Friday 19 January 2018

Elderly furious over report urging them to downsize and free up houses for families

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How they compare: The parties' pre-election promises on housing
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Groups representing the elderly have reacted with fury to a suggestion from the State's leading think-tank that they be incentivised to move out of their homes to free up housing for families.

Age Action said the report by the ESRI ignored the lack of housing options available for many older people. And it pointed out that if older people were to downsize, they would be in competition with first-time buyers seeking starter homes.

It said it warned three years ago about the lack of planning for elderly housing and that government report was sitting on a shelf, gathering dust.

Alone, a charity that supports older people to age at home, said the think-tank's suggestion appeared to be punishing the elderly for a lack of social housing for younger people.

The groups were reacting to the study which found there was "scope" for incentivising trading down by older couples.

About 26,000 older homeowners could be encouraged to move out as their children no longer lived with them, the ESRI report found.

Entitled 'Housing and Ireland's Older Population', it also outlines potential problems, such as negatively affecting the health of the people who move, and the fostering of social exclusion if older people are provided with financial incentives to move to small homes.

Three out of 10 of those over the age of 50 are in homes of seven or more rooms, the ESRI report found.

But Age Action said the suggestion of incentivising older people to downsize ignored the lack of housing options for retired people.

Justin Moran, head of advocacy at the lobby group, said: "Successive Irish governments have failed to plan for our ageing population.

"The National Positive Ageing Strategy, which highlighted housing as a key priority, has been sitting on a shelf without an implementation plan for almost three years now."

He said there was a chronic lack of step-down and sheltered housing options for older people in Ireland compared with what is available to our European neighbours.

"If we are serious about providing housing for people in later life, we need to be building more sheltered housing communities, providing the kind of places where people are able to age with dignity and with the supports they need."

Mr Moran said those who downsized often struggled with loneliness and social exclusion.

"They don't want to move out of homes where they know their neighbours, where they are close to family," he added.

And an older person selling their home and seeking to downsize was going to be competing against first-time buyers looking for their starter homes, he pointed out.

"The very people this initiative is designed to help could find themselves priced out of the market," Age Action warned.

Alone claimed the ESRI report contained no solutions for older people and "appears to be punishing older people for the lack of social housing provided by the Government".

The ESRI report was ignoring the fact that there was a shortage of suitable housing for older people, Sean Moynihan of Alone said.

He said it was dangerous to suggest that older people should give up their homes without any plans to build one or two-bedroom units locally for them.


"We believe that this suggestion by the ESRI could work in select cases, but only with long-term planning from the Government and in consultation with older people. If older people wish to move, then there should be suitable options available to them within their local community," he added.

The subject of older people living in large homes after their children have left has become a huge issue following revelations that first-time buyers are struggling to get on the property ladder because of a lack of supply, plus the massive increase in the deposit required to get approval for a mortgage.

Buyers in Dublin are now using a deposit of €50,000 on average to secure a mortgage.

Prof Alan Barrett, head of the ESRI, insisted that the process would be entirely voluntary.

"There is no notion of throwing people out of their homes. It is only if there is a win-win situation, such as them getting a bit of cash for selling up."

He added that the ESRI had pointed out that there were many downsides for older people of moving away to settle in a smaller home.

Irish Independent

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