Nursing homes and empty houses

Sir, – Sean Kinsella (August 17th) uses some strong language about a possible change of public policy on vacant homes whose owners are in nursing homes.

He says: “One 93-year-old nursing home resident whom I visit cannot bring herself to talk about her house. It would be barbaric to put pressure on her to sign it over to someone else”.

I do not know the personal circumstances of Mr Kinsella’s friend. It could, however, be the case that she is a participant in the Fair Deal scheme in which she could be in receipt of a subvention, paid for by the taxpayer, of, say, €1,000 a week towards the cost of her care.

If that is the case, would it not be just and wise – in a country with a housing crisis – that Mr Kinsella’s friend’s home should enter the rental market with the bulk of the rental income allocated towards the cost of her care? Two birds with one stone: reduced costs for the taxpayer and another house available to a family.


In the event that Mr Kinsella’s friend were able to return home, she could, of course, do so at the end of a tenancy period. Throughout, she would retain ownership of her home.

That does not sound like barbarity to me at all, more like common sense for the common good. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 3.

Sir, – The Fair Deal system demands some contribution from residents but this is invariably not enough and the exchequer, ie the younger, working population has to subsidise the care of the elderly.

Medical inflation over the last few decades is only surpassed by house-price inflation so the majority of long-term care recipients will receive more than they have ever paid in taxes.

Perhaps Sean Kinsella should consider the fairness of a renter or would-be house buyer passing his friend’s (possibly large) empty house on the way to pay high taxes at work while paying an exorbitant price for his family’s essential accommodation. Sentimentality towards one’s own property is a luxury many younger people can only dream of.

It seems we have a nation of “selective libertarians” who bridle at Government attempts to improve society through economic incentives while demanding full share of their “entitlements” paid for by others.

True fairness must look at both side of the ledger. If it is fair to expect those with a large cash pile to pay for their own care why should those with significant unused assets be any different?

This is undoubtedly a thorny subject and once again our supposedly “progressive” parties are conspicuous by their silence.

The grey vote is a powerful lobby in Ireland. It is a brave politician who will balance their demands with the common good of all generations. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.