New social housing regeneration project in Cork City

Cllr Tony Fitzgerald, John O’Connor, Chair of Respond Housing, Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Simon Coveney TD, Declan Dunne, CEO Respond Housing, Cllr John Sheehan, Lord Mayor Cllr Des Cahill,  and Anne Doherty, CEO Cork City Council at the turning of the sod on a reconstruction project which will see 10 new homes for older people provided in Dublin Street, Cork.

On 20th February 2017 Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Simon Coveney TD turned the sod on a reconstruction project which will see 10 new homes for older people provided in Dublin Street, Cork City

This marks the next phase of Respond’s regeneration work in this area of Cork which over the next 3 years will see 240 social housing units added to the complement in Cork.

Minister Coveney said:

“I’m delighted to be here today to turn the sod on this project to provide homes for the elderly being delivered by Respond. I’d like to acknowledge their great work to deliver homes with appropriate community-based supports for older people and I’m pleased that over €2m is being made available by my Department to fund this project. Approved Housing Bodies such as Respond! are critical in meeting the ambitious social housing targets in Rebuilding Ireland – the Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness.”

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Simon Coveney TD, John O’Connor, Chair of Respond Housing and Declan Dunne, CEO Respond

Respond! CEO Declan Dunne said:

“Respond! has a long and proud history in this area of Cork city. Dublin Street is only the beginning of our next phase of regeneration in the area. Our highly-regarded 51 unit St Francis Gardens development in Blackpool already has a range of wrap-around supports for our older tenants including a Day Centre. Dublin Street residents when they move in will have access to these services so they will know they are never alone and there is always a helping hand.

We are delighted today to commence work on Dublin Street as the first of many projects we aim to develop in Cork City, at a total of 240 new social homes over the next 3 years. We look forward to working with Cork City Council to provide housing and other support services to people in most need. All of us in the housing sector have a duty to do the most we can to help provide the 47,000 new social houses Ireland needs as planned for in Rebuilding Ireland. Respond is willing and ready to play our part to tackle our homelessness crisis with housing solutions on the ground”

John O’COnnor, Chair of Respond Housing, Brad Marrow, Respond Housing, Declan Dunne, CEO Respond Housing, Richard Vaughan, Architect Respond Housing and Ned Brenan, Chief Operations Officer Respond Housing at the turning of the sod on a reconstruction project which will see 10 new homes for older people provided in Dublin Street, Cork.


Declan Dunne, CEO Respond Housing Association, Colm Cronin, Project Manager HG Construction, Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Simon Coveney TD and Ronnie Hennessy, Director HG Construction at the turning of the sod on a reconstruction project

The Dublin Street project consists of 10 units (5 x 1 bed and 5 x 2 bed) at a project value of €2.15 million which will be funded through the Department of Housing’s Capital Assistance Scheme (CAS). The contractor is HG Construction and the estimated completion date is January 2018.

Responding to Social Isolation through Technology Conference – February 2017

The Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation, John Halligan T.D. pictured with Declan Dunne Respond!, Jordi Tolra, Vincles Project, Barcelona, CEO, Prof. Cathal O’Connell, UCC, Sean Moynihan, CEO Alone, Ms.Long Pham, Smart Cities Initiative, Dr. Lorcan Byrne, Respond, Marie O’Gorman, Silver Surfer Competition Winner, Philip O’Reilly, National Coordinator of Services for Older People, Dr.Eleanor Bantry-White, UCC and Prof. Mark Wilson, Loughborough University, Tyndell National Institute, UCC before the start of the “Responding to Social Isolation Through Technology” Conference at Respond, John’s College.

This national conference jointly hosted by the School of Applied Social Studies, University College Cork and Respond! Housing Association took place on 10th November 2017 at Johns College, Waterford

1Responding to Social Isolation through Technology” heard from a range of experts and practitioners on methods to deal with loneliness and examined innovative responses to one of the major social issues of the digital age.

Loneliness and the social isolation associated with it has been described as one of the most significant challenges for contemporary societies and poses profound implications for the well- being of individuals, communities and humanity at large.

3This half day conference is essentially a follow on to the highly successful “Responding to Isolation & Loneliness: Housing and Community Perspectives” conference which took place in November 2015 at the same venue.

