Respond! was founded in Waterford in the early 1980s from Franciscan roots and membership. Founded by
Fr. Patrick Cogan, ofm, the first Directors of Respond! were Michael O’ Doherty, Jim Irish, Patrick Cogan, ofm and Jim Wallace.
At the time there was a need for housing for both young families and older persons in the city. The legal incorporation of Respond! as a company limited by guarantee took place in 1982, and as an approved housing association by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government in 1984.
Respond!’s first ever housing scheme was in Larchville, Waterford on a piece of land kindly set aside by Waterford City Council. This development contained 15 houses for older persons, along with a community room. Named Francis Court, it was officially opened on October 4th 1983 and was jointly funded by Waterford City Council and Respond! who depended on the very kind generosity of the people of Waterford at that time and throughout the 1980s, through all sorts of community collections and fundraising. The South Eastern Health Board also donated money in order to furnish the houses.
Several housing schemes were developed for young families by Respond! Housing Association over the next few years using a financial model initiated by the organisation itself, namely the Agency Agreement Model whereby young couples transferred their mortgages to Respond! Housing Association which undertook to provide design and project management for fixed-price new houses for them. This was in advance of any model of state-financed housing for families through housing associations and was very successful/
Respond! Housing Association was invited by the respective Ministers for the Environment to pioneer the development of the Capital Assistance Scheme from 1984 and the Capital Loan and Subsidy Scheme (then known as the Rental Subsidy Scheme) from 1991.
Some significant housing schemes built by Respond! Housing Association around this time include the following:
Shalom House, Youghal (an ecumenical regeneration scheme for older persons in partnership with Friends of Respond!, Youghal)
- Coopers Place, Ennis (a housing development for older persons in partnership with Friends of Respond!, Ennis)
- Lady Lane, Waterford (the redevelopment of the Sisters of Charity Convet, in association with the Care of the Aged Committee, into apartments for older persons, along with a Day Centre)
- Spring Gardens, Waterford (an integrated development of housing for families, for older persons and for Cura. This was the first Rental Subsidy Scheme in Ireland in 1991)
- Westlands, Wexford (on land kindly donated by a local solicitor, James O’ Connor, Respond! Housing Association provided integrated houisng for families and for older persons as well as a Day Centre)