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Housing

Irish Government ‘will move heaven and earth’ for older renters facing eviction, says minister

A new report finds a quarter of older renters expect to remain in rental sector for the rest of their lives.

LAST UPDATE | 11 May 2023

THE IRISH GOVERNMENT will “move heaven and earth” to assist older renters facing eviction, according to Minister for Finance Michael McGrath.

“We’re not going to allow older people to be in that situation,” he said during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil today.

His comments come after a joint report from ALONE and Threshold found that a quarter of older renters expect to remain in the private rental sector for life as they felt no other accommodation options were available to them.

‘The Double Deficit: Older and Ageing Persons in the Irish Private Rental Sector’ report sets out findings of considerable deficits in the private rental sector to meet the needs of older renters in Ireland.

Research was formed from interviews with older renters in the private sector and an analysis of the RTB dataset.

It was found that 42% of participants experienced high stress levels in the private rental sector associated with the insecurity of their accommodation, citing that this stress was impacting all aspects of their lives.

The substantial cost of renting in the private rental sector was referenced among participants, with over half of interviewees in receipt of HAP (Housing Assistance Payment).

17% of interviewees noted that landlords were reluctant to accept HAP and in some cases refused to.

Stress related to insecure accommodation was aggravated by other areas of concern, such as older age profiles, illness and health conditions, family composition and low income.

McGrath said the Government was treating the issue seriously, stating that the Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien would consider the report’s findings.

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He said the Government would step in to find solutions in individual cases, while adding that he understood that does not remove the stress when an eviction notice is served on someone.

‘Dignity for older people’

“As a state we have a good record of treating older people with dignity, with respect and we will support them. We will find solutions in those individual cases where these issues arise,” he said. 

The report gives “a reminder of a number of fundamental truths. We have an ageing population. The number of people aged 65 and older is going to double over the coming decade or so”, said the minister. 

He said in the coming decades there will be only two of people of working age for every pensioner, which will have implications for healthcare and home care.

McGrath said said Government plan to step up the delivery of age-friendly housing and public housing.

“I just want to give an assurance that particularly when it comes to older people who are served with an eviction notice, we will move heaven and earth to help them and to find the solution,” he said. 

“We have some fantastic examples all over the country of retirement villages where there are shared services, where people can live close to an urban centre and be part of a community with access to facilities and services. And we need far, far more of that to be developed over the period ahead,” said McGrath. 

Labour’s Ivana Bacik said that this issue was a the “ticking time bomb” in the housing crisis, pointing out that more and more people are renting into their older years.

She highlighted that even with supports, the state pension of €13,000 per year is not going to be enough money for older people to rent in years to come.

The report’s findings stated that while the State is planning for the economic impacts of a population growing older, “similar evidence-informed planning appears absent in respect of age-appropriate accommodation for growing numbers of older people”.

Urgent action 

It concluded that the absence of data and planning for older people’s accommodation is “an immediate problem that require an urgent, strategic response at national and local levels”.

CEO of ALONE, a charity which assists people as they age at home, Seán Moynihan said:  

“The report highlights what we have seen building and have been campaigning on for 10 years. This evidence now further shows the housing needs of older people and proves the effect of no security of tenure for older people in the rental sector.”

“Older people in private rented accommodation have lower standards of living and have poorer health & wellbeing outcomes.”

“We need to plan and build for this increasing amount of people, before it is too late, for whom renting is their only  housing option. This report highlights the areas that we need to focus on now, including ring fencing social housing, in line with demand, specifically for older people to meet this need now and in the near future.

“The alternative is that the current system will lead to large levels homelessness and poor housing conditions in old age,” he concluded.

Older renters were found to be more likely to be living alone and renting for longer periods than their younger counterparts in the sector. 

They were also more likely to be in receipt of rental assistance.

Those aged 65+ and renting from a private landlord were likely to be spending more than 35% of their disposable income on rent (CSO 2021).

Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin has welcomed the publication of the report. 

“Sinn Féin supports [the report's] recommendations regarding social and affordable housing, adaptation grants and security of tenure, and we urge government to actively consider these proposals,” Ó Broin said. 

“For too long, successive Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael-led governments have-over relied on the private rental sector to meet social and affordable housing need. The result has been insecurity and high costs for too many older people and scandalously rising levels of homelessness,” he said. 

“The solution is to dramatically increase the delivery of social and affordable housing and to ensure an adequate portion of this housing meets the needs of older people for social housing, affordable rental housing and appropriate rightsizing housing options.”

Asked how the Government could encourage more older people to rightsize, Ó Broin said that there needed to be more age-appropriate accommodation in communities.

“What they need is the right kind of accommodation in the right place and that generally means within their existing community, close to their family and friends in the parish, the bingo hall et cetera,” Ó Broin said.

“I think one of the problems with this government housing plan is their focus has just been on supply, supply, supply, as opposed to the right kind of supply in the right place to meet the needs of diverse groups of people.”

With reporting by Hayley Halpin and Christina Finn

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