December 8th saw the launch of two new publications on extra care housing at the Housing LIN Extra Care Housing Annual conference. The first of these was the eagerly anticipated findings from a large scale evaluation of the Department of Health-funded extra care housing schemes from the University of Kent (PSSRU). The study highlighted the benefits of residence in extra care, including high levels of social wellbeing, cognitive functioning, and functional ability. Furthermore, the study compared the outcomes of those in extra care housing with those in residential care, and found that those in extra care housing enjoyed better outcomes across a range of measures. Perhaps of crucial importance, from the perspective of policy-makers, were the findings related to the cost-effectiveness of extra care housing, where the costs were found to be the same or lower than for residents who entered residential care. The study concluded that “Better outcomes and similar or lower costs indicate that extra care housing appears to be a cost-effective alternative for people with the same characteristics who currently move into residential care.” 
Also launched at the conference was a Strategic Housing for Older People (SHOP) toolkit developed by the Institute of Public Care to help local authorities, public sector and private sector developers, and housing providers to identify and understand the housing needs of older people in the local area. The first part of the toolkit focusses on understanding the local supply and demand for older people’s housing while the second part focusses specifically on developing extra care housing. A third section provides a comprehensive list of resources on older people’s housing and specifically extra care housing. The toolkit provides some welcome direction for key local stakeholders in meeting the housing needs of older people now, and in the future, and is available from the Housing LIN website .
The conference also featured several notable speakers, including Lord Best, Chair of the recent All Parliamentary Party Group (APPG) Inquiry into Housing and Care for Older People , who raised an important question about which facilities were necessary for inclusion in future extra care schemes. This is a crucial question for developing future schemes and ensuring the cost-effectiveness of the model. The evidence base, including ILC-UK research launched earlier this year , is beginning to show some consistency in the message that residents of extra care housing enjoy better outcomes than residents who opt for other housing and care models, albeit subject to a number of caveats. These studies also provide a number of possible explanations as to the underlying mechanisms behind these better outcomes, many of which involve the communal facilities that are considered essential components of extra care developments. However, there remain gaps in our understanding of how these individual communal facilities actually induce better outcomes, and questions such as those raised at the conference are important reminders that research into the sector is still in its infancy compared to research into other social care and housing models. Both publications launched at the conference represent welcome and valuable additions to the case for extra care housing, although future research may choose to hone in on the issues raised of what are the essential communal features of extra care housing. Given that communal facilities are thought to play such an important part in achieving positive outcomes for extra care residents, it may be that such research concludes that many are, in fact, essential.
 Netten, A., Darton, R., Bäumker, T. & Callaghan, L. (2011) Improving housing with care choices for older people: an evaluation of extra care housing. Canterbury: Personal Social Services Research Unit, University of Kent.
 Bligh, J. & Kerslake, A. (2011) Strategic Housing for Older People (SHOP): A resource pack. London: Housing LIN. Available at: http://www.housinglin.org.uk/Topics/browse/HousingExtraCare/ExtraCareStrategy/SHOPv2/
 Porteus, J. (ed.) (2011) All Party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Care for Older People: Living Well at Home Inquiry. London: Counsel and Care.
 Kneale, D. (2011) Establishing the extra in extra care housing. London: International Longevity Centre.