Housing policy ageism in Ireland

Housing policy ageism has been in the news in Ireland this week. It was prompted when Ireland’s Economic and Social Research Institute published controversial research entitled Housing and Ireland’s Older Population.

Lack of affordable housing is a major problem in Ireland at the moment.  The ESRI research explored the idea of  incentivising older people to move.

If older people remain in larger houses which were purchased with a view to housing families with growing children, then such houses are not available for the next generation of younger families. Similarly, if older people remain close to places of work after retirement, they may contribute to the limiting of supply in urban centres. — Source: Housing and Ireland’s Older People, ESRI, 2016.

But the idea came in for criticism from organisations representing older people. Some felt the research displayed housing policy ageism while others pointed out the lack of housing choice.

I’m inclined to agree with the critics. I think that people should be able to remain in their homes for as long as they want to.  That’s not to say that if better housing choices were available, older people mightn’t choose to move. Some, at least, would likely welcome an opportunity to avail of accommodation offering greater convenience, amenities and security. The problem is that such accommodation is in short supply in Ireland. We could, perhaps, do with some developments like the Bennett Village in Halton Hills in Canada that are designed to support older people living independently for as long as they are able.

Personally, I’m alarmed at the idea of singling out older people and I was pleased to see Professor Sabina Brennan challenging the ESRI research for ageism.  Although in fairness to the ESRI, the publication does point out that “any economic benefit which might accrue from the mobility of older people should be set against possible costs in terms of social connectedness and health”.

The research was sponsored by the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) and the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland. If you’re interested, you can read the ESRI report here.