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Three ways to boost housing supply for older people – to help young and old

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall TD has called for actions to boost the supply of family homes in cities by building suitable accommodation in existing neighbourhoods for older people including ‘empty nesters’ who wish to down-size.

Deputy Shortall has set out three proposals to help tackle the housing crisis in urban areas, including a special designation category for older people’s housing needs.

The Dublin North West TD said:

“Clearly, there is an urgent need for the Government to be far more pro-active to ensure the building of large scale affordable and social housing.  However, a more strategic approach that takes into account our ageing population could make a very useful contribution to tackling the general demand for housing while meeting the needs of older people.

“Large numbers of houses, especially in our cities, are currently under-occupied. In more established housing developments in particular, it’s common to see older couples and single people or those who are widowed or divorced living in three or four-bedroom family homes.”

Deputy Shortall proposed these three actions to free up more family housing in urban areas:

Introduce special designation for older people’s housing

Other countries have special designation for older-people’s homes in housing developments. In Germany for example, housing estates have 10% of their units for this purpose, meaning that empty-nesters have the option to down-size within their own estates after their children have left home. In London, some housing has a special designation so that it can only be purchased by buyers aged over 55.

Fund local authorities to build Sheltered Housing Schemes

The Minister for Housing should fund an extensive programme of local authority Sheltered Housing Schemes so that local authority tenants who wish to down-size have more suitable options. There are many small in-fill sites in local neighbourhoods which are in public ownership and would be ideal for this. There are many examples of excellent senior-citizen schemes which are always in high demand, but unfortunately few if any of these are being built at present. From a planning perspective, this approach can achieve greater population density without the need for vast new housing estates or apartment developments.

Expand the Financial Contribution Scheme

The Financial Contribution Scheme allows homeowners to sell their homes to their local authority. In return for a contribution from the sale proceeds, these people are provided with a high quality, accessible and well-insulated housing unit in a Sheltered Housing Scheme.

Deputy Shortall added:

“Taking this kind of holistic and creative approach to housing would allow older people’s housing needs to be better met, while at the same time, freeing up large numbers of family homes in both the public and private sector which are dispersed in already established communities. It would be a win-win situation.”