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Iron out a few details and Ross's 'granny flat' grant is actually a pretty good idea



New proposals: Transport, Tourism and Sport Minister Shane Ross is pushing the ‘granny flat grant’ plans. Photo: Mark Condren

New proposals: Transport, Tourism and Sport Minister Shane Ross is pushing the ‘granny flat grant’ plans. Photo: Mark Condren

New proposals: Transport, Tourism and Sport Minister Shane Ross is pushing the ‘granny flat grant’ plans. Photo: Mark Condren

If you put aside Shane Ross's obsession with the grey vote, his latest 'granny flat' grant is a very good idea on a number of levels.

It could help to alleviate the housing crisis by getting older people to renovate larger homes that are no longer suitable and move into smaller sustainable modern units more appropriate to their needs.

The State would also benefit because older people could continue to live in their family environment for longer, rather than in costly nursing homes. It would also increase the housing supply by providing more rental accommodation.

I know, because my father spent the last 15 years of his life in such accommodation and it was the ideal solution to a problem that more and more families are facing.

A suitable grant could make all the difference to older people and their families taking a decision to renovate accommodation attached to an existing home. But it is something that requires clear thinking and careful planning.

The first part is inheritance. The person who moves into their parent's house has to have a secure tenancy, so inheritance planning is essential.

On the other hand, while it may seem to confer a benefit on one member of the family, as the person living next door they will be the one left with the main burden when it comes to caring for elderly parents.

The second issue is home help. There is a need for much greater resources to be given to this area if people are expected to vacate their own homes and live independently in an attached 'granny flat'.

The State stands to save enormous amounts of money, so it needs to invest in the home help services to cater for the needs of families who have taken this option.

Mr Ross, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, is an Independent TD for south Dublin, a largely affluent suburb of the capital with a young population who can no longer afford to live in the area.

Many of the houses, both private and local authority, where their parents live were built at a time when land was cheap and so therefore they are often set in large gardens which would be suitable, with proper planning, for an adjoining apartment.

Most older residents have paid off their mortgages and as there would be no site costs it should be possible to build a well insulated, heat-efficient, single-storey modern addition for a fraction of the cost of a new house.

If you take nursing home costs at over €1,000 a week, it makes complete sense: the capital costs would be covered in a short period and the asset would remain with the family member and would have on-going benefits after the parent's death.

This initiative makes far more sense than the so-called 'granny grant' for minding grandchildren, which was possibly well-meaning but ill-thought out, open to abuse and in many cases unnecessary, as grandparents should not have to be rewarded by the State for helping out with the family.

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My father spent his last years surrounded by his books. His 'flat' was small but everything he needed was to hand.

Let's give this one a chance, but be mindful the detail needs to be worked out beforehand to avoid trouble at a later stage.

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