‘Rightsizing’ the right way to go to alleviate housing crisis

by Rose Barrett
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Rose Barrett

‘Rightsizing’ is definitely the correct route for Fingal County Council to take, claims Fingal  Councillor Dean Mulligan.

The Swords based councillor proposed a motion in recent months, calling on the Chief Executive “to develop a ‘right-sizing’ objective to be implemented on a pilot basis within this Area Committee.”

Mulligan believes the objective should consider all aspects of rightsizing, including but not limited to buying homes on the open market to be utilised by the council whilst providing sheltered accommodation in return (with specific terms of reference, to go on public display consultation).

Cllr Mulligan was hopeful that, should the objective be agreed, it could be acted on by Q2 of 2022.

“Essentially, I canvassed the whole of north county Dublin,” stated Cllr Mulligan who is also a social worker by profession.  “It was shocking to see the number of elderly individuals and couples who were living out of one or two rooms in massive family homes. This is largely due to the increasing cost-of-living and fuel prices – with the pension not providing enough to meet their heating needs.  

Cllr Dean Mulligan

“Many of these houses are expensive to heat as they have very average BER rating and are poorly insulated. People living in their own privately owned homes who have a massive asset with no mortgage but they are literally lighting a fire and wearing blankets in one or two rooms in their 3-5 bedroom homes. 

“Now that fuel prices have increased again, it will affect the vulnerable elderly and poorer elderly. We also have a cohort of over 55s who rent and continue to rent beyond pension age coupled with fuel cost, living cost, etc – they quite literally can’t afford to retire and heat their homes!”

In response to Cllr Mulligan’s motion, Fingal County Council stated it proposes to draft a pilot rightsizing scheme to encourage those living in properties in the ownership of the council, and to move into properties more suited to their needs, thereby releasing family homes back to the council. 

“The pilot scheme could also provide for private homeowners wishing to sell their properties to FCC, in return for a social tenancy in a property more suited to their needs. 

The details of the scheme remain to be finalised and engagement with Age-Friendly Alliance and other stakeholders will be required.”

The council noted the initiative “requires a considerable amount of work which may not be completed within the timeline referred to in the motion.”

“So, it goes far beyond social housing needs, it is about individualised supports and independent living in town centres near all amenities,” said Cllr Mulligan who referred to an Irish Times article in 2015 referring to the heat poverty experienced by many elderly couples or individuals living on their own.

“Albeit the report was issued in 2015, the findings are still pertinent,” said Cllr Mulligan. The journal referred to within the article states the elderly are particularly susceptible to colder temperatures in the winter months, from December to March.

People aged over 65 years are seven times more likely to be hospitalised during freezing temperatures, and those living in poorer conditions during cold weather are 2.5 times more likely to be hospitalised than those living in wealthier areas.

“I believe the rightsizing scheme will rehouse people from social houses who don’t need the larger units they are living in, and they could be provided with more appropriate units.

“As well as buying private homes to free up for bigger families who need them, the exiting home owners could be rehoused in independent living apartments – if it is something they want. It would only ever happen if an individual or couple sought to be considered for the scheme. The terms of reference have not been drawn up yet but I’m excited to see it recognised and agreed at council level,” concluded Cllr Mulligan.

“In the meantime, we need to insulate the homes of elderly and vulnerable people as a priority.” 

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