider audience through media channels or community networks
  • Any other ideas would be gratefully received

Thank you for taking the time to review our plans for the future and considering your support for this special project.

Click here to find out how you can support almshouse charities

Appendix 1:  Loans approved during the three year period 2020 to 2022

No. of Charities County Total (£)
2Greater London105,000
1North Yorkshire39,000
2West Yorkshire110,000
TOTAL – 42 ¬£1,813,092

The Almshouse Association approved the loans for new builds, repairs, refurbishments and other associated costs. In some cases the loans were not fully drawn down during the year.

Appendix 2: Grants approved during the three year period 2020 to 2022

No. of Charities County Total (£)
1County Durham20,000
2North Yorkshire35,387
2West Midlands50,000
1West Sussex17,981
5West Yorkshire54,000
TOTAL – 35 TOTAL – ¬£512,060

Appendix 3:  Case Studies from the support of the Rolling Fund

Lord Petre and Puckle Charities approached The Almshouse Charity seeking assistance in response to rising energy costs. They sought support in their efforts to achieve decarbonization and alleviate the burden of escalating energy expenses.

‚ÄúThe Almshouse Association came to our rescue and granted our Charity a ¬£40,000 interest free loan‚ÄĚ.

The Buchanan Trust a recent project to renovate their old dairy and stables that will provide further Almshouse accommodation.  This project comprises of two x 2 bedroom properties and are available for this Nation‚Äôs veterans and their families.

‚ÄúThis project would not have been possible without the support from The Almshouse Association.‚ÄĚ


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