Report calls for ‘innovative thinking’ to match housing to older people’s needs
English says within five years half of all new apartments and one third of new housing will have to be suitable for older people
Minister for Housing Damien English and Minister for Mental Health and Older People Jim Daly at the launch of Housing Options for our Ageing Population. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins
The construction industry and Government need to “step up” if the rapidly increasing need for older people’s accommodation is to be met, Minister of State with responsibility for housing, Damien English, has warned.
Speaking following the publication of a new 40-point Government policy, Housing Options for our Ageing Population, Mr English said within five years half of all new apartments and one third of new housing would have to be suitable for older people.
He said it was no longer acceptable that older people’s housing options were limited to either complete independence at home or complete dependence in a nursing home setting.
The report calls for “innovative thinking” on matching housing to older people’s needs, including schemes to assist older council home tenants in family-size homes to move to smaller council dwellings, as well as possible incentives for older homeowners to “right-size” within their communities.
“The number of people over the age of 65 is expected to reach 1.4 million by 2040, or about 23 per cent of the population,” the report says.
Currently, this cohort accounts for about 13 per cent of the population.
Among the innovative schemes Government will fund is a currently small-scale project, Ava, which helps older people to reconfigure their family-size homes to create a rental property within it. This enables the older person to stay in their home, receive a rental income and have the security of having a younger adult in the same building.
“We are providing €250,000 for a grant scheme with Ava to do five more of these projects, and from that we can look at how we can do more of these into the future. There will be research with the Department of Finance on some of these to look at whether there need to be incentives coming up to budget time to help people right-size.”
He also wants to see all local authorities providing dedicated assistance to older social housing tenants wanting to move to smaller council properties, and local authorities working with the HSE to develop retirement-type communities where people have own-door accommodation with supports available.
He said industry would also have to step up.
The reports says Government will “ensure that 50 per cent of apartments...are suitable for older people/mobility impaired people, and [will] develop a template layout guide” for this.
The Department of Housing will work “with industry to introduce measures to ensure that over a five-year period delivery is increased to ensure that 30 per cent of all new dwellings are built to incorporate universal design principals to accommodate our ageing population”.
Funding for the housing adaptation grant scheme will be increased, and the application process reviewed and streamlined.
While currently 85 per cent of people over 65 owned their homes, Mr English agreed this was projected to decrease as the private-rented market became the permanent housing option for more and more younger people.
“So, yes, the State will have to be ready for that. If a large number of those people are reliant on the State pension they will need the State to assist with their housing needs as older people.”