Supportive Housing

Supportive housing is an evidence-based housing intervention that combines non-time-limited affordable housing assistance with wrap-around supportive services for people experiencing homelessness, as well as other people with disabilities.

Research has proven that supportive housing is a cost-effective solution to homelessness, particularly for people experiencing chronic homelessness.

Study after study has shown that supportive housing not only resolves homelessness and increases housing stability, but also improves health and lowers public costs by reducing the use of publicly-funded crisis services, including shelters, hospitals, psychiatric centers, jails, and prisons.

The Solution

Supportive housing links decent, safe, affordable, community-based housing with flexible, voluntary support services designed to help the individual or family stay housed and live a more productive life in the community. It looks and functions much like any other brand of housing. People living in supportive housing have a private and secure place to make their home, just like other members of the community, with the same rights and responsibilities. The difference is that they can access, at their option, services designed to build independent living and tenancy skills, assistance with integrating into the community, and connections to community-based health care, treatment, and employment services. 

There is no time limitation, and tenants may live in their homes as long as they meet the basic obligations of tenancy. While participation in services is encouraged, it is not a condition of living in the housing. Housing affordability is ensured either through a rent subsidy or by setting rents at affordable levels.

There is no single model for supportive housing’s design. Supportive housing may involve the renovation or construction of new housing, set-asides of apartments within privately-owned buildings, or leasing of individual apartments dispersed throughout an area. There are three approaches to operating and providing supportive housing:

  • Purpose-built or single-site housing: Apartment buildings designed to primarily serve tenants who are formerly homeless or who have service needs, with the support services typically available on site.
  • Scattered-site housing: People who are no longer experiencing homelessness lease apartments in private market or general affordable housing apartment buildings using rental subsidies. They can receive services from staff who can visit them in their homes as well as provide services in other settings.
  • Unit set-asides: Affordable housing owners agree to lease a designated number or set of apartments to tenants who have exited homelessness or who have service needs, and partner with supportive services providers to offer assistance to tenants.