Above: property currently managed by CHA
The current housing crisis in Ireland — with 100,000 families in need of housing, and 20,000 more at risk of repossession — is probably the most important and understated social problem of our day. While thousands need homes or at risk of losing theirs, hundreds of thousands of houses remain empty and deteriorating. New, bold and imaginative measures are needed, in particular, initiatives that allow wasted resources to be used, and allow those most affected to be part of the solution.
Set up in 2001 by concerned residents in West Cork, Carbery Housing Association (CHA) is an association of tenants and members providing self-managed, community-based, sustainable social housing in West Cork.
CHA launched its Private Sector Leasing initiative two years ago, with support from private owners who were willing to lease their properties to the Association for 10 to 20 years. These properties were then let to families on the Council’s housing lists. CHA received many offers of properties that were then surveyed and valued. So far, only two of these properties were approved for long-term leasing. These two properties are now being let to families from the Council list on long-term lettings, at Council-equivalent rents. The properties have been retrofitted for energy efficiency by West Cork Development Partnership’s Warmer Homes Scheme.
CHA is now aiming to extend this initiative to benefit owner-occupiers of properties who are unable to pay their outstanding mortgages, and is prepared to support a Housing Association buying their homes under the government’s Mortgages to Rents (MTR) initiative, and becoming tenants of CHA. The MTR Initiative, is aimed at providing an alternative to repossession for mortgage holders who are unable to meet repayments. CHA has been approved by the Housing Agency (that manages this Initiative) for participation in this programme. CHA has to-date been allocated a number of properties with distressed mortgages in the Cork City and County region for negotiation with the respective banks. Based on market valuations, the Association has made offers and is currently negotiating loan funding for the purchase of the first three properties. The MTR initiative can only be progressed with the full agreement of owner occupiers and with Local Authority housing support.
Over the next 12 months CHA wants to progress both these initiatives, continue to identify new private properties for leasing and continue to support owner occupiers with distressed mortgages. CHA will also promote the Association and strengthen the Executive Committee and the Board of Directors, in order to underpin the proposed expansion and deal with the new Charities Regulations that will be statutory by 2016.
Anyone — social housing tenants or interested residents — may join as a member and participate fully in the management and activities of the Association. CHA believes that self-managed social housing can be more sustainable and satisfying than other options, and have put forward a number of projects aimed at demonstrating this ranging from sustainable developments, to long-term leasing and repair of properties, to the purchase of homes where owner-occupiers can’t repay their mortgages, so they can remain in permanent occupation as tenants of the Association. The core activity of CHA is the provision of housing for persons who cannot to purchase or rent in the open market, but the associatio is also committed to community development initiatives that will enhance the lives of our tenants and local residents.
With no affiliation any other larger central bodies, CHA represents a ‘bottom-up’ and democratic approach and above all values inclusion, participation and self-help. The group avoids the model of top-down, paternalist provision, believing this is neither sustainable nor effective. It aims to work with tenants and residents rather, than for them. Tenants and members are encouraged to see the Association as a vehicle for meeting common needs, and as a community enterprise that provides an appropriate service but also expects commitment and input in return.
If you are concerned with helping to combat the housing need locally, to use empty properties, or to provide alternatives to repossession, you are invited to join CHA, and to participate as a Member, or to support the Association’s work in identifying properties for possible leasing, and for explaining the Mortgages to Rents initiative to owner-occupiers who might benefit from it.
The CHA AGM will take place at 8pm on Friday, May 30, at the West Cork Hotel, Skibbereen. All are welcome.
For more information regarding CHA contact Jose Ospina, Secretary on 028 21890 or 086 8224429 or by e-mail on email@example.com. You can also find out more about the Association’s work on www.carberyhousing.eu.