Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research 

Funding at a glance

Programme: Nurturing Ideas to Change the Housing System
Amount: £34,918 grant
Approved: 2018
Timescale: Nine months
Status: Funding complete

Understanding the risks and benefits of co-living housing models for older people.

Why we funded this project

The overall aim of this project was to determine to what extent co-living could be used to create more decent and affordable homes for vulnerable older people. Its intention was to ensure:

  1. Co-living schemes for older people were of a good quality
  2. Older people, who chose to live in these schemes, were well-informed about their choice
  3. The financial security and welfare of older people living in these schemes was supported through appropriate government policy, legislation and practice.

Strategic purpose

To improve understanding of the ideas that have potential to create change.

Project description

Many vulnerable older people face challenges of poor housing, disability, financial poverty, loneliness and lack of access to support.

Following the development of new models of co-living for older people, the project’s aim was to provide solutions to some of the housing challenges faced by this group.

These models took various forms, for example, co-living developments, where older home-owners pooled resources to purchase homes with other older people; or home-sharing schemes accommodating lodgers who provided help with household chores in return for low cost rent.

Cambridge Centre for Housing & Planning Research assessed co-living housing for older people, with regards to the benefits, risks and potential for models to be offered at scale.

The initial phase for this project was a desk-based literature review of existing evidence about the benefits and risks of older peoples’ co-living. The review considers the relevant institutional, legal and financial frameworks that impact upon older peoples’ co-living.

Cambridge Centre for Housing & Planning Research also undertook interviews with experts and stakeholders into the different models of co-living.

The final report, published in October 2019, confirmed a range of benefits felt by vulnerable older people living in co-living situations. These included a reduction in loneliness and isolation as well as the potential to significantly improve physical and mental health.
The report also made seven policy recommendations, which included:

  • Building increased public awareness of co-living models
  • Wider promotion of the existing research on the health benefits related to older peoples co-housing schemes
  • Increased funding available for co-housing groups, whether through mortgages or the expansion of grants
  • Better guidance and support to those considering setting up a co-living scheme
  • Improved adaptation of housing-related support policies including Council Tax and Housing Benefit

The final report was disseminated to:

  • Policymakers, so they are more informed about co-living housing models for older people. The report made recommendations for policy and practice.
  • Older people’s advocacy and advice organisations, to help them understand the benefits, complexities and potential risks of co-living schemes so that they can advise older people accordingly.
  • The general public – particularly older people, to give them a better awareness of co-living. This work included a guidance document for older people considering co-living.

This project was jointly funded by the Nationwide Building Society and the Nationwide Foundation, with both organisations granting an equal amount.


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