Housing for disabled people who need little or no support

This section looks at the housing options available to disabled people who need little or no support. It covers owner-occupied, local authority, and registered social landlord accommodation, and also looks at homelessness applications.

The different types of disability and the various ways in which disability affects people's lives mean that any of the housing options mentioned in the accessing accommodation section may be suitable. While many disabled people will require neither support nor adaptations to their homes, others may require these to enable them to access all of their housing options. There are also specific types of accommodation, available via local authorities or registered social landlords, that may be appropriate for disabled people.

This content applies to Scotland

Owner-occupation and private rented accommodation

Just over half of all disabled people live in owner-occupied accommodation or in the private rented sector. It is often possible for any additional support that may be required to be provided in the disabled person's own home. It may also be possible for adaptations to be carried out to enable the disabled person to stay in their own house – see the page on adaptations. See also the sections on home ownership and private rented accommodation.

Disabled people who cannot afford to buy a house on the open market may be able to receive help through the New Supply Shared Equity scheme. Although the scheme generally assists first time buyers, a disabled person who needs to move to a more suitably adapted property may also be eligible for help. For more information, see the page on shared equity schemes.

Local authority accommodation

Section 1 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 places a duty on local authorities, in building new housing schemes, to consider the needs of disabled people.

No details are given in the Act, but local authorities may provide housing for people with ambulant disabilities, or housing suitable for wheelchair use, or sheltered housing. The availability of these types of accommodation will depend on the amount of local authority stock and the level of demand in the area. Allocations of these specialist types of accommodation are generally made through the housing register along with most other local authority and registered social landlord tenancies.

Wheelchair housing

This is designed to give wheelchair users to all principal rooms including the bathroom and to allow them to have full use of all the facilities.

Housing for people with ambulant disabilities

This is designed for disabled people who do not use a wheelchair all the time, but whose mobility is limited. The entrance should be level or ramped and the corridors and doors should be wide enough for a wheelchair. The bathroom and at least one of the bedrooms should be on the same level as the entrance.

Sheltered housing

This is mainly intended for older people. Historically, this consisted of groups of flats with a warden, but the provision of warden services is now being reduced. Sheltered housing schemes can be provided by local authorities, registered social landlords such as housing associations, or private organisations. The flats can be rented or bought on a leasehold basis. Housing Benefit may be available to help pay the rent in rented sheltered housing, but benefit may be restricted where support or care is provided by a third party that is not acting on behalf of the relevant landlord. [1] For more information, see the section on Housing Benefit.

Sheltered housing schemes may include suitable housing for both wheelchair users and for people with ambulant disabilities. Very few sheltered housing schemes exist for younger disabled people.

Registered social landlords

Registered social landlords may be funded to provide housing facilities for disabled people. Social landlords are required under terms of their funding to build all houses to meet the needs of people with ambulant disabilities.

Often, the associations work in co-operation with specific voluntary organisations. Some registered social landlords cater for people with and without disabilities.

Housing provided by registered social landlords specifically for disabled people can vary in terms of the type of accommodation (ie it can be shared or self-contained), and the level of support provided (mostly there is none, alternatively there may be staff on the premises 24 hours a day or they may only visit occasionally).

Local authority housing departments will have information on registered social landlords in their area who have accommodation for disabled people.

Most permanent registered social landlord tenancies are allocated through the housing register, although some registered social landlords may have their own waiting lists. Allocations of supported or specialist housing for disabled people may be made directly by the registered social landlord/association or management organisation, depending on the specific type of accommodation.

Applying as homeless or threatened with homelessness

For further information on local authority duties, please see the section on homelessness applications.

Definition of homelessness

A person who has accommodation can be treated as being homeless if it is not reasonable for her/him to continue to occupy the accommodation. [2] The local authority must consider several factors when deciding whether it is reasonable for the applicant to continue to occupy the accommodation. A factor that might particularly apply to disabled people is the physical condition of the property. [3] For example, the applicant may not be able to manage stairs in the property, or may need to use a wheelchair and the property is not adapted. However, an applicant could potentially risk being found intentionally homeless if s/he does not pursue help (eg adaptations to the property) to enable her/him to remain in the property (see the section on adaptations for more information).

See the section on legal definition of homelessness for more information.

Intentional homelessness

An applicant will have become homeless intentionally if s/he has deliberately done (or omitted to do) something that has caused her/him to lose her/his accommodation. [4] The law on intentional homelessness is complex – see the section on intentionality for more information.

The Code of Guidance contains some guidance that applies to disabled people in the context of intentional homelessness. [5] A person with mental health problems or a learning difficulty might not have acted or failed to act deliberately, or known that an act or omission would be likely to lead to homelessness. Similarly, if a person with mental health problems or learning difficulties is evicted for anti-social behaviour, an authority should consider the impact of the person’s health problem on their behaviour.

People living with the applicant

When assessing whether a person is homeless, local authorities must treat those people who normally live with the applicant, or could reasonably be expected to live with them, as a member of their family. The Code of Guidance advises that this will cover situations where people live with companions or carers. [6]

Suitability of accommodation

Where a local authority accepts a duty to house an applicant, it must provide accommodation that is suitable for the applicant. Accommodation must meet any special needs the applicant has, and be reasonable for her/him to occupy. [7] This applies to both temporary and permanent accommodation.

Benefits and the disability premium

Disabled people in receipt of certain benefits, such as Income Support, may be entitled to an extra amount added to their basic personal allowance to cover the extra costs of a disability. These extra amounts are known as premiums, and there are different disability premiums available depending on a claimant’s circumstances.

Last updated: 3 June 2021


  • [1]

    Decision of the Social Security Commissioner CH/423/2006

  • [2]

    s.24(2A) Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 as inserted by s.65(2) Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990

  • [3]

    para.5.12 Code of Guidance on Homelessness 2019

  • [4]

    s.26 Housing (Scotland) Act 1987

  • [5]

    para.6.9 Code of Guidance on Homelessness 2019

  • [6]

    para.5.7 Code of Guidance on Homelessness 2019

  • [7]

    s.32(5) Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 as amended by s.3(4)(b) Housing (Scotland) Act 2001