New social housing regeneration project in Cork city

Today in the Blackpool area of Cork city, 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.

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.”

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”

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.

 Posted: 20th February 2017

 

Loneliness is a killer: Responding to social isolation through technology

On Friday 10th February at John’s College in Waterford City, UCC School of Applied Social Studies and Respond! Housing examined innovative responses to one of the major social issues of the digital age.

Responding to Social Isolation through Technology” will hear from a range of experts and practitioners on methods to deal with loneliness.

Opening 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.

Respond! 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.”

According 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.

Note

The conference event is supported by funding from the New Foundations Scheme of the Irish Research Council. New Foundations promotes co-operation between Irish third level institutions and community and voluntary organisations with the intention of disseminating academic research and ensuring its impacts are of benefit to the wider community and society at large

*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).

 

 

Making Rebuilding Ireland a reality – Respond! Housing submission to Budget 2017

Rebuilding Ireland published in July 2016 set ambitious targets to deal with the chronic under-supply of housing to alleviate the housing and homelessness crisis Ireland currently faces. Over the period 2016-2021 the plan is that 47,000 new social housing units would be added to the national stock by both Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) and local authorities.

Declan Dunne, Chief Executive Officer of Respond! Housing said:

“We welcome this level of ambition in Rebuilding Ireland which we intend to match with our own new build and acquisition plans. However, we remain concerned that certain obstacles to the use of existing housing stock, to effective land management, to the building and acquisition of new homes and the creation of communities require urgent budgetary measures in order that the targets in Rebuilding Ireland can be achieved.

In our pre-budget submission to the Ministers of Finance and Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government we maintain that building costs remain prohibitively high, land scarce and that AHBs and local authorities require certainty on the financial implications of the Action Plan in order to fully play our part in the delivery of the plan. We have asked the Government to priortise the following measures:

  • Publish 5-year multi-annual financial plan to accompany Rebuilding Ireland
  • Increase the Vacant Site Levy to 10% or 2% above the increase in the price of the site and collect this money in 2017 to maximise use of derelict or vacant sites
  • Set the VAT rate for new social housing projects at 0%
  • Reduce the VAT on materials and services for the renovation of vacant houses to 13.5%
  • Waive developer contributions on social housing
  • €500 million for a ‘Repair and Lease’ scheme calculated on a cost-per square metre to house 10,000 families on the housing lists
  • Carry out an urgent audit of the Building Control Amendment Regulations (BCAR) with a view to reducing the major cost this kind of self-certification represents
  • Link developer levies to proximity to services including water, transport, schools…
  • Publish infrastructural investment plan alongside Rebuilding Ireland
  • Provide for the Special Purpose Vehicle to allow for investment from the Irish League of Credit Unions towards social housing projects
  • Increase investment in Warmer Homes and Better Energy Community Schemes to carry out energy upgrades on existing stock to alleviate fuel poverty
  • Increase supports targeted to those on low incomes including the Back to Education Allowance and childcare subventions
  • Neighbourhood Activation Fund pilot to support integrated estates of mixed tenure

In essence, we are looking for detailed reforms to reduce the cost of building, to make better use of our land and to put social housing building programmes on a sound financial footing into the future.

We are committed to implementing the provisions of Rebuilding Ireland but suggest investment plans are required in order to make the ambitions in this plan a reality on the ground.”

See Respond!’s full submission here

Minister for Housing and Community Simon Coveney TD visits Respond!’s social inclusion hub in Waterford

Housing numbers are only one side of the equation – we cannot forget to build communities

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Simon Coveney TD today visited John’s College – Respond!’s latest social housing development – in Waterford city. To date, Respond! has built 574 social homes and 4 childcare centres in Waterford city and county alone.

John’s College was refurbished and redeveloped by Respond! Housing with the financial support of Waterford City Council and the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government through the Capital Assistance Scheme, the Capital Advance Lease Facility and Payment and Availability Agreement. The €12 million scheme has delivered 57 one bedroom apartments, a 10 bed group home and extensive communal facilities. Continue reading

34 Families to be Housed in New Respond! Development in Cork City

Respond! Housing today announced the completion of Phase I of our new Ashmount Mews social housing development, in the Silversprings/Mayfield area on the north-side of Cork city.

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Simon Coveney TD visited Ashmount Mews and spoke to the 16 families who recently moved into their new homes. When Phase II is completed, Ashmount Mews will be a 34 house estate, all homes including 3 bedrooms. When filled, the development will be home to 44 adults and 70 children. Continue reading

Respond! welcomes plans to increase social housing supply

Respond! Housing association today warmly welcomed Minister Coveney’s Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness, in particular the increased funding and targets to provide an additional 47,000 new social homes over the next 5 years.

