Government promises to “move heaven and earth” for older renters facing eviction
As the average life expectancy in Ireland continues to rise, so too does the amount of older people seeking affordable rental accommodation.
Minister for Finance Michael McGrath has promised to assist older renters facing an eviction by declaring that he “will move heaven and earth” to help their plight.
The Fianna Fáil politician’s comments come after a new report produced by ALONE in conjunction with Threshold, found that up to a quarter of older renters envisage spending the rest of their lives in the rental market given the dearth of affordable alternatives.
“We’re not going to allow older people to be in that situation”, Mr. McGrath said during a grilling from opposition during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil on Thursday.
Earlier this month, it was announced that homelessness figures had reached record heights during March. This statistic was made all the more concerning given the impact of April’s lifting of the eviction ban had yet to be felt.
In this new report, entitled ‘The Double Deficit: Older and Ageing Persons in the Irish Private Rental Sector’, the deficiencies within the Irish rental market for its older participants are highlighted.
Finding that 42% of respondents had experienced high stress levels due to insecurity stemming from their rental accommodation situation, it found that this stress had impacted all aspects of renters’ lives.
Over half of interviewees declared themselves as being in receipt of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), with a further 17% claiming that landlords were either reluctant or unwilling to accept HAP tenants.
Mr. McGrath stated to Leinster House that he was taking the issue seriously, and that Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien would consider the findings of the report.
Minister O’Brien himself faced staunch criticism last week, coming out refuting claims that he was a “spoofer” who had failed to remedy Ireland’s acute housing crisis.
“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”, said the Finance Minister.
With the average life expectancy continually rising, resulting in the doubling in size of Ireland’s over 65 community over the next decade, the Minister remarked that the report serves “as a reminder of a number of fundamental truths”.
He added that by 2033, there will only be two people of working age for every pensioner in Ireland and that the government would seek to ramp up the availability of age-friendly 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 find the solution”.
Labour leader Ivana Bacik responded to Mr. McGrath’s comments by labelling the issue of older renters a “ticking time bomb”, and adding that the €13,000 per year state pension is not going to be an adequate amount to help older people secure rental accommodation in the coming years.
Also contained within the report were statistics which highlighted that older renters were more likely to be living alone and renting for longer periods than younger renters.
Furthermore, those renting from a private landlord who are aged 65+ were likely to be outlaying more than 35% of their disposable income on rent.
The report concluded that the absence of data and planning for older people’s accommodation was “an immediate problem that requires an urgent, strategic response at national and local levels”.
Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin also weighed in on the report’s findings, claiming that the government has relied far too heavily on the private market to rectify its own shortcomings.
“For too long, successive Fianna Fail 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”.
Mr. Ó Broin added that the coalition should shift their focus from supply at all costs, towards “the right kind of supply in the right place to meet the needs of diverse groups of people”.
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