Hammering away at Part V – Respond

Respond Housing Association view the suggestion to abolish or substantially reduce the requirement on developers to contribute to social housing – known as Part V, as a mistake.

Danish-American Jacob Riis, who coincidently died in this year of anniversaries, was a photojournalist concerned about impoverished immigrant communities in New York City and particularly their housing needs.  “Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it” he once wrote. “Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before” It’s a quote along with his own photograph that adorns many offices throughout the world. Perhaps in the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) offices too? Or if not the quote then the sentiment.

Since its introduction in 2000, the Construction Industry Federation has been hammering away at Part V; the socially cohesive and progressive piece of legislation through which local authorities can obtain up to 20% of land zoned for housing development to be ring-fenced for delivery of social housing. In the CIF’s latest pronouncement on how to sort the worsening housing situation in the country, there it is – again. Number two in their list of seven:- replace Part V development contribution for social and affordable housing with a 1 per cent levy across the sales of all housing – new and old.

The seven point plan, CIF Director Tom Parlon stated would “end the rapid house price rises we are currently facing in Dublin – rises which are likely to continue until we start building sufficient housing for the property market”.

Ending rapid house price rise is not the only consideration.  This is as Respond Chief Operations Officer Ned Brennan stated “a one-dimensional response”. “We have been down that road before, reductionist responses to complex challenges and we don’t want a repeat of that experience”.

Houses are not even the issue. Homes are. Ones that are conducive to comfortable healthy living.  Homes in communities that are viable, affirming, diverse and enriching. “Sure we can just focus on houses and keeping the cost down at whatever the cost. But as we now know that is not a cost-free option,” stated Mr. Brennan.

Hammering away at the same old mantra. “Get rid of Part V.” Hoping that the resolve to provide socially affordable housing will be broken. Perhaps the CIF is doing what Jacob Riis urged all those years ago. But, if so, to very different ends.

Were Part V to be part of the New York housing scenario at the turn of the century it is safe to presume that Jacob Riis would keep hammering away at a very different message until it was cracked. Perhaps those of us committed to the provision of housing for all should follow suit. It does bear repeating. Part V should stay.

Respond Housing Association Education Initiative

Respond is a not-for-profit voluntary housing association.  It is an Approved Housing Body and an anti-poverty agency with charitable status.  Respond has provided over 5,400 units of accommodation across some 140 estates nationally for individuals with a housing need.

Ireland has obviously experienced deep recession over the past five years. Recession is accompanied by social consequences. One consequence of this recession is a social housing crisis. Put simply, the housing needs of the most vulnerable are not being met in the current economic crisis.

In the public mind Respond is clearly associated with social housing. However, Respond has a long and successful track record as an educational provider. In 2011 it formalised its educational work under the remit of Respond College (a legal entity of Respond).

In a major educational initiative, Respond College is currently offering a part- time BA in Housing and Community Studies (NFQ, Level 7) degree to mature students.  In-take commences this September 2014. This degree programme is literally unique as no education provider offers a combined approached to housing and community studies.

Critically, the programme will draw on Respond’s expertise as a social housing provider of over thirty years standing. The degree programme is suitable for a wide range of candidates including local authority officials, community activists and those with a general interest in housing and community studies.

Housing is obviously a crucial public policy sphere. In Ireland we are only too well aware of what happens when we get things wrong in this sphere. As hopes of economic recovery increase, it is important that proper weight is afforded to this area of public policy. Having trained professionals in housing and community studies is vital. Respond College intends addressing this need via its BA Degree in Housing and Community Studies.

Application forms and further information available from: sarah.dooley@respond.ie or T: 051 840200 or Respond College, High Park, Grace Park Road, Drumcondra, Dublin 9.