19Many of the effects of loneliness and isolation have been captured in quality of life indicators and impacts people regardless of age, gender, income or ethnicity.  Responding effectively to social isolation and loneliness poses challenges for governments, policy makers, service providers, NGOs, communities, households and families.   Effective responses makes good sense not only in social terms by addressing quality of life issues, but also financially by alleviating pressure and demand for services as people remain healthy and supported in their own homes in their own communities.

34A problem of the contemporary age necessitates a response which takes account of the realities of a complex world where communication between people is increasingly technology based, is often instantaneous and is global in reach. While communications technology brings undoubted challenges and barriers such as cost, acquisition of digital skills, availability and accessibility and the risk of deepening individualisation, it can also be harnessed to innovate for new modes of interaction and social engagement between people and communities. Respond Housing and the School of Applied Social Studies, University College Cork together have been reflecting on the issue of loneliness and isolation as social housing landlord and community engaged social researchers respectively and this conference presents a range of perspectives  and case studies on how such themes can be examined, understood, and responded to in a digital age.

17Opening the conference Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation Mr. John Halligan T.D., highlighted that responding effectively to social isolation and loneliness poses challenges for governments, policy makers, service providers, our communities, and families.   We need effective responses across a broad range of areas, which will address not alone the quality of life issues, but also financial issues whereby people can be supported in their own homes and in their own communities.8

1210Respond! Chief Executive Officer Declan Dunne said:

Loneliness is a killer. This is no exaggeration. A 2010 review of over 140 studies found that the influence of social isolation on early mortality is comparable to well-established risk factors such as smoking and has a greater impact than factors such as obesity and physical obesity.

“We have to ensure our older relatives and friends do not become even more isolated in this new information age and in fact, learn to use and be comfortable with new technology which will enable them to stay in touch with their families and be involved in the national conversation. We in Respond commit use the learnings from today’s conference to start the journey to ensure our cohort of older residents have the skills and technology available to them to stay connected to the wider world.”

145According to Professor Cathal O’Connell of the School of Applied Social Studies of University College Cork “this is an issue faced by many societies and its effects have been captured in a range of quality of life indicators across age, gender, income and ethnicity. While communications technology brings undoubted challenges and barriers, it can also be harnessed to innovate for new modes of interaction and social engagement between people and communities”, he said.


Seán Moynihan Alone Presentation

Jordi Tolra Vincles Project Barcelona Presentation

Long Pham Tyndall National Institute Presentation

Professor Mike Wilson Loughborough University Presentation

*2010 review of 140 studies on social isolation and loneliness: Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. and Layton, J. (2010) ‘Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review’, PLoS Med, 7(7).

Photos by Noel Browne

Posted: February 2017





Successful Brief Interventions for Smoking Cessation – Johns College

David Phelan Facilities Co Ordinator of Respond! Housing delivered a brief Intervention for Smoke Cessation to residents in Johns College last November 2016

Johns College residentsTwo residents Goff Harris and James Lannigan who attended this intervention have managed to quit and are delighted with the results.

Geoff smoke more than 40 cigs a day and has kicked the habit and James was on 35 a day also has not smoked since November.

Geoff said “I feel great and I am saving myself a fortune”. “This is the best decision I made to go on this course”

James says “He is more than 50 days off them now and he is sleeping better and his wife is delighted that he doesn’t smoke any more.

Group support

Group courses are usually six weeks long and meet once a week for about an hour. In the first session the members of the group introduce themselves, they review past attempts to quit, determine reasons for quitting and set a quit date for the group. At follow-up meetings, the residents discuss their progress, address any difficulties, swap coping tips, and encourage one another to stay quit. All residents carbon monoxide levels were measured (before and after quitting), their level of nicotine addiction, and recommend medical treatment.

Brief Intervention

Brief Interventions are a range of effective behaviour change interventions that are client-centred, short in duration and provided in a variety of settings by healthcare professionals. They use an empathic approach, emphasising self-efficacy, personal responsibility for change and information giving including details of resources available to support change.

For smoking cessation, brief interventions involve opportunistic advice, discussion, negotiation and encouragement and typically take between 3 and 10 minutes. Interventions may involve referral to a more intensive treatment. For more information please contact David Phelan on 051 840200

Posted January 2017:  David Phelan

Housing Sector Priorities Conference – March 2017

Declan Dunne, CEO with Respond! will be speaking at the conference entitled:

Priorities for the housing sector in Ireland: examining the challenges in social and private housing following Rebuilding Ireland  

taking place on Wednesday, 29th March 2017

This timely seminar will assess the future of housing policy in Ireland.

