Housing crisis: councillors want more done for those looking to downsize homes

More needs to be done to facilitate the growing number of older social housing tenants looking to downsize.

That’s according to local councillors, who say that all over the county, social housing tenants whose children have grown up would like to move into smaller one- or two-bed dwellings, which would free up larger houses for young families on the housing waiting list .

Speaking at a recent meeting after representatives received an update on the council’s new housing allocation scheme, the cathaoirleach, Cllr Aengus O’Rourke, was one of a number of councillors who highlighted the need for social housing that will meet the changing needs of Westmeath’s ageing population.

“I think a big opportunity for us is downsizing. People whose family members have moved on. I am coming across it more and more and more. People who are feeling the pinch of trying to maintain a three-bedroom house.

“It would make a lot more sense for them and us to see them in more appropriately sized accommodation. I think it would yield dividends across the housing sector.”

Cllr Frank McDermott said that he knows of a number of people who are looking to downsize “because him or her have moved upwards or sideways, or whatever, and want a different sized house to maintain”.

“It’s the maintenance and costing. I think we should focus more on providing [what they need]. We have enough place in Castlepollard, Delvin or Clonmellon to provide five or six units in each place. It would change the whole picture and be a huge success. I would encourage the executive to go down that road if they can.”

Cllr Tom Farrell said that “we all know people who want to downsize”.

“I think we have council lands that we could build some of these houses on and start the ball rolling. We have to put a plan in place.”

Cllr Denis Leonard said that council should look at the work carried out in Mayo by the former TD Dr Gerry Crowley.

“He built 30 or 40 one-beds for returning immigrants who may have fallen on hard times in London or somewhere else.

“They came back to live in their own communities in small one-bed houses with a day centre in the middle. What’s wrong with rolling out a model like that in Castlepollard, Delvin or Kinnegad?”

Cllr Paddy Hill said that he knows six or seven older people in his area who would like to downsize. He also paid tribute to the housing department staff.

“I know they treat people in a compassionate way. There are very sad cases out there,” he said.

Council response

Director of service Mark Keaveney said that when it comes to requests for downsizing, the council “will consider all options”.

“If there is anyone in that situation they should talk to the housing department. You have to have the units to downsize to. Our current delivery as it is coming through is moving to more closely match our housing lists in terms of one- and two-beds becoming more prevalent over the next number of years,” he said.