'I've downsized now and I'm very happy and happy to see they're happy'
A former soldier has given up his three-bedroom house to help a young family who were on the waiting list for a new home for seven years.
Paddy Phelan, who lives in Abbeyleix, Co Laois, decided to downsize as he was "sick of seeing the amount of houses lying idle and families struggling."
He moved out of the house he called home for 12 years in January and is now living in a one-bedroom maisonette, which he described as "damn comfortable."
Mr Phelan gave up his social housing home to Kieran Ritchie and fiancee Lauren, who were in a two-bedroom property where their ten-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter had to share a room.
The family were on the waiting list for a bigger house for seven years.
Speaking about his decision, Mr Phelan told the Will Faulkner Show on Midlands 103 that it was "the honourable thing to do."
"I was hearing through the media about families crying out for houses and I was thinking to myself well here I am. I'm in a three-bedroom house and I think the right thing to do would be to downsize to a smaller house.
"Before I took the maisonette, I actually discussed it with my family. I have four daughters and they all have their own lives and they fly in and fly out. I've met the family, Kieran and Lauren and they've two little children and they're very happy.
"I'll never forget the look on all their faces and to see how happy the children were. I'm happy for them and I can only wish them well. Please god it would send out a message to other people to consider."
He spent 24 years with the Defence Forces and currently works part-time as a caretaker in Abbeyleix Further Education Centre, where Kieran’s fiancee Lauren is studying.
"My son and daughter were sharing a room, she is an early riser and my young man likes to sleep in. He'd be very agitated and grumpy but since we've moved into this house they're much happier," Kieran Ritchie said.
"Having their own space and own rooms and more freedom, it's incredible. [For Paddy] To give that up, is a big thing. I'm going to make memories myself there now and we're very grateful."
Paddy Phelan encouraged other people who are living in houses with unused bedrooms to consider making a change also.
"It's a crying shame that these houses are lying basically idle. People should seriously consider their position and accommodate a family if they can.
"I've downsized now and I'm very happy and I'm very happy the way Laois County Council handled it.
"The amount of stuff and clutter I had to get rid of when moving though... When you have too many rooms you're cluttering up all the time and I had a fair amount of decluttering to do and there's a bit of a cost to it too. I didn't have any Christmas... but I'm happy to see that they're happy."
Independent.ie revealed last week how the Government is to begin paying older people to downsize and move into age-friendly neighbourhoods.
The unpublished report says older people living in social housing will be offered financial incentives before the end of the year, ahead of extending the scheme to private homeowners.
The Housing Options for Our Ageing Population Policy Statement says the Government wants to encourage older people to "right-size to appropriately sized units".
It also says 50pc of all new apartments and 30pc of houses should be suitable for older people and those with mobility issues.