It follows the launch of the ‘Rebuilding Ireland’ Action Plan on housing and homelessness, which seeks to increase the delivery of homes in Ireland, and the funding allocated to housing in the recent budget.

Delegates will consider the five pillars of the action plan – including addressing homelessness, accelerating social housing, building more homes, improving the rental sector and utilising existing housing – and assess the challenges to implementation, particularly focusing on cost and construction issues within the private market, waiting lists for social housing and the limits to government spending through capital funding.

Those attending will also assess the priorities for Government, particularly in relation to initiatives such as the First Time Buyers Scheme, the Rental Strategy, and the allocation of increased funding for social housing.

For this conference we expect speakers and other delegates to be an informed group including Members of the Oireachtas, senior government officials involved in this area of public policy, together with representatives from banking, finance and the law, the construction sector, landlords and tenancy groups, local authorities and housing associations.

For more information please click here

Ardrew, Athy, Co Kildare – Awards

20170103_094417Well done to residents of Ardrew Meadows in Athy who won first place for Best Kept Large Estate in the Athy Tidy Towns competition.

Ardrew Athy also came second  the Pride of Place in the Community Development category plus a huge well done to residents Jackie and Paul O’ Rourke in Ardrew who won ‘Best Garden’ in Kildare.

Best Garden Jackie and Paul O'Rourke

Pictured picking up the awards are Jackie and Paul O’ Rourke and Sr. Dolores Grady accepting the Community Development award on behalf of the community in Ardrew.

Posted by: Tom Walsh January 2017


Responding to Social Isolation through Technology Conference – Friday 10th February

This national conference jointly hosted by the School of Applied Social Studies, University College Cork and Respond! Housing Association brings together a range of national and international experts to explore innovative responses to the challenges posed by social isolation and loneliness. This conference will be of interest to policy makers, service providers, community and voluntary organisations, the ICT sector, and students and practitioners in the social professions.

This half day conference is essentially a follow on to the highly successful “Responding to Isolation & Loneliness: Housing and Community Perspectives” conference which took place in November 2015 at the same venue.


There will also be a number of information stands present on the day representing various Statutory, Community, Voluntary agencies as well as IT firms in this sector.

There is no charge for this conference but you must reserve a place by contacting Philip O’Reilly on (051) 840204 or

There will be a light lunch served in the Hub Café in John’s College following the conference.

Retrofit of Social Homes reduces cost for Social Housing Tenants

Some of the older houses, apartments and community buildings that comprise the Irish Social housing stock are a product of the age when they were built. They are largely heated by storage heating, back boilers or in the case of later builds gas or oil boilers which are now proving to be inefficient and thus more expensive to run. With the poor heat retention of the older structures, heating them is labour and material intensive and costly for the tenants.

Works to Respond! homes

Retrofitting the structures with insulation, modern windows and heat pumps lowers the running cost and improves quality of life for the occupant by allowing a greater availability of heat at a fraction of the previous cost and much less physical effort. Storage of fuel and disposal of ashes etc. is also reduced or totally removed.

Experience has shown that the occupant tends to become more energy conscious as less of their disposable income is spent on heating due to the higher level of comfort and control.

berUpgrading these dwellings leads, not only to a warmer more comfortable home, but happier and healthier occupants in a much improved BER rated structure and a significant step towards meeting Irelandʼs carbon emissions reduction targets.

Through the umbrella of the BEC Scheme a Project Co-Ordinator manages all the skill sets needed to retrofit the occupied dwellings. The Project Co-Ordinator for the recent works carried out in Waterford in 2015 and Cork in 2016 were EnviroBead based in Mallow, Co. Cork. Their experienced team normally consists of heating specialists, window fitters, insulation fitters, electricians, labourers, contract managers etc.

The Contractor: Envirobead

Niall McCarthy of EnviroBead partnered with Respond! Housing Association on the SEAI Better Energy Communities (BEC) Scheme to enable Respond! progress the Energy Efficiency upgrades to their existing housing stock. Working together, the Respond Management team and EnviroBead, set about identifying suitable properties and compiling the information required by SEAI for the BEC scheme applications.

