Elderly to be urged to downsize homes

The Government is seeking ways to get elderly people to give up their empty nests and downsize, thereby helping to alleviate the housing crisis.

The housing minister has also appealed to the public for help in solving the crisis, seeking ways to boost construction and supply, tackle homelessness and to use vacant homes.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has opened a public consultation and has asked people to submit their ideas and suggestions by August 11.

“I am open to new ideas, big or small, on these or other issues that can increase housing supply at affordable prices,” he said.

He has set out a number of ways to potentially address the national housing shortage, which is now seeing prices for homes in Dublin rising rapidly towards boom-time levels.

The options he seeks suggestions on include:

- New/additional supply side measures for social, private and rented accommodation;

- Further measures to tackle homelessness and to help families remain in their own homes;

- A vacant homes strategy that includes measures that can act as a disincentive to vacancy;

- Ways of reducing construction costs and improving apartment and house-building;

- New measures to support and/or encourage the rental sector;

- Options for elderly people wishing to downsize and to support less abled people to live independently in the community;

- Ways of delivering sustainable mixed tenure solutions on sites of scale.

The appeal for public consultation, though, has drawn a mixed reaction.

Age Action pointed out that facilities for community or shared accommodation settings for elderly people wanting to downsize were not sufficiently developed in Ireland. Its head of advocacy and communications, Justin Moran, told the Irish Examiner that the big challenge was trying to find spaces for those people.

“Lots of people actually are interested in downsizing but they also rely on their existing community and neighbours. They could lose this doing so. And so they need other options,” he said.

Age Action has examined what is called “sheltered housing” in other countries. It says that has worked well in Britain. It involves elderly people moving into smaller units with shared community spaces and recreation. However, Mr Moran said this needed to be developed here if the Government wanted people to give up their homes to help alleviate the crisis.

Some options to consider are if the proceeds of part of a sale of a home could go back into a so-called sheltered community. This would justify an elderly person being prioritised for that type of housing, he said, and would ease complications or concerns about queue-jumping on any housing lists.

The Government’s housing programme has pledged to double the annual level of new homes built to 25,000 by 2020 and deliver an additional 47,000 social housing units in the period to 2021.

Mr Murphy, though, has said that he wants to review the programme, including the help-to-buy scheme for first-time buyers.


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