The Government is making a fresh push to entice older people to move out of family homes and free up housing by gauging their interest in a series of financial and property incentives in the run-up to the next budget.
The Irish Examiner has learned that that the Department of Housing and the Department of Finance are surveying older people for their views on downsizing as part of research due to be completed in September, just weeks before Budget 2020.
Officials confirmed that the Department of Housing enlisted survey company Behaviour & Attitudes in recent weeks to ask 1,050 older people living alone for their views on what incentives would convince them to move out of their homes.
The survey was commissioned in collaboration with the Department of Finance and the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service (IGEES). Officials say its findings will feed into future government policy.
The survey’s near 20 questions are focussed specifically on homes with empty bedrooms, with respondents asked their age, marital status, if they own the home, if the mortgage is paid off, and if they are retired. They are then asked specific questions on the property itself, including:
- Do they live alone?
- How many bedrooms are in their home?
- How often are the bedrooms used?
- How many bedrooms are in “constant” use?
- Do family members or friends stay over regularly or rarely?
- Have they ever thought of down-sizing?
- Have they ever thought of selling their home?
- Would they consider moving into secure older community accommodation?
- Would they consider moving into a smaller nearby property if any existed?
- What financial incentives or initiatives would encourage them to do so?
- Would they consider the having “money in the bank” from selling their home as a reason to move out?
- What other conditions, such as a garden, would be needed before they would consider moving out?
- Have they assisted their children in buying a home, and if so how much money did they provide?
A spokesperson for Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said told the Irish Examiner the survey is part of ongoing research which may inform future Government policy.
“[The] data will be collated in September with a research paper to be prepared,” they said. “It’s done by the department in collaboration with the Department of Finance and IGEES.”
Asked if the survey findings could play a role in the upcoming budget, The spokesperson did not rule out the possibility of the survey playing a role in the upcoming budget, instead saying the survey is “for research and to inform policy, the outcome needs to be considered”.
Asked what will happen if the survey fails to show interest among older people in any incentives to leave their homes, and if a form of empty bedroom tax mirroring similar steps in Britain, he added:
“The survey collects data on attitudes and views which enable a research paper, [we] can’t pre-empt the outcome of the survey.”
While Behaviour & Attitudes confirmed the survey is taking place and is in its early stages, a Department of Finance spokesperson did not provide a response to similar queries.
The Department of Housing said the survey’s “random sample” involves knocking on doors until the target of older people is reached. However, a number of participants said surveyors already had their names on a list when they were approached.
The survey follows the Government’s Housing Options for Our Aging Population report published in February. Then, junior housing minister Damien English said the report’s 40 recommendations, including “right-sizing” to smaller homes and “innovative” home-sharing options, would “enhance the lives of all citizens of Ireland”.
However, groups including Age Action Ireland criticised the plans as putting pressure on people who spent decades paying off their homes to move out to help address the housing crisis.
After the report was published, Fianna Fáil housing spokesman Darragh O’Brien claimed the plans were “half-baked”. He said his office had been getting calls from people who were “genuinely worried and angry” asking, “will euthanasia be next?”