As Project Co-ordinator, EnviroBead’s role was to manage the project from inception, through to successful completion. A key element for EnviroBead, was to liaise with the Respond tenants in the housing units, informing them of the proposed works, and scheduling the works in such a manner, so as to minimise the disruption to the tenants throughout the project.

EnviroBead used their extensive experience in the energy efficiency industry to engage with Energy Providers, to obtain part funding for the projects in return for the Energy Credits generated on the projects. EnviroBead also used its excellent working relationships with sub-contractors, and market leading suppliers (such as Daikin for the heat pumps), to obtain extremely competitive prices, thus increasing the financial competitiveness of the projects.

Over the past number of years, EnviroBead have worked successfully with Respond on a number of BEC projects, obtaining up to 60% funding for Respond’s Energy Efficiency Upgrade works.

The Client: Respond! Housing Association

Established in 1982, with a current housing stock of in excess of 4000 units, Respond Housing Association have been very proactive carrying out deep retrofits over a number of years. 2015 saw Respond! carry out various BEC schemes to allow hundreds of homes to be upgraded from BER G rating to BER B rating in Dublin, Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford, Waterford to name a few. In 2016 units are being installed in Cork City and County estates.

The homes received Daikin Altherma air to water heat pumps, LED lighting upgrades, attic space insulation, wall pumped insulation, inset solid fuel stoves and new external doors and windows. Most of the refurbishments were single and two -storey units built in the early 1990s and were in need of refurbishment.

The wall construction is a normally cavity wall with (by todayʼs standards) a minimum of insulation and, until the upgrade, the primary heating system was open fire and back boiler. Aside from poor thermal performance, the buildings themselves on an Asset Management basis were due an upgrade.

The homes were assessed by Respondʼs Property Team and Regional Managers with respect to their requirement and suitability for an upgrade and application was made to be included in SEAI Better Energy Community Scheme 2015 and again in 2016.

Respond!ʼs Technical Service Officers comment

Respond Housing places our tenantsʼ needs at the heart of our business. We are committed to maintaining and upgrading our housing stock throughout the country, for now and into the future. Of primary importance to us is alleviating fuel poverty faced by our residents.

Energy upgrades mean vastly reduced heating bills for residents particularly when gas and electricity costs are rising. This in turn leads to greater disposable income for our residents as well as warmer, more comfortable homes. Energy upgrades are a win-win for the resident, the housing provider, the contractor, the local economy and the wider environment. When it comes to properties to be re-furbished heat pumps are our first option considered, when selecting a replacement heating and hot water system.

Respond!ʼs Head of Property states:

“Respond! are very happy with the quality and professionalism and back-up supplied during the fit-out and afterwards by Envirobead and in particular Daiken and their colleagues. We hope to repeat these works in further developments.”

The Occupants

The teamʼs experience has created awareness that change is a significant challenge to many occupants, so time was taken to meet the residents of each estate, as a group, to make them aware of the proposed works and how they would benefit. They were assured and given costs showing that their heating bills would reduce very significantly and their comfort levels would rise as significantly.

How the heat pumps worked and how they could easily control their usage was emphasised and repeated as necessary with the installer providing individual instruction as and when required. With the simple-to-use Daikin controller, most were quickly put at ease.

Most tenants have a clear knowledge of their heating costs and very quickly they begin to understand that they are now fuel rich rather than fuel poor, with income released to help them live better and healthier.

For the Asset Management of the dwellings, the Daikin Altherma units record how much energy they use and an easy calculation will identify actual cost so the Housing Association or County Council can monitor fuel costs and soft outcomes such as tenant well-being.

As one of Respondʼs tenants has said:

“The upgrade of our heating system has meant my familyʼs house is more pleasant to live in and cheaper to run. We do not fear the onset of the winter now as we know weʼll be able to cope”

The Heating Contractors: RTS Heating & Cooling

RTS run by Hugh Foley are a long established heating installation company, and installer of Altherma air source heat pumps. RTS was awarded the contract to install the heat pumps for the properties in Co. Waterford and Co. Cork. RTS have vast experience in heat pump technology and were able to provide expertise ensuring that each property had exactly the right Daikin Altherma configuration using the existing radiators to provide all round heating and hot water.

Daikin Altherma was chosen by RTS/Envirobead/Respond because we evaluated it to be the best system available. The results we have seen from the installations have been impressive in terms of running costs, as well as this, the cost of installation was actually lower than a new solid fuel system.

