Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

11.03 10 Jul 2021


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Families, elderly people and Syrian refugees were among those who received the keys to their new homes in a unique social housing development Baltinglass, Co Wicklow this week.

The 56-unit development is built on the grounds of an old convent, Rathcoran House, and contains 40 homes and 16 apartments.

Housing association Respond handed the keys to the new homeowners on Monday, many of whom had been waiting for years on the Wicklow County Council housing list.

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Declan Dunne, CEO of Respond, said the Wicklow development is one of a number of schemes being undertaken by the charity across the country.

Speaking to The Home Show with Sinead Ryan, he explained how they can build homes for less than €250,000 per unit.

"In our overall programme, we have just short of 4,500 homes over a five-year period and we have delivered 1,300 of those so far over that period, from 2018 to 2023," Mr Dunne said.

"We have just short of 1,500 in construction so this, for us, is a wonderful experience but it's one of many all around the county.

"We're focused on providing homes for people whose income means they qualify for social housing so we're thinking about what it will be like for them to live there.

"We've been doing this for 40 years now and our focus is about what it feels like for those families, those children and those individuals.

"It's no different in Baltinglass, again we're thinking about what it will be like for people there."

Housing association shares how it builds homes for less than €250,000 per unit

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The allocation of social housing is conducted by local authorities and Respond supports this by creating areas, such as playgrounds, based on the needs of the new tenants.

Mr Dunne said the beauty of the houses is that they are "lifetime homes" for people.

The association looks for "opportunities anywhere you can get it" when it comes to finding a location for new developments.

He said the former convent site in Baltinglass is particularly attractive as it offers views of the Wicklow hills.

He then explained how Respond can build social housing for as little as €250,000 on average per unit.

"There's one planning system in the country and it applies to us in the same way it applies to others," Mr Dunne said.

"We have a group of over 20 professionals including architects, planners and quantity surveyors who work directly for us.

"There are 320 staff in total in Respond, 190 of those are providing childcare services in 17 services we run, older person services, daycare services, refugee resettlement programmes and also the whole gambit of services.

"Our building programme is €1.3bn over the five-year period so to do that and to do it well, it is really important that we would have professionally qualified people overseeing all of that."

housing Houses under construction in Dublin. Photo: PA

Mr Dunne acknowledged that people have concerns about social housing being built in their area, but he believes this is mostly grounded "in their memory of what social housing looks like".

The Baltinglass development is "stunningly beautiful", he added.

"The real challenge is that people who want to buy their houses can't buy them, to me that's the outrage," he said.

Each home in the Wicklow development cost €232,885 on average to build, which is "a pretty good price".

"We're a charity, but we're also very business-like, we ave a volunteer board and amazingly confident people and they expect us to manage the public's money carefully," Mr Dunne said.

"Out of the 4,457 homes in our five-year programme, the average cost that we're delivering from is €297,073.84 and that's on the average cost.

"Taking into account that that includes apartment buildings of six stories which are more expensive.

"One of our keys is that in our dealings, we exist on fixed-price contracts."

Main image: File photo of houses under construction in Donegal. Photo: Richard Cummins/Design Pics via ZUMA Wire

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