National Conference highlighting the importance of community in challenging times

Ireland’s leading housing charity is today hosting a national conference as part of Social Inclusion Week examining how to sustain social housing communities in challenging times. Respond Housing Association is hosting the event in response to the growing need during this recession for community development in low income housing estates throughout the country. The housing charity contends that the timing of the event is appropriate as the social housing sector comes to terms with reduced funding, cutbacks and changes in national community development infrastructure. The introduction of the Social Housing Leasing Initiative also poses new challenges as housing charities will lease or purchase unsold affordable houses or empty houses in unfinished estates for families on local authority housing waiting lists.

According to Respond spokesperson Aoife Walsh the main aim of today’s conference will be to examine good practice in community development, especially in the current environment.
“Community development is key to creating sustainable and vibrant communities and we believe the role it plays will become even more important in the future. Respond has more than 25 years experience of working with disadvantaged communities and we are acutely aware of the important role community development can play. We will examine communities in Moyross, Fatima Mansions, Tralee and others and delegates will hopefully learn from the experiences of these areas. We believe a key message from the conference is that community development played a key role in supporting vulnerable communities during the last recession and these lessons cannot be forgotten.”

The conference will also discuss the key physical and social elements of sustainable communities. Good practice in terms of estate design, use of open spaces, community facilities, pre-tenancy training and estate management will also be examined, especially in light of the current reality of empty housing and unfinished estates throughout Ireland.

“There has never been a more challenging time for the social housing and community development sectors and we hope that bringing organisations together that are deeply committed to communiites throughout Ireland will be a positive step in the right direction. It is only natural that we are all deeply concerned with the financial effects of this recession but very little thought or debate is being given to the longer term, social effects on people, families and communities. With limited resources, we must adapt in order to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society” concluded Walsh.

This event is kindly being supported by Pobal and the 2010 European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion Funding Initiative. It is taking place in the Ashling Hotel, Dublin on Tuesday October 19th 2010 from 10.30am to 4pm.