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COMMENT: Older people can’t solve housing crisis

Monday, 21st August, 2017 7:59am
COMMENT: Older people can’t solve housing crisis

The focus should be on keeping elderly people in their communities. PHOTO: BIGSTOCK

COMMENT: Older people can’t solve housing crisis

The focus should be on keeping elderly people in their communities. PHOTO: BIGSTOCK

COMMENT: Sean Moynihan, CEO of ALONE.

ON BEHALF of ALONE, the charity that supports older people to age at home, I have concerns over the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government’s announcement last week that the Government is exploring changes to the Fair Deal Nursing Home Support Scheme that would encourage and facilitate the use of vacant properties of those in nursing home care.

Minister Murphy is in consultations with the HSE and Department of Finance to facilitate the use of such properties in a new 'Vacant Homes Strategy' which will be launched next month.

As the Government’s policy is to support older people to age at home, we are concerned that this announcement by Minister Murphy sends conflicting messages and places older people in a difficult position as it may lead the public to believe that older people are blocking the housing market.  The number of houses left vacant by those in nursing home care is small but the principle of protecting older people is a larger issue.

The Government’s focus should be on supply and meeting the demand for housing in line with demographic change. The Government and councils are the only ones who can deliver on the scale that is needed. Previous schemes have not worked but they do take up valuable resources and time.

This proposal contains no solutions for older people and is ignoring the fact that there is actually a shortage of suitable housing for older people. Each person and family has a unique situation and it’s not always as easy as simply selling or renting the house. We need to be building houses and addressing the needs of older people, offering them smaller units in the community and giving them the choice to ‘downsize’ if they choose.

ALONE believes that the Government needs to focus their energy on further housing choices for older people in the community. Currently, 48 per cent of people over 50 have housing condition problems and we have expressed concern at the insufficient and inconsistent housing adaptation grants.

At ALONE, we have been calling on the Government to look at housing with support models for older people so that they can age in the community. The demand for this model is 4,200 by 2020. Older people want to age at home. If they wanted to vacate their properties and sell or rent, they would – but there are complicated stories behind each person. We urge the Government to prioritise the development of social housing and ensure older people aren’t forgotten.

The waiting list for social housing for older people will double from 6,954 to 12,672 by 2022, which equates to over 33 per cent of the forecasted 47,000 social housing units to be built within Rebuilding Ireland’s lifetime. 

If we build more housing for older people who are on the social list – or they can buy suitable, affordable housing – we will ease some of the pressure on the housing market.

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