As the houses/apartments were occupied during the project the workmanship of the contractors is critical, friendly relationships were built to make everyoneʼs life easier.

The installation team understood that their workplace is someoneʼs home and that behaviour and procedures that are acceptable on a building site are unacceptable on these projects. They work with the occupier to reduce the effect of the temporary disruption necessary to improve their environment.

The heat pump installation was the most complex measure to the home, RTS Heating and Cooling Services have installed heat pumps on Respond projects since 2012 and bring their technical, installation and client relationship experience to such projects.

The installation went very smoothly, despite the tight programme, we managed to keep disruption to a minimum and residents have reported that they are very impressed with the new system.

Posted: December 2016 – Recent article featured in the Local Authority News 2016

Residential Tenancies Board – Information Sessions

dscn3957Information Session took place in Respond! ensuring staff are fully informed in relation to the remit of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB)

Speakers at the training included:
Janette Fogarty Assistant Director for Disputes Resolution RTB &
Keelin McCarthy from the ICSH.

The Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) was set up under the Residential Tenancies Act 2004. Its name was changed to the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) on 7 April 2016, when approved housing bodies, such as Respond! and generally known as housing association were brought under its remit by the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015.

The RTB’s main functions are:

  • Maintaining a register of private residential tenancies and tenancies of approved housing bodies
  • Providing a dispute resolution service for tenants and landlords (including approved housing bodies)
  • Carrying out research into the private rented sector

It also provides policy advice to the Government on the private rented sector.

Residential Tenancies Acts

The Residential Tenancies Acts 2004-2015 deal with the regulation of the mainstream private rented housing sector and the approved housing body sector. They set out the rights and obligations of both landlords and tenants in these sectors.

Rebuilding Ireland – Tackling the Crisis Conference

Declan Dunne CEO with Respond! spoke at the Housing Conference 2016, which took place on 25th November 2016 sharing his thoughts on the role that Housing Associations, like Respond! will play in helping meet the challenge of ensuring quality housing provision for both current and future needs. 

eolas-pic-of-declanThe conference was attended by stakeholders involved in aspects of housing, funding and management including senior managers in the public, private and third sectors in Ireland.

The speaker panel can be viewed here

Ireland’s housing sector is at crisis point – there are currently over 135,000 people on the waiting list for social housing. Rebuilding Ireland, An Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness was published by the government in July 2016. The plan, with an investment of around €5.5 billion, aims to accelerate all types of housing supply and provide 47,000 new social houses over the next six years as well as targeting an annual overall build of 25,000 units per year by 2020.For many years there has been insufficient investment in new social housing provision in Ireland.

An increasing number of people are unable to afford to buy a home, or even to rent privately, particularly in urban areas. Coupled with the downturn in the construction sector and the low levels of housing actually being built, the waiting list has steadily risen, leaving an unacceptable number of people and families in housing stress. With the economy recovering, and the population increasing, a significant increase in new homes is desperately needed.

Five pillars for action

The Rebuilding Ireland plan sets out key actions to be taken under five pillars: Addressing Homelessness; Accelerate Social Housing; Build More Homes; Improve the Rental Sector; Utilise Existing Stock.

The plan also sets out the need for a special Housing Delivery Office within the Department which will drive its implementation. Ambitious in scope, the plan comes after previous strategies that had set out measures to try to tackle the problem. However, the scale of the challenge has meant that this has not been at the pace necessary to meet current demand. In 2015, around half of the 25,000 units needed were built with only 75 local authority social housing units completed.

Whilst no doubt providing a great opportunity, there may also be a number of obstacles to fulfilling the plan’s objectives. Issues around planning, the supply of land, the co-operation of the banks and the speed at which the plan needs to be implemented may all prove to be a challenge.

Residents of Johns College Christmas Carol Concert 2016

20161215_200605John’s College Choir performed for the first time with the Edmund Rice Choral Society for a Christmas Carol Concert on 15th December 2016


This new choir formed mid 2016 and all members are new residents of Respond!  College House and College Mews, who took up residence earlier this year.

It was attended by around 180 people who joined in the festive spirit. Thank you to Catherine for leading the choir and a huge well done to John’s College Choir who put in hours of practice to sing two of their favourite songs which went down a treat with the audience. Irelands got talent watch this space!!!!

Posted December 2016: by Eleanor Gaffney Horgan