supportive housing: overview » supportive housing models

Supportive housing encompasses a broad range of housing types, and different models are often associated with different expectations regarding size, cost, and the intensity of service delivery.

Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly program provides federally-subsidized supportive housing specifically for older adults. [1] Tenants' rent payments are set at an affordable level, and many developments employ service coordinators to identify and connect residents with available supports. Roughly 300,000 units of Section 202 housing are occupied by low-income older adults. [2]

Assisted living residences (ALRs) provide private rooms or apartments for older adults and offer a level of care that can range from light "hospitality" services to the care provided by nursing facilities. [3] For residents whose needs fall at the higher end of the spectrum, assistance is often available around-the-clock on a scheduled or unscheduled basis. [4] State licensing requirements establish the parameters within which ALRs operate, including admission and discharge standards, the size of the units, and the availability of state reimbursement for care. Regulations vary widely among states and have a significant impact on the options available to older adults. [5]

Adult foster care homes (also referred to as board and care homes, group homes, boarding homes, residential care facilities, community care homes, and sheltered care facilities) offer services similar to ALRs but in smaller facilities, including single-family homes, that typically accommodate no more than six residents. Adult foster care homes are generally subject to state licensing requirements and providers often live on-site, creating a home-like environment. [6] Learn more about adult foster care.

Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), often described as "campus-like complexes," offer several housing models on-site, enabling residents to transition from private homes to assisted living residences and nursing facilities as their needs change. CCRCs generally carry hefty up-front and monthly fees and may be out of reach for low- and moderate-income older adults. [7]

Congregate housing offers a less-intensive level of services than the models
Solutions in Action
Through the Green House project, NCB Capital Impact is making available specially-designed facilities to provide supportive homes for six to 10 older adults. These "intentional communities" feature open kitchen and dining areas, shared meals, and a home-like environment. Residents also enjoy outdoor gardens, private rooms and bathrooms, and built-in safety features.
described above, providing apartment homes for older adults who are able to live
independently but want hospitality-style services, such as light housekeeping. [8]

Learn more about challenges associated with expanding the supply of affordable supportive housing

Go back to learn about other housing models geared to older adults

[1] It should be noted that Section 202 is the only federally-subsidized supportive housing program specifically for older adults, but many older adults live in other subsidized supportive developments.
[2] "Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly." 2009. By Nancy Libson. 2009 Advocates' Guide to Housing and Community Development Policy [PDF]. Washington, DC: National Low Income Housing Coalition.
[3] "The Place of Assisted Living in Long-Term Care and Related Service Systems." 2007. By Robyn I. Stone and Susan C. Reinhard. The Gerontologist 47(3), pp. 23-32. Stone et al. point out that many older adults view assisted living as a "final destination," rather than an interim step before placement in a nursing facility.
[4] "Homes of Choice: Towards More Effective Linkages Between Housing and Services." 2004. By Jon Pynoos, Phoebe Liebig, Dawn Alley, and Christy M. Nishita. Journal of Housing for the Elderly 18(3/4), pp. 5-49.
[5] While "assisted living" refers to a category of state-licensed supportive housing, some states and practitioners also use the term "assisted living" to refer to supportive housing in general. This ambiguity can cause confusion for consumers. (
An Overview of Assisted Living: 2004. By Bernadette Wright. Washington, DC: AARP.)
[6] Building Adult Foster Care: What States Can Do. 2009. By Robert L. Mollica, Kristin Simms-Kastelein, Michael Cheek, Candace Baldwin, Jennifer Farnham, Susan Reinhard, and Jean Accius. Washington, DC: AARP Public Policy Institute.
[7] The Policy Book: AARP Public Policies 2009-2010. Washington, DC: AARP.
[8] Ibid.

The views expressed herein are for information, debate and discussion, and do not necessarily represent official policies of AARP.