You might not have heard of almshouses but there’s a good chance you’ve admired the ancient buildings in which some of them are still based. They have provided safe and secure homes for people in need since medieval times and continue to provide an essential service for our society. We hope you find the answer to your query among the responses to frequently asked questions below. If not, please contact us and we’ll be happy to chat.
Almshouses date back to the times when religious orders cared for the poor and were originally called bede houses or hospitals. It’s thought the first almshouse was founded in York in 936. The oldest still in existence is the hospital of St Oswald in Worcester, founded circa 990.
An almshouse is a unit of residential accommodation (usually a house or flat) which belongs to a charity and is provided exclusively to meet the charity’s purposes (for example, the relief of financial need or infirmity). Residents live there under licence as ‘qualified beneficiaries.’
Almshouses are owned by charities (usually as an endowment) They are managed by the trustees of the charity. The trustees are volunteers and they oversee the running of the almshouse because they want to see it continue to provide good quality accommodation to people in need in the area. The day-to-day management of the almshouses is often delegated to property management companies like Mulberry PM. We work to help ensure that residents continue to live in dignity, with freedom and independence, in a safe and secure environment.
Trustees usually live in the same area as the almshouse and work on a pro bono basis, for the good of the charity. They have to conform to the charity’s governing document, or scheme, and make sure the almshouse is run as intended. All trustees remain jointly responsible for the charity. It’s an immensely rewarding job but can also be demanding. For more information, see the Almshouse Association website.
The Almshouse Association has launched a new project to help provide additional support and guidance at a regional level. Our Managing Director, Anya Mathewson, has been appointed Regional Champion for Yorkshire. She will be arranging regional get-togethers and is very happy to offer advice and help signpost additional guidance, if needed. Please contact us to speak to Anya.
The founding benefactors of each almshouse laid down the criteria for the people they wanted to be able to live there in a governing document. The ‘rules’ as to who is eligible include stipulations like ‘women over 50’ and ‘poor people of good character.’ Potential beneficiaries often need to have a local connection to the area where the almshouse is located.
If you have heard about an almshouse we manage, please contact us to discuss whether it meets your needs.
If you would like to enquire about an almshouse in Yorkshire, our Managing Director Anya Mathewson will be happy to advise. Anya is Yorkshire Champion for the Almshouse Association, a support charity representing almshouse charities across the UK. Please contact our office in the first instance and if Anya is not immediately available, she will get in touch as soon as she is able.
The Almshouse Association advertises vacancies that are sent to it by charities from across the country. If you want to know whether there are almshouses in a particular area, you can email the Almshouse Association Administrator who can provide you with a list. You would then contact the almshouse charity directly.
‘Rent’ is not payable at an almshouse. The residents pay a ‘contribution’ which covers their licence on the property. These contributions are often well below market rent value and are covered by housing benefit. Charities generally pay for the heating and lighting in the communal areas of the almshouses, but the residents are responsible for their own bills.
No. Almshouse trustees are bound by the founding principles of the almshouse as a charity which will continue to provide low cost accommodation to those in need for generations to come. That’s why residents are only allowed to live there under licence.
Beneficiaries can continue to live in the almshouses as long as they are capable of ‘independent living’. Some charities have a warden or scheme manager but residents need to be able to take care of themselves. Charities are happy for residents to have carers or family helping them, but as soon as a resident becomes incapable of independent living, they must find alternative accommodation.
Anyone who wants to live in an almshouse must apply to the charity directly, or through its property management company. Applicants are asked to fill in an application form, giving personal details such as income and expenditure. If and when a place becomes available, applicants are usually interviewed by the almshouse’s trustees. For more information about applying for a place at one of the almshouses we manage, click here.
We are working on producing a You Tube channel with videos of vacancies for all of our almshouses – watch this space!
Most almshouses have waiting lists but places aren’t necessarily filled on a first come, first served basis. Factors such as individual need and how close applicants come to matching the admission criteria play a part in the decision-making process.
If you haven’t found the answer to your query about almshouses, please contact us and we’ll be happy to help.