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

New social housing development opened by Respond at Moy Glas, Lucan

The development will house 14 families who previously were on the South Dublin County Council housing list, many for a very long time. There will be 40 children in the new development.

The Street party included face-painting, a DJ, finger food and ribbon cutting however the big hit of the day was the petting zoo where scorpions, spider, snakes etc where available to see, touch and (for the very brave) to hold.

Attending the Street Party and Official Opening of the new Homes, The Mayor Of South Dublin and local Councillor Guss O’Connell had this to say “I would like, on behalf of the people of South Dublin, to welcome all the new residents of Moy Glas Glade to the Lucan Community. It is wonderful that 14 Families including 65 Adults and 40 Children have been taken off the housing list thanks to Respond. If we are to really solve our Housing Crises, then we need many more initiatives such as this.

“In South Dublin we are not just about providing houses, urgent and all as that is, but even more importantly, we are about building communities. The involvement of Respond therefore here in Moy Glas Glade is to be welcomed given their track record in this regard. In turn, they are coming into a most vibrant and active community here in Moy Glas Estate.

“We are enriched in our County by the presence of over 120 different nationalities.  At the same time this poses a challenge to us all to ensure that everyone is felt welcome and that their culture, traditions, hopes and expectations are understood and respected.  I look forward to working with my councillor colleagues, Respond and the Moy Glas Residents Association in ensuring that we have full integration between the established and the new residents.  This Garden Party is a mighty step in that direction and I hope it becomes an annual affair and that it can be replicated elsewhere across South Dublin County. I hope everyone has a memorable afternoon.”

Ned Brennan, Chief Operations Officer of Respond Housing said:

“We are delighted to host a street party to open this lovely new development. We are conscious at all times that the most successful housing developments are the ones where the residents create a real sense of community among themselves and, importantly, with their neighbours.

“Respond Housing will manage the Moy Glas Glade estate providing family support services and attending to the day-to-day needs of the residents as well as the property.

“The only real way to solve our current housing and homelessness crisis is to build more social housing. Respond is currently ramping up our current house building and acquisitions programme in order to deal with the substantial need for social housing that exists.

“We are proud of this development and hope that Moy Glas Glade will prove best practice in terms of the quality of the housing supplied, the quality of the support services for the residents and true cohesion among our residents and their neighbours. Housing is only the first step – real success comes from the creation of flourishing communities.

“We wish the new residents well as we continue our work building social housing and creating communities nationwide and would also like to express our gratitude to the Department of Housing and South Dublin County Council for their support with this project”.

The building of Moy Glas Glade was financed through a combination of the Capital Advance Leasing Facility (CALF) and a Payment and Availability Agreement (PAA)

Posted: July 2016

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”.

Homeless facility for women and children set to re-open in Tallaght

Respond Housing Association today announced the re-opening of Cuan Álainn in Tallaght, Co. Dublin following agreement with the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive and South Dublin County Council. Originally a refuge for women and children fleeing domestic violence, Cuan Álainn will be re-opened as secure accommodation for women and children who are homeless. Continue reading