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Housing & Mental Health

Find more about what options you have for housing, whether it's a private tenancy or housing with support.

This section covers some of the housing options available to people with mental health issues.  MindWise offer supported housing using a stepped care approach.  If you’re looking for specific information on our housing services, visit our Housing page.

Types of housing


What should I think about when choosing housing?

It can be difficult to know where to start when choosing your housing. You could start by asking yourself the following questions.

  • What support do I need to live? This could include things like local transport links or being close to family.
  • What are the different types of housing available in my area?
  • How will I pay for housing?
  • A stable home life can help you to recover from mental illness.

 What are the different types of housing?

Different types of housing will meet different needs. The main housing options are:

  • independent living,
  • supported accommodation, and
  • living with family.
  • Independent living options are:
  • owning your own home,
  • renting from a council, housing association or private landlord, or
  • sharing a house with other people.
  • Supported accommodation options are:
  • supported accommodation,
  • hostels,
  • sheltered housing,
  • residential care homes,
  • shared lives schemes, and
  • therapeutic communities.

There is often a waiting list for longer term housing. While you wait for a property, you may need to think about short-term housing options.

Living independently

You can live independently with or without support.

If you live without support you will have to manage your own time and run the house yourself. This will include making sure that rent, utility bills and council tax are paid on time.

If you need support to live independently you may be able to get help from the following people.

Cost of living independently

Living independently can be expensive. You should think about how you will pay for the cost of housing and your living costs. Think about the cost of the following things.

  • rent or mortgage
  • electricity and gas
  • rates (though privately rented housing often includes rates as part of the rent)
  • food and drink
  • cleaning products and equipment, such as a vacuum cleaner
  • white goods, such as a fridge
  • appliances, such as a toaster and kettle
  • furniture
  • home insurance
  • travel costs
  • clothing
  • social costs, such as going out with friends

An organisation such as Citizens Advice may be able to help you to work out your income and living costs. Citizens Advice can also check that you are claiming all of the benefits that you may be entitled to. The charity Turn2us have an online benefits calculator which you can use to work out if you are claiming all of the benefits that you are entitled to.

How do I find housing?

Social Housing

You can apply for social housing if you have a low income. Social housing tends to be cheaper than renting privately.

You can apply for social housing through your local council or local housing association. There is usually a waiting list. You are not guaranteed to get housing. The Housing Executive website has a comprehensive guide on applying for housing.

The Housing Executive will decide who should get housing based on a points or banding system. The points or bands are based on your housing need. For example, you are likely to be offered housing more quickly if you:

  • have a medical condition that is made worse by where you live at the moment,
  • are homeless, or
  • live in cramped conditions.

Housing Advice NI goes into the points allocation in more detail on their website.

The Housing Executive will contact you when a suitable property becomes available or tell you about how to bid for a property. You will have a short period of time to accept a property that is offered to you. If you don’t accept a suitable property you may be put further down the waiting list.  If you turn down a lot of properties you may be removed from the waiting list.

Renting privately or buying

You can look for housing through estate agents, letting agencies or by searching online.

If you are renting you may need to give a deposit of roughly one month’s rent. There may be a local scheme to help you if you are on a low income and can’t afford rent in advance or the deposit. You could contact your local council and see if they have any details of these schemes in your area.

If you are buying property there are government schemes in place to help you. An example would be the ‘help to buy ISA.’ The scheme helps you to save for a deposit. It is provided by some banks and building societies. Contact a bank or building society for more information.

Another government scheme is ‘co-ownership.’ You may be able to apply for this if you can’t afford to buy the whole property. You will own 25%, 50% or 75% of your property. You will pay rent on the remaining amount. You may be able to get housing benefit (HB) for the part of the property that you rent.

Can I buy my Housing Executive or Housing Association house?

If you already live in a social housing property you may be able to buy your property. This is called the ‘right to buy’ scheme. Contact your local council or visit Housing Advice NI for more information.

Can I swap my council or housing association with another tenant?

You can swap your home with someone else who wants to move. This is often called, ‘mutual exchange’.

Living with family

Many people live in the family home because of the high cost of housing. You may value the support of having family around you if you have a mental illness.

You and your family will need to think about the amount of support that you need. And what support they can give you. If you need more support than your family can give, you may be able to get extra support through your community mental health team or social services. You will need to contact them and ask for a ‘needs assessment.’

Your family and carers can have their carer’s needs assessed by social services. This is called a ‘carer’s assessment.’ The carer’s assessment should look at the care that they give to you. And find out what support your carer needs.

Supported accommodation

Supported accommodation may be an option if you need some support but also want some independence. You may need short term supported accommodation to help you to live independently. For example, if you have just come out of hospital. Or you may need long term supported accommodation.

Supported accommodation covers a wide range of different types of housing. It generally means a housing scheme or service where housing support, and care services are provided altogether. It can mean that you get support in your home; this is called ‘floating support.’ Or that you live in a certain place to get the level of support that you need.

Supported housing services offer low, medium and high levels of support. There is no official definition about what each of these levels mean. But generally low level support means that you have a few hours per week of support. Floating support would be an example of low level care. High level will mean that you need up to 24 hours support each day. Some supported housing services will be long term. Others will have a time limit on how long you can stay there.

Supported group flats and housing

From our experience, the term ‘supported housing’ is most commonly used to describe supported group flats and housing services. Many MindWise housing services are supported housing services, which enable people to live independently with support when they need it.

