Tuesday 16 January 2018

Older people downsizing could release 100,000 family homes

Housing Minister Simon Coveney. Photo: Tom Burke
Housing Minister Simon Coveney. Photo: Tom Burke
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Up to six years' supply of first-time buyer homes could be released to the market if older people were given options to downsize to smaller units.

A report from the Housing Agency and Ireland Smart Ageing Exchange (ISAX) says Ireland's older population could be willing to move to a smaller home, freeing up units for families, so long as they remained living in their communities.

The 'Housing for Older People - Thinking Ahead' report says there is an "unmet need" for 100,000 'step-down' housing units, which would cost €25bn to build.

"This is the first time we have had this type of valuation of the potential market," it says. "If provided, these new homes could also free-up housing equivalent to at least six years' supply for first-time buyers."

It comes after the ESRI controversially suggested last March that older people be given cash incentives to move out of their homes and free up housing for families.

Read more: Emotional ties trump lure of cash as 'empty nesters' stay put

The think-tank suggested that some 26,000 older homeowners could be encouraged to move out as their children no longer lived with them, but it also outlined potential problems, such as negative effects on the health of the people who move.

The proportion of Ireland's population who are over 65 years of age is to double from one eighth today to a quarter of the population by 2050. By 2050, Ireland will be home to 458,000 people over the age of 80. There are currently 130,000.

The research says the vast majority of older people (88pc) are very happy with their current home, but it finds the link may be stronger to the community than the property. More than 50pc said staying in their local community was key, while 28pc cited staying in contact with friends and neighbours. One in five said the type of property they lived in negatively impacted 'a lot' on their ease of living.

The report makes several key recommendations including a requirement that age-friendly housing be included in all local authority development plans, and high-density development in existing communities.


"Given the evidence that older persons overwhelmingly want to stay within their communities, this means explicit commitments by local authorities in urban areas to 'densify the suburbs," it says. "This does not mean allowing inappropriate heights - but does require authorities to permit four and five-storey buildings. In addition, it requires authorities to look favourably on sites undergoing a change of use."

It says bridging finance is needed to allow people secure a new home before moving out of their existing property, but this does not appear to be a "priority" for banks.

The Department of Housing said that among planned measures were initiatives for older people, including a 60-unit project for Dublin City Council, while a €100,000 prize fund had been announced to support a 'smart ageing' design challenge to develop new forms of housing.

Irish Independent

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