Cork County Council is to write to the department seeking permission to design at least 15% of new council homes to cater for such needs.
Councillors unanimously backed a motion by Independent councillor John Paul O’Shea who, quoting the CSO figures, said around 7% of the population had some disability or frailty, yet local authorities were not being allowed to design new homes which would facilitate them.
He described the department’s laid-down housing designs as “archaic” and said retrofitting houses after cost anything between €70,000 and €80,000 each.
Mr O’Shea said he got an architect to look at this who informed him that the additional cost of planning for downstairs facilities in new homes was minimal compared to the cost of retrofitting.
Fine Gael councillor Kay Dawson said that the county council has an “age-friendly” policy and this was an obvious way to implement it, while Sinn Féin councillor Michael ‘Frick’ Murphy said doing what Mr O’Shea was suggesting would save the taxpayers a significant amount of money in the long run.
Fianna Fáil councillor Pat Murphy, who has to use a wheelchair, also supported of the motion and said every effort had to be made to make local authority houses more disabled-friendly.
“It makes absolute sense because everybody is going to grow old and will need such facilities. It makes sense to the taxpayer as well,” said Fine Gael councillor Gerard Murphy.
Mr O’Shea had initially asked for 10% of new council houses to include disability-friendly ground floors, but Mr Murphy suggested that 15% would be a better idea as, with improved medicine, people will live longer. Sinn Féin councillor Melissa Mullane backed him. Mr O’Shea agreed to his amendment.
Fianna Fáil councillor Seamus McGrath also welcomed the move, saying a huge number of people each year sought housing adaptation grants because they were disabled or infirm.