Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

10.43 18 Apr 2021


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The decline of home ownership in Ireland will have knock-on effects for the State as people get older, according to a housing expert.

This week, Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien will bring proposals to Cabinet calling for developers to set aside 20% of their properties for local authorities in the form of social and affordable housing.

Michelle Norris, Professor of Social Policy at UCD researching and teaching on housing policy and urban regeneration, said the news was a positive development.

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However, speaking to Newstalk Breakfast with Susan Keogh, Professor Norris said that there will be implications for the State far beyond housing if people don't own their own homes when they retire.

She explained that the affordable housing provision was suspended in 2014 and its resumption is now being proposed by Minister O'Brien.

"A similar provision was in place from 2000 until 2014 which allowed Government to take up to 20% of new private developments for social housing or for affordable housing for sale at less than market value," she said.

"It was suspended for logical reasons in 2014, the housing market had crashed, and the local authorities found that they had taken houses from developers under these provisions and the way the legislation works, they take them at the time of planning permission and they effectively cost price them at that time."

home ownership Construction workers on scaffolding back on sites building apartments and social housing on the north side area of Dublin Docklands last week. Photo: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

She continued: "But the actual market price of dwellings had fallen below the cost price a couple of years previously, so authorities were left with quite a lot affordable housing stock they couldn't sell at that time.

"Obviously, the market has rebounded now, prices are significantly higher and there's lots of people who are unable to buy houses and home ownership has fallen quite significantly in Ireland in recent decades.

"This mechanism will provide them with an avenue to buy houses but obviously, as we know from our previous experience, it does bring risk for Government."

Costs to be met by taxpayer

Professor Norris said that people not being able to own their own homes will have a "very negative impact" as they get older.

One such impact is related to the assumption underlying Ireland's pension system that people will own their own homes and will have little to no housing costs when they retire.

"If this isn't the case for people, we have to come up with a way of enabling them to pay their rent," she said.

Other than the Government making HAP available to people on retirement, there is no other "obvious solution", she added.

"If people don't own their own homes, there are knock-on effects for the State, there's knock-on effects for their security in old age," Professor Norris explained.

"The fair deal scheme, for example, is based on people giving a proportion of the value of their house towards their care costs in old age.

"If that's not available, those costs will have to be met by the Exchequer.

"So falling home ownership has very significant social implications and implications for other policies apart from housing."

Main image: File photo of building and construction sites for new housing estates in northern Dublin city. Photo: RollingNews.ie

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