Monday 25 March 2019

Fine Gael accused of 'terrifying' older people with home downsizing plans

Minister for Housing and Urban Development, Mr Damien English TD & Minister for Mental Health and Older People, Mr Jim Daly TD during the launch of the joint policy statement 'Housing Options for Our Ageing Population' at the AV Room, Leinster House, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Minister for Housing and Urban Development, Mr Damien English TD & Minister for Mental Health and Older People, Mr Jim Daly TD during the launch of the joint policy statement 'Housing Options for Our Ageing Population' at the AV Room, Leinster House, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Fine Gael has been accused of "terrifying" older people with proposals to incentivise downsizing from family homes to smaller properties.

Fianna Fáil's housing spokesman Darragh O'Brien has claimed the plans are "half-baked" and said his office had been getting calls from people who were "genuinely worried and angry", asking "will euthanasia be next?"

It comes after the Government launched a policy statement entitled 'Housing Options for Our Ageing Population'.

It sets out 40 actions aimed at supporting "older people to live in their own homes and communities with dignity and independence for as long as possible". But it's one action - exploring ways to "incentivise older people in public and private housing to right-size to appropriately sized units if they choose to do so" - that's proving controversial.

Junior Health Minister Jim Daly has said possible options to do this could include changes to stamp duty and capital gains tax as a means of offering financial incentives.

Speaking at the launch, Junior Housing Minister Damien English said such incentives would be a matter for Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe to decide on, but proposals on incentives should be ready in time to feed into this year's Budget talks.

Fianna Fáil's response to the idea indicates it could become a key battleground in negotiations for the last planned Budget under the confidence and supply deal with Fine Gael.

"The manner in which the Government has announced this half-baked idea about incentivising people to leave their homes is typical of how Fine Gael does its business," said Mr O'Brien last night.

There "may be the kernel of a valid point in the middle of it", he said, before going on to claim the "rush to turn an undeveloped policy idea into a glitzy press launch served only to terrify and undermine older and more vulnerable people who already feel under siege".

Mr Daly described claims of the "Government trying to force older people out of their homes or to give up their homes" as nonsense.

"That is a nonsense and nothing could be further from the truth," he said.

Mr Daly said there were excellent examples of supportive housing for the elderly but that at present they were limited, all of them had waiting lists and this showed there was "pent-up demand".

Mr English emphasised the policy proposals were about offering older people choices and at the moment "that choice is not there".

A series of "key principles" has been developed to underpin the policy, including ensuring sustainable housing is provided in the right locations to allow people to age in the community and promoting the use of assistive technology to support people to live independently. "This is not about imposing solutions on anyone. We have asked and listened to what older people want through an extensive consultation process," Mr Daly said.

An interdepartmental group is to be set up to oversee progress on the programme of actions.

Age Action boss Paddy Connolly welcomed the commitment to provide "real choice" for older people while emphasising the need to include their voices in the design and implementation of policies affecting them, saying "there are no specific measures on how to do this in the policy".

Irish Independent

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