Government warned to stop treating older people as 'house-blockers'

The Government has been warned to stop treating older people as "house-blockers" making the housing crisis worse simply because they own family-size homes they have paid off over decades.

Fianna Fáil housing spokesman, Darragh O'Brien, hit out at the situation after it emerged that the Government is making a fresh push to encourage elderly people out of their homes to free up housing for the rest of the population.

As revealed in yesterday's Irish Examiner, the Department of Housing enlisted the Behaviour & Attitudes firm to survey 1,050 elderly people living in urban areas about whether they would be willing to "down-size" and move into smaller homes.

The survey, which is taking place in collaboration with the Department of Finance, is due to conclude in September - just weeks out from budget 2020 - and includes questions such as:

  • Do they live alone?
  • How many bedrooms are in their home? And how many bedrooms are in “constant” use?
  • Would they consider moving into secure older community accommodation?
  • Would they consider moving into a smaller nearby property if any exists?
  • What financial incentives or initiatives would encourage them to do so?
  • Would they consider having “money in the bank” from selling their home as a reason to move out?
  • and have they assisted their children in buying a home?

The survey follows a similar Government report published in February, which faced an immediate backlash over claims that older people should want to "right-size" into smaller homes to free up space for others.

However, responding to the latest attempt to push the policy, Mr O'Brien said any attempt to pressure older people into leaving their homes is wrong: "The bottom line is the Government has to stop treating senior citizens as the problem just because they own a home, which they have paid for over decades.

"They shouldn't be seen like some sort of 'house-blockers', in the same way as they have been labelled 'bed-blockers' in hospitals.

This is about supply and choice. I know plenty of people who might voluntarily down-size, but if they wish to move, where are they going to go to?

Sinn Féin housing spokesman, Eoin Ó Broin struck a similar tone, saying any decision for someone to down-size their home should be entirely voluntary and only if genuine options in their community are made available.

Emphasising that no pressure should be placed on any older person to move out, he said the only way down-sizing can work is if developers and local authorities ensure new builds include a mix of properties which would be of interest to people who may now be living in properties larger than their needs:

"There should be no pressure... but I think the Government could assist these people by looking again at planning regulations."

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