Housing crisis looming for older people, two Ministers warn

Damien English and Jim Daly say in future far greater proportion will be in private rented sector

A housing and care crisis for older people is looming due to an over-concentration on nursing homes and lack of alternative supported accommodation, two Ministers have warned.

Minister of State for Housing Damien English and Minister of State for Older People Jim Daly said a far greater proportion of people coming into old age would be in the private rented sector in coming decades than at present. Many would be reliant on State housing supports or need sheltered housing or nursing home care.

The Ministers hosted a conference on Tuesday on the future of housing for older people. The main issue examined was the dearth of options between living independently and going into a nursing home.

“We do know there is going to be a major increase in the numbers renting their homes,” said Mr English. “That’s why we’re here. We want to plan ahead. How do we use our existing resources, our existing land banks, how do we partner with the private sector to bring forward new models and new choices.”


The conference heard about a housing with support model in Inchicore, Dublin, run by Circle Housing and Alone, and funded by the Department of Housing. Community facilities are funded by the HSE.

A second project, in Kilmaley, Co Clare, provides 30 houses for the elderly and a day centre operated by the Kilmaley Voluntary Housing Association. The houses were funded by the Department of Housing and the day centre by the HSE. In its 20 years, none of the Kilmaley project's residents went into a nursing home.

A nursing home place costs up to €2,000 a week while in these projects the cost is about €100 per person, a week.

Only housing associations and local authorities can secure funding for these projects. Ongoing HSE funding may not be guaranteed. They remain unattractive for private sector investment.

In contrast, said Mr Daly, 80 per cent of the 26,600 nursing home beds are provided by the private sector, with substantial HSE funding.

“So there are glaring anomalies which we are trying to rectify, join up the Departments of Housing and Health and reach out to the private sector . . . I would love to see the nursing home providers – they are doing an outstanding job – but there are billions of euro being spent on that industry and I would like to see us being more creative, us as a State and the private sector.”

Mr English said the models outlined were needed on a far larger scale. He said he agreed that there was “potentially a huge housing crisis for older people coming down the tracks” that people were not yet talking about.

“I would agree and so we want to have the conversation . . . We’re very clear, our job as a Government is to do the thinking and plan ahead. And there is also demand today.

“It’s the combination of the State, working together with the private sector, that’s how you get increased supply. What we want here too is increased choice. It’s very easily done. It’s a matter of rearranging our thinking.”

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times