Frequently Asked Questions

What is an Almshouse?

Almshouses have been an important way of providing for people who are in need of low cost housing since the Middle Ages. Many almshouse charities still operating today can trace their origins back to bequests made several centuries ago. Each group of almshouses has its own rules about who can be accommodated there – e.g. some are single-sex, and some require a particular religious or occupational background – but the common thread is that beneficiaries are on low incomes.

What does the Almshouse Association do?

In 1946 at a meeting in the chapter house of Southwark cathedral, representatives of London’s almshouses formed a committee to safeguard the interests of almshouse buildings and the welfare of the residents. Today there are around 1700 Almshouse Charities in the UK, many of which are members of the Association.

Why do you refer to a ‘Weekly Maintenance Contribution’ instead of rent?

This is for technical reasons: residents in almshouses do not have the legal status of being tenants. Instead, someone is ‘appointed’ by an almshouse charity to a vacancy, and lives there under a licence agreement by which the appointee (resident) agrees to contribute to the costs of providing the accommodation and any services that go with it.

Do I have to be able to claim Housing Benefit to qualify for accommodation?

Some people are on low regular incomes but have savings above the qualifying level for housing benefit. In that case, if you were offered a flat, you would be expected to cover the full amount of the WMC yourself until your savings are below the level (currently, £16,000) where you become eligible for housing benefit. We would support you through the process of making the application.

How do I qualify for a bursary?

The Charity may sometimes award a discretionary bursary to a resident. Each case is decided individually, taking into account all sources of income the applicant has, as well as any savings. A bursary may be awarded to bridge part or all of any gap between a housing benefit award and the full WMC, but the resident needs to show that meeting this gap themselves would cause financial hardship. A bursary is never awarded to cover heating and hot water charges. Any bursary that is granted is reviewed regularly, and the resident is required to report immediately any changes in financial circumstances (eg windfalls) to the Clerk.

What does ‘able to live independently’ mean?

While the TFA team offers support in a general way, it cannot offer personal or nursing care. However, if a care package provided by social services and/or the NHS is enough to ensure your continuing safety and wellbeing, this would be taken to mean that you are able to live independently.

How long can I live at the almshouses?

As long as you like, provided that you continue to be able to live independently.

If I do decide I want to move on, what happens?

You need to give us four weeks’ notice, under the terms of your licence.

Can I have people to stay with me in my flat?

We do not allow residents to have people to stay overnight in their flats. However, we do have a guest room on site, which is bookable in advance for a small charge.

Can I decorate/equip my flat to my own taste?

The flats have ‘neutral’ colour schemes, and any alterations must be agreed in advance with the Committee. Likewise, installing any fixtures (eg bookshelves) must be approved by the Committee. If such requests are approved, this will normally be on the basis that the flat will be restored to its original condition at the resident’s expense when she moves out.

Can I keep a pet?

Exceptionally, we do allow this, but any request to bring a pet (or to acquire one later) must be approved by the Committee. In general the environment is not suitable for dogs, but assistance dogs may be permitted, at the Committee's sole discretion.

What is your policy on smoking?

For everyone’s safety, we do not allow smoking by residents except in the garden. Visitors may not smoke anywhere on site.

What happens if I become unable to manage my day-to-day life without help?

The TFA team would work with you to ensure that you receive the necessary support from social services and/or the local NHS. If the ‘in-home’ support that they can offer is not sufficient to ensure your continued safety and wellbeing, social services or the NHS will be responsible for working with you to find somewhere suitable for you to move to, and the TFA team will support you through this process.