After a year of significant change in 2016, Respond! outlines the progress made on social housing delivery and energy efficiency, as well as ambitions for the year ahead.
We are privileged to have a new Chairperson in John O’Connor and largely a new Board of Directors, whose experience and acumen is undoubted. Declan Dunne joined as new CEO in August 2016 and we have set upon a path of internal transformation in order to properly situate ourselves in the current housing and homelessness context and to set a clear path for our future direction. Our founder Fr Pat Cogan, ofm, has left us with a legacy that will be difficult to match but we will endeavor to live up to his high standards and relentless focus on the people we are here to serve.
As ever, a transformational process must start first with listening to the committed professionals who work within the organisation as well the residents we work for. We have begun this process which will see a new strategy for Respond! published in the last quarter of 2017. But we have done much more than listen; we have acted.
We have all heard the heart-rending stories of families in emergency accommodation, in commercial hotels and B&Bs unable to access even the basic facilities that we all need. Our humanitarian response to this was to open Ireland’s first ‘Family Hub’ in December 2016. The family hubs in Drumcondra and Tallaght represent a new model of transitional accommodation that aims in the first instance to have superior accommodation and facilities than the commercial alternative. Central to the new model are the wrap-around support services for every family who have an individualised care plan and whom our care workers assist in order to move into a home of their own. This, of course, is not a long-term solution to the housing and homelessness crisis Ireland faces but it is significantly better than the alternative while we continue our core business of building, acquiring and letting the social homes that these families want, need and deserve.
To date, eight families have moved into their own homes from Drumcondra and three from the Tallaght Family Hub. We have significantly ramped up our social house build and acquisition plans in order to address the significant shortfall in social housing supply which is causing many of the downstream issues of homelessness and insecurity.
Social housing delivery
2016 saw the official opening of John’s College in Waterford City. Originally a diocesan seminary, John’s College is now a 67-unit state of the art development for older people and those with special needs and requirements. John’s College is a vibrant new space where residents and the wider Waterford community interact via the Hub Café and the other community services located there. This adds to Respond!’s considerable output in Waterford city and county where we have built has 574 social homes since our founding in 1982.
Moy Glas Glade in Lucan is now home to 14 families who were previously many years on the social housing list. Originally an unfinished private estate, Respond! took over Moy Glas Glade and ensured the completion of the project for social use.
Phase One of Ashmount Mews in the Mayfield area of Cork City was opened in 2016 and 16 families got the keys to their new homes. Ashmount Mews was Respond!’s first NARPS development – NAMA’s special purpose vehicle take ownership of properties where there is an established demand, leasing them to a local authority or Approved Housing Body. When Phase Two is completed, 35 families will be housed in a long-term, secure situation.
We continued to advocate on behalf of our residents via submissions to the policy process arguing that eliminating barriers to social houses and building is the single greatest way we can contribute to fulfilling the ambitions of Rebuilding Ireland.
Respond! is committed to providing comfortable and energy efficient homes for its tenants. We have always designed our houses to the highest insulation levels applicable at the time of build. However, as in excess of 50 per cent of Respond!’s housing stock is over 15 years old. Identifying the need to cut down our carbon footprint and the rising energy efficiency and insulation standards, we put in place a programme of upgrading our entire housing stock.
To date we have carried out upgrade works on over 1,200 homes throughout the country at a total project cost of over €12 million including grant assistance from Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). The works include upgrading of heating systems, windows, doors, lighting and insulation. These works will lead to more comfortable and economical housing units for our tenants, helping to eliminate fuel poverty.
Housing supply is clearly the biggest issue we face in the sector. We are significantly increasing our ambition in terms of our housing output in the coming years. The Respond! Board has approved a programme of delivery of over 1,500 social housing units in the coming years.
Our sustainable housing strategy is based on:
We are a solutions-oriented organisation unafraid to innovate but in the knowledge that we have to keep listening and learning all the while.
We will continue to increase our ambitions in relation to social housing supply, helping the homeless families in our hubs to access homes of their own and to providing all our tenants with the support and wrap-around services they want, need and deserve.
Airmount, Dominick Place, Waterford.
T: 051 840 200