Founder/Director Fr. Pat Cogan ofm said:

We welcome the Minister’s initiatives and we offer our considerable and professional in-house design and production services to meet the huge housing need that the Minister has outlined.  Currently, we are engaged in reviewing our Design and Production capabilities to see how we might respond positively to the design and planning needs of ourselves, local authorities and other Approved Housing Bodies. Continue reading

Respond! College holds Graduation Ceremony in Knocknaheeney for Healthcare Support Class of 2015-2016

Respond! Housing’s College held a graduation ceremony for its first Cork based cohort of FETAC Level 5 Healthcare Support Students on 16 June 2016 at the Knocknaheeney/Hollyhill Youth Centre in Cork City. 19 Students graduated with a Major award in Healthcare Support, with another 15 attaining minor awards.

The Healthcare Support programme was delivered by Respond! College in Blackpool Community Centre, and was funded by the Department of Social Protection through the Community Employment Scheme. The students are now qualified carers and some of them are already using their qualifications in paid employment. Continue reading

Welcome emphasis on social housing supply in Housing and Homeless Committee’s final report

We will expand our Design and Planning Department to meet increased targets – Respond!

Respond! Housing Association today warmly welcomed the Oireachtas Committee on Housing and Homelessness’ final report, particularly the much-needed emphasis on the building and acquisition of social housing to a new higher target of 50,000 social homes over the next 5 years.

Founder/Director Fr. Pat Cogan ofm said:

“In light of the proposed increased target for social housing, Respond! is prepared to expand our Design and Planning department in order to increase our own published target of an additional 5,000 units over three years. Our amended target will be decided upon after consultation with the officers of the proposed Housing Procurement Agency. Continue reading

Growing old in the community should be the goal of housing

Opinion piece published in the Irish Independent 26/04/2016

‘None of us hopes to end our days in a nursing home. Circumstances may dictate that it is the best choice but it is nobody’s first choice.

We are living longer, but we have yet to face up to the new reality that this brings.

We rightly notice and bemoan levels of child poverty that make us truly ashamed of how we treat the most vulnerable in our society. But we have failed, in many ways, to include our older selves in this equation, and to face up to the responsibility we have to our older relatives and neighbours, both as a State and as a society.

The consultative paper from the Law Reform Commission on succession rights has brought this issue into sharp focus. It asks the question: do we need to take account of changing family relationships?

The answer is a clear ‘yes’, but we need to do this honestly, and be prepared for deeper soul searching than we normally do in public policy debates.

Instead of focusing our ire on central government and demanding a solution from the ‘powers that be’, we must examine our individual and collective responsibility to each other.

The solution lies with both ‘them’ and ‘us’. Continue reading

Welcome commitment to social housing in new Programme for Government

Respond!  today welcomed the Government’s commitment to building 100,000 new houses by 2020 but questioned exactly how many social homes are planned to be built over the period. Lack of housing supply is the greatest single cause of our current homelessness crisis and the number 1 way to get people off the housing list and out of emergency accommodation is to provide them with affordable and secure tenure in a social or public house.

Ned Brennan, CEO of Respond! said:

“I warmly welcome the appointment of Simon Coveney TD as Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government. Having a Minister charged with reaching the ambitious targets for building, with the requisite powers across planning and local authorities should be a significant enabling element for the sector. It is imperative though that the new Minister does have the right and real powers across Government as he will be answerable to the Dáil and the people as to the success or failure of the Action Plan on Housing.

The Programme for Government also recognises the significant role housing associations have in dealing with our homelessness crisis. Voluntary housing associations built over 80% of the social homes in Ireland in 2015. We have the history, the expertise and the capacity to increase our output to deal with the pent-up demand but needed certain barriers to building to be address. The Programme for Government goes some way towards addressing some of these concerns. We welcome in particular certain elements that we in the sector have long advocated. These include:

  • Increasing the threshold for single-stage approval of developments from €2m to €5m should really have a positive impact on social housing delivery. For example, this would mean that development of up to 25 houses would qualify for this fast track approach. Previously, housing associations and local authorities could only build 8 units or less under this process.
  • Allowing housing associations to buy properties from investors where a sale could leave families homeless.
  • A special purpose vehicle to provide long-term financing for housing associations
  • ‘Best practice’ and coordination of policy and financing for the sector

However, it must be noted that the wording of the document is in many cases to ‘examine’, to ‘review’, ‘to look to’ , ‘to engage’. The proposals are promising but action is not guaranteed; we would question if many of these elements will ever actually come to pass. The proposal from the Irish League of Credit Unions to lend €5 billion to housing associations has been on the table for over 7 months now with no satisfactory outcome.

We welcome the new Minister’s plans to consult with the sector for maximum positive impact on the ground and for transparent monthly reports of construction activity. It is possible to measure progress in delivery as we go. The proof of this plan will be the number of new homes built, the number on both the housing and the emergency housing lists nationwide and whether this time next year we still have families living in hotels”.