Supported housing will usually mean that you live in a block or group of flats or houses with other people who need some support. They may have similar support needs to you. You may offer each other support. Often accommodation is self contained but you may share communal areas such the lounge, utilities and garden.

You can live independently, but there should be 24 hour emergency available if you need it. Often there will be support onsite. You may live in supported housing and still get help from a community care team.

Sheltered housing

Sheltered housing and supported housing are very similar services. Sheltered housing usually means housing for older people, rather than people with mental illness. But some sheltered housing services allow people with mental illness to live there. Sheltered housing is often a long term housing option for people. Most sheltered housing is provided by local councils or housing associations.


Hostels offer short term accommodation. You may be placed in a hostel while you are waiting for more permanent accommodation. Each hostel will offer a different level of support.  Many hostels are for specific groups of people, such as people who have mental illness, homeless, women or young people. You may live in a hostel and still get help from a community care team.

Registered care homes

Registered care homes are also known as nursing homes. They may help if you need 24 hour support. You usually have your own bedroom and bathroom. You will share a common living areas with others residents. Meals are provided for you.

Shared lives scheme

Shared lives scheme is an alternative to home care and care homes. It used to be known as an ‘adult placement scheme’. It means that you will either live with a person who cares for you, or you will regularly visit your carer for support. Your carer will be registered with the shared lives scheme. You can get short or long term support. The scheme isn’t available in all areas.

Therapeutic communities

Therapeutic communities may help if you have a long term emotional condition which makes it difficult for you to live in your normal community. They may also be helpful if you have reoccurring psychosis. Therapeutic communities are set up differently in different areas. They aren’t available in all areas. Often you will live there short term or you will visit regularly as part of your treatment. Therapeutic communities aim to improve your social skills through group therapy and structured activities. This helps you to live in the outside community.

Finding supported accommodation

Local authorities, housing associations or charities run supported housing services. Usually charities and housing associations will only accept a housing referral from a council or community mental health team. But some accept self referrals. The local housing department, social services or your local community mental health team should be able to tell you what supported accommodation services are in your area. Or you can search online.

Needs assessment

You may be able to get supported housing by asking for a social care assessment from social services. This is called a ‘needs assessment.’ Supported housing will be offered to you if you have a high need. You may have to pay for housing services. This will depend on your income and savings.

If you have a care coordinator, speak to them about your housing needs.

Problems with Housing

You may have problems with your housing. Here are some common housing problems.

  • Disagreements with your landlord. You may have a disagreement with your landlord. For example, your landlord may enter your property without your permission.
  • Housing benefit. Some landlords will not accept housing benefit. You should check if the landlord is happy to accept you as a tenant if you get housing benefit to pay your rent. A landlord may ask someone else to be a guarantor for your rent. This means if you don’t pay your rent, your guarantor will have to pay.
  • Overcrowding. Under housing law there are 2 different calculations to work out if your property is over crowded. One way is by the number of rooms for people to sleep in. This is called the room standard. The other way is by the amount of space in the home and the number of people living in it. This is called the space standard. For example your property is defined as overcrowded if 2 or more people of the opposite sex aged ten years or above have to sleep in the same room. This does not apply to couples.
  • Rent arrears. This means that you owe money to your landlord for rent. You could be at risk of eviction if you don’t pay your rent on time.
  • Disrepair. If you are renting, your landlord may have to fix things if they go wrong. Your tenancy agreement should state both yours and your landlord’s responsibilities. You are responsible for any repairs if you own your own property.
  • Shared accommodation. Living in shared accommodation can raise different problems. For example, relationship issues with other tenants and overcrowding.


Housing Rights NI can help you with advice and support if you’re experience housing issues.

Paying for housing

Arranging to pay for housing is as important as finding somewhere suitable to live. You may be able to get help towards housing costs if you are on a low income or unable to work. The help available may cover some or all of the cost of housing.

Below are some options for how you can fund your home.

Housing benefit

Housing benefit is a benefit to help people on income related benefits or a low income to pay rent. You can’t use it to pay your mortgage. Your local council will usually pay your housing benefit.

Your eligibility for housing benefit will depend on:

  • if you have to pay rent for the property you live in,
  • your age,
  • your income, savings and capital,
  • who lives with you, and
  • the size of the accommodation.

How much you get will depend on your Local Housing Allowance.  This sets the maximum amount for your situation (ie single, in a couple, with dependents), how many bedrooms you’re entitled to, and the area in which you live. You can find out what your Local Housing Allowance is here.

Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI)

Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) is help to pay the interest on your mortgage. You may be able to claim SMI is if you live in a mortgaged property and claim:

  • Income-related Employment Support Allowance,
  • Income Support,
  • Income-related Jobseekers Allowance,
  • Universal Credit, or
  • Pension credits.

Find out more on the Housing Executive website.

Supporting someone


How can I support my relative to live independently?

You can ask social services for a social care assessment for your relative if you are concerned that they are not able to look after themselves. This is called a ‘needs assessment.’ Social services will assess your relative to see how their illness affects their day to day living. They will assess their needs and the impact that their needs have on their family or support network.

But the needs assessment will not be done if your relative does not want the assessment.

I’m worried that my relative is too unwell to make a decision about where to live. What can I do?

If you believe that your relative may lack mental capacity you could ask social services for a mental capacity assessment. Your relative may lack mental capacity if they can’t:

  • understand information,
  • remember information,
  • weigh up information to make a decision, or
  • communicate a decision.

A decision can be made in your relatives ‘best interests’ if they are assessed as lacking mental capacity.

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