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Housing market not ready for era of mass retirement

Event told the development of more ‘specialised accommodation’ such as retirement living should be considered


‘Downsizing’ by older people as their families grow up and leave home is rare in Ireland. Stock image

‘Downsizing’ by older people as their families grow up and leave home is rare in Ireland. Stock image

‘Downsizing’ by older people as their families grow up and leave home is rare in Ireland. Stock image

Bank of Ireland has tipped US and UK-style purpose-built retirement communities as a potential lesson for Ireland as the population here ages and housing supply pressures increase.

Speaking at an industry event in Dublin, Michael Murray, senior director of Bank of Ireland Corporate Banking, said the development of more specialised accommodation such as retirement living had not yet really taken hold in Ireland but “the experience in the UK and US might provide useful lessons for us”.

The bank currently has €1.3bn of funding committed to the construction sector which will finance the building of over 19,000 new homes in the coming years, making it a significant player. 

The ‘Building Our Future’ housing event, at Bank of Ireland in the former House of Lords on Dublin’s College Green on Thursday, included discussion on demographics, tenure and planning.

Attendees were told the Irish housing model is not equipped for a projected shift in the population balance that will see the number of retirees as a fraction of the workforce rise from around 24pc now to 47pc.

At the same time, the share of 25-34-year-olds living independently who own their own home has more than halved between 2004 and 2019, falling from 60pc to just 27pc. 

That will potentially mean a huge share of future retirees who do not own a home, a radical shift from the current scenario. 

Property Industry Ireland Director David Duffy said an older population will mean smaller average households and different housing needs. 

“Population growth scenarios also provide insights into the future shape of the housing market – who lives where and in what type of accommodation – so a refresh to take account of Census 2022 should be done as soon as possible,” he said.

‘Downsizing’ by older people as their families grow up and leave home is rare in Ireland, a potential barrier to matching the supply of family homes to families.

Policy makers should consider factors that may lock people into unsuitable homes such as transaction costs and other barriers to movement, according to John McCartney, Adjunct Associate Professor at UCD School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy and Director of Research at BNP Paribas Ireland. 

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“Households’ needs evolve as they progress through life, and this can potentially lead to misalignment between their housing requirements and the housing conditions that they are experiencing at a given point in time. A key policy challenge then is to create flexibility,” he said.

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