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

Credit union offer of €5 billion fund for social housing deserves Government support

“We need to start building now” – Respond!

The Respond! housing charity today welcomed the Irish League of Credit Union’s proposal of a €5 billion fund for social housing.

Respond! CEO Ned Brennan said:

“We very much welcome and support the Credit Union’s wish to use their surplus funds to help Ireland deliver the social houses we so desperately need. It shows the Credit Unions have the wider interests of Ireland at the heart of their business model and wish to contribute to the common good. Continue reading

Time for concrete plans on social housing. The 32nd Dáil needs to start building – Respond!

The Respond! Housing charity today called on all TDs elected to the new Dáil to make the delivery of social housing their number 1 priority as they enter negotiations on possible dimensions of a new Government.

Ned Brennan, CEO of Respond! said:

“Regardless of who is Taoiseach or what parties make up the new Government, one thing has been clear for some time – that is Ireland is in the midst of a housing crisis so severe we see new families becoming homeless every day. Continue reading

Paul Melia: Amid all the chaos, planning for ageing is forgotten

Reporter with the Irish Independent Paul Melia spoke to Ned Brennan about the housing crises and the findings contained in the ESRI Study March 2016

Paul Melia: Amid all the chaos, planning for ageing is forgotten
Published in the Independent on 9th March 2016

In a housing crisis, it’s no surprise that sectoral interests fall by the wayside.

For a Government facing a national emergency on homelessness, coupled with a need to boost housing supply to cater for renters, those on council waiting lists and private homeowners, it was inevitable that housing for the elderly fell down the list of priorities.

And while the ESRI suggests giving cash to these empty nesters to encourage them to move into smaller homes, it’s worth bearing in mind that the think-tank estimates this would release just 26,000 homes – this is little over a year’s supply.

Of far bigger concern, and something which all policy makers need to start tackling, is how we deal with our ageing population. Continue reading

Respond! College celebrates the graduation of the first cohort of CCS students

The Respond! College conferring ceremonies in Dublin and Cork was a huge celebration for our graduates and their families. This new qualification saw the graduation of 32 students with a Level 6 Certificate in Community Studies. The course was designed to explore concepts of community and community development within a social analysis framework and encourage participation within a community setting. It blends academic depth and rigour with an opportunity to achieve a deep sense of well-being and personal fulfilment. Continue reading

Remove the obstacles to the delivery of social housing or homelessness will explode

In the context of the €1.5 billion fiscal space available in Budget 2016, RESPOND! Housing believe that social housing should be prioritised as the greatest social challenge facing Ireland’s current generation.  The housing charity think that the Government regulations and taxes, have made homes too expensive to construct and urge the removal of increased regulation, planning and finance obstacles which are hindering increased social housing supply. Continue reading

Tallaght Domestic Violence Refuge Forced to Close

RESPOND! Housing has announced that it cannot continue to fund the Cuan Álainn homeless refuge for women and children fleeing domestic violence in Tallaght. Respond! has bank-rolled the refuge in Tallaght for the past three and half years without any financial support from the State.

“We cannot continue to fully subvent this service, 100% from our own resources, without any State assistance due to the cost burden. We have come to the regrettable decision to close the service in an orderly manner before the end of the year” stated Ned Brennan, Chief Executive Officer with Respond! Continue reading

Respond! announce major energy upgrade of 550 homes in conjunction with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland

Respond! Housing is delighted to have been approved by the Housing Finance Agency under European Investment Bank funding for energy upgrade works to 550 homes. The securing of this loan along with grant funding from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) will enable deep retrofit energy upgrade works to 550 homes, in various parts of the country, at an overall project cost of €7.88 million. The wide ranging upgrade works include installation of new gas & oil boilers, heat pumps, inset stoves, heating controls, new doors and windows, attic and wall insulation, CO alarms and CFL bulbs. Since 2012, Respond! has undertaken energy upgrade works to 1,340 units at an overall project cost of € 12.6 million with a grant funding from SEAI of just under €6.2 million. Ned Brennan CEO with Respond! acknowledged:

“Respond! is pleased to announce that it is the first Approved Housing Body in Ireland to benefit from funding available through the European Investment Bank and the Housing Finance Agency for the retrofitting of existing social houses.  Respond! is also very grateful for the support we receive from the SEAI. We expect this combined financial investment will greatly enhance our properties and reduce overall heating costs to our tenants”.  Continue reading