Annex C - Specific Supported Housing Design Standards

Part of: Housing Association Guide, Development Guide, Design standards

Supported housing design standards – self-contained

The minimum standards of any specific design standards for Supported Housing that must be applied are that in Self-Contained Supported Housing a cooker and refrigerator should be provided along with a washing machine where this is not provided for elsewhere.

Supported housing design standards - shared housing

Account must be taken of the special Planning and accommodation requirements applicable to Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), further details can be obtained from NIHE


Fully equipped kitchens – including cookers, refrigerators, fridge/freezers and freezers provided as required - should be provided either for the provision of cooked meals in a central canteen or for the preparation of meals by the residents for themselves.  Appropriate laundry equipment should be provided in utility room or laundry room.

Communal living/dining areas

Furnished communal living/dining areas should be planned for the free and exclusive use of the residents.  Suitable floor coverings should be provided. Furniture should comprise suitable curtains, seating and tables.

Bedrooms/bedsitting rooms

Residents should normally have their own rooms.

Drinking water provision

A supply of drinking water should be provided at every washbasin and sink. The supply should be marked 'drinking water'.


Well-distributed storage should be provided for bed linen, towels, mattresses, cleaning etc.  Provision should be made for wheelchair storage near the entrance and a ventilated facility for recharging may be necessary

Supported Housing Designed Standards – Shared Dwellings (Elderly Category 3/Dementia or Elderly Category 4)


Main meals should be provided centrally by staff.  The scale, type of kitchen facilities, service, arrangements, etc, should take into account the size of scheme and type of resident.  Individuals should not have access to the kitchen for cooking purposes and facilities for the preparation of snacks should be provided either in bedsitting rooms or in small kitchenettes located conveniently for residents.

Residents’ bedsitting rooms and flatlets

All residents should have their own furnished private room or flatlet. Sharing of bedsitting rooms is only acceptable for couples.  Residents’ rooms should be lockable.

Bathrooms and WC’s etc

En suite WC compartments to flatlets and all assisted bathrooms, etc, should be wheelchair accessible.  In non-flatlet schemes communal wheelchair acceptable WC compartments should be provided on a scale appropriate to the needs of the residents.

Miscellaneous facilities

Laundry facilities should be adequate to enable staff to do all residents’ personal laundering.  A shared facility to enable residents to undertake personal light laundry tasks may also be required on some schemes. Schemes should incorporate at least one sluice, and incinerators or macerators where appropriate.

Warden accommodation

Sufficient additional self-contained or bedsitting room accommodation should be provided to maintain adequate day and night staff cover.

General requirements

Residents’ rooms and facilities should be at the same level as the main entrance unless served by a lift capable of accommodating a wheelchair. Access corridors throughout should generally be not less than 1500mm wide and level to facilitate wheelchair approach to rooms, communal facilities etc.

Supported housing design standards – common rooms and communal facilities

The following facilities may be provided for both self-contained and groups of shared units in a Supported Housing complex. These will merit an appropriate supplementary multiplier.

Common Room

A heated, furnished common room or rooms (2m2/person) may be provided for use by tenants, together with a conveniently located, wheelchair accessible WC with washbasin. Suitable floor coverings, curtains, seating and tables should be provided.   An adjacent chair store (2m2 min.) should be provided.   An adjacent tea kitchen with a sink and hot water facility should be provided.

Associated communal facilities

  • laundry room – should be incorporated with at least one sink, washing machine and tumble dryer, also a table or bench for folding clothes
  • guest room – should be provided, heated and furnished of double bedroom size and situated near a communal toilet or en suite facilities provided
  • emergency alarm system – provided connecting each dwelling with the warden in case of emergency - a transfer facility should be incorporated for use when the warden is absent
  • office – for the warden’s use should be provided close to the main entrance
  • wheelchair accessible via heated and enclosed circulation where appropriate

Shared housing design standards – houses in multiple occupation / residential care homes / elderly category 3 housing

Statutory requirements and approvals for shared housing are complex and the attention of associations is drawn to the guidance below.

Houses in multiple occupation

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive has statutory responsibility for the control of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) by virtue of Part IV of the Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 1992.  The Housing Executive has published Approved Standards, Houses in Multiple Occupation, to be applied in relation to this legislation that should be adhered to by Associations providing shared accommodation.  Further information is available from NIHE (where the accommodation is to be registered by the Area Health & Social Services Board, see the details under Department of Health).

The house shall be managed in compliance with the Housing (Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation) Regulations (NI) 1993, or any re-enactment or statutory modification.

Residential care homes

Houses that are hostels and require registration under Part 1 of the Registered Homes (NI) Order 1992 must satisfy the requirements of the Area Health & Social Services Board.  These homes provide residential accommodation for persons in need of care and attention arising out of infirmity or age, illness (which includes mental disorder) or substantial handicap by any deformity or disability.  

The legislation relating to HMOs also applies to registered homes. However as a matter of policy, the NIHE has decided to leave the supervision of registered homes to the Registration Authority.  It follows that any more detailed requirements for registration should be met see: Department of Health: Residential Homes, Registration & Inspection Standards.

Elderly Category 3 Housing

This accommodation for the frail elderly will normally require registration as a residential care home under Part 1 of the Registered Homes (NI) Order 1992.  There are requirements for the registration and inspection of private and voluntary homes and Associations should therefore liaise closely with the appropriate Registration authority during the development of a scheme to ensure that the necessary requirements are met.  

It should be noted that the Department will not fund through Housing Association Grant the provision of registered nursing (as opposed to residential) homes for the elderly.  Schemes for frail elderly may be provided in two main forms:

  • An individual or shared bedroom/bedsitting room with communal living/dining area, communal bathroom and WCs, etc.
  • A bedroom/bedsitting room in an individual flatlet with en-suite WC, washbasin and shower (but not fully self-contained) with communal living/dining areas, etc.

The requirements for frail elderly assume wheelchair access throughout, ie increased passage widths, larger areas, wheelchair accessible toilet compartments, etc.

It should be noted that nothing in these requirements relieves Associations from the statutory obligation to observe and comply with legislation including environmental health standards, fire precautions and means of escape in case of fire, etc.  Early consultation with statutory authorities is advisable.

Supported Housing - Accessibility Criteria

The above criteria will normally suffice for this type of housing, but may need to take account of special space and facility requirements need by some tenants, including multi-wheelchair user environments.


Requirements and standards are as general needs housing, wheelchair housing and Elderly Cat1 & Cat2 housing as detailed - depending on the most appropriate need.


Standards same as general needs housing, wheelchair housing and Elderly Cat1 & Cat2 housing as detailed - depending on the most appropriate need – but with the following exceptions:

Bathrooms (communal facilities)

  • 1-bath/shower, 1-WC and 1-washbasin to every five residents.
  • a washbasin should be provided in all bedrooms/bedsitting rooms.
  • at least 1-bath/shower on every bedroom floor.
  • at least 1-WC and washbasin on every floor level and wheelchair accessible compartment on the ground floor near the entrance.  

Or alternatively this facility may be provided by:  

En suite facilities

  • WC and washbasin where there are communal baths/showers.
  • WC, washbasin and shower.
  • 1 assisted bath/shower to every 8 residents

Supported Housing Accessibility Criteria are summarised in Table 9: Supported Housing - Accessibility Criteria

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