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.

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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 philip.oreilly@respond.ie

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

johns-college-choir-dec-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

DIT’s 4th annual Regeneration Conference

Respond! Brid McGrath Head of Social Policy, took part in the regeneration conference on 9th December at DIT speaking about the need to plan for truly integrated and inclusive communities as we increase our housing supply to deal with the homelessness crisis.

brid-at-dit

The one day conference addressed the theme of “Adapting to new realities: Human settlement in  an uncertain climate”. Speakers from Rotterdam, Belfast, Galway and Dublin discussed housing affordability; upgrading existing buildings in cooperation with communities, as well as tackling the global challenge of climate change by making greater use of our existing urban areas for new uses.

The eventwas organised by Dr. Deiric Ó Bróin and Ciarán Cuffe from DIT’s School of Transport Engineering, Environment and Planning and was well attended by local government staff, academics, architects and students.

Speakers included:

  • Gert Jan te Velde, Vanschagen Architects, Rotterdam -the existing city as a challenge
  • Deirdre Scully, Senior Planner, Dublin City Council -new life and employment for the Poolbeg peninsula
  • Philip Lawton, Lecturer in Geography, NUI Galway -urban public space and creativity
  • Patrick Lydon, Director, Camphill Communities of Ireland -rethinking communities for people with special needs
  • Brid McGrath, Head of Social Policy, Respond! -creating vibrant, socially integrated communities
  • Clare McKeown, Sustainability Manager,  Belfast City Council -reimagining cities for resilience

Posted: December 2016

 

 

Festive Craft activities take place around the country

Craft Course – Marquis Drive, Dungarvan, Waterford

dscn3149Christmas Spirit came early this year in Marquis Drive, with residents involving themselves by taking nature on with gusto.  Collecting fresh foliage, flowers, holly, there was not a shrub untouched in Dungarvan with the hunt for natures best to make decorative handmade.

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dscn3951dscn3989Christmas Floral Arrangements, wreaths and magnificent table centre pieces that would adorn any dining table.

Christmas Baking Classes, was packed with fun and good cheer, while Christmas cakes were iced and puddings set to boil. “Eat your heart out Jamie Oliver”.

cakeNothing beats experience of those with skills and they shared their knowledge with friends and neighbours showing true community spirit towards one another in the sharing of food prepared and cooked together and giving for this Festive Season.

Many thanks to the ETB who funded the tutors for these workshops.

Christmas Craft Course – Airmount, Waterford

Getting into the Christmas spirit too are residents and friends in Waterford during the Christmas Craft Course running every Friday at the location of the Respond! head office in Airmount, Waterford.

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Respond! residents and friends at Airmount

xmas-party-2016-9Festive Floral Decoration and Crafts – Oranmore, Galway

Photos from the recent Christmas Floral Decorations Exhibit held in November at Respond! offices in Galway and a Decoupage Workshop held in Ard na Mara with Active in Age Oranmore.

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Photo credits to Cathy Eastwood

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The workshops are a great way to explore our creative side and great fun too.

Well done to all involved.

Posted December 2016 – Workshops organised and photos posted by Respond! Caroline Haran, Eleanor Gaffney and Sean Regan

Respond! delighted and grateful for Day of Service with visiting US Ambassador Kevin O’Malley

One of @RespondHousing latest and cutest residents hanging a symbol of peace on the tree as @USAmbIreland looks on

Respond! CEO Declan Dunne was delighted to welcome US Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O’Malley, staff of the US Embassy, US Ireland Alumni, the Fulbright Commission, helpers and friends to their ‘Day of Service 2016’. Organised by Localise, the volunteers came together for a day to decorate Respond!’s Dublin office’s prepares to welcome new residents over the Christmas period. Embassy staff donated a treasure-chest of presents for mothers and children who need a little extra help during the festive season. Many thanks to Boston College who donated the Christmas tree!

respond101216130Christmas has come to High Park and we are delighted and grateful to the American Ambassador, staff, family and friends for giving their time and spreading holiday cheer!

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Marquis Drive Community get into the spirit of Halloween

dscn3935 Parents and children in Marquis Drive community got into the spirit of Halloween this year at Leahys Farm, Middleton, Co. Cork. Dressed in their costumes they had a Boo Halloween experience of their lives in the woodlands hearing tales of ghouls, gremlins and the undead, which left them screaming with laughter.

dscn3914The good witch of the forest had the little halloweeners comb the forest floor for fingers, and eyeballs, skeletons of dogs, she then helped them make spells and even allowed them to use her cauldron.

dscn3925The trip to the open farm was fantastic, with a maze to explore and challenge their sense of direction, there was also a tractor ride around the farm lands which visited the farm animals later the families shared their experience with their friends when they finished the tour.

Posted November 2016: by Caroline Haran