Around 30 people attended the Launch of Carbery Housing Association’s Private Sector Leasing initiative, Thursday April 12th at the Drimoleague Community Centre.
CHA is a non-profit company with Charitable Status and has Approved Housing Body status with the Department of Environment. It was set up in 2001, on the initiative of local residents in Baltimore, a town where holiday home developments was pushing house prices out of the reach of local people.
The original Mission Statement of Carbery Housing Association was:
“The provision of housing and associated amenities for a range of groups that re excluded from the housing market, on the basis of partnership with local authorities and community organisations, and aiming at a high level of energy efficiency and sustainability”
As of the now, the Association has added the words “and in partnership with property owners” into the Mission Statement.
CHA is community organisation, where anyone having a genuine interest in the work of the Association can join as a Member, can participate in the work of the Association as a volunteer, and stand for election to the Executive Committee.
From 2001 onward, CHA tried unsuccessfully to develop a number of affordable and sustainable social housing projects in the West Cork region. These never materialised, in spite of the many efforts of people both inside and outside CHA over the years.
In 2009 the housing bubble imploded and Ireland’s Celtic Tiger period was over. The results of this collapse were free-fall house prices, bankruptcies and at least 290 thousand empty homes (confirmed by the last national census).
Every crisis in an opportunity waiting to happen. But this collapse has turned out to be an opportunity for CHA to be able to become active on behalf of the groups they aim to serve.
Faced with a severe cut back new building, but still needing to house a growing number of households, the government introduced Social Housing Leasing Scheme for Approved Housing Bodies, in the SHIP N5/09 Circular of September 2009.
CHA took the decision that our aims would be best met by changing course and adopting this new Initiative wholeheartedly, and focusing our efforts on finding new and innovative ways of using empty houses.
The new Private Leasing Initiative works as follows:
The property is identified.
The property is inspected by a qualified surveyor appointed by CHA to certify that;
- It meets the fitness standards of the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations if 2008
- The property meets the requirements established by Cork County Council for Private Leases
- It is structurally sound and a structural guarantee or insurance is available or can be obtained
- It is complaint with planning and technical requirements including Part V (if applicable)
With this, a preliminary application for approval, including an initial survey, is made by CHA to the Department of the Environment. The Department consults with the local Council to confirm that there is a housing need for this type of property in this area.
When preliminary approval is granted, CHA’s surveyors carry out a full condition and structural survey of the property. This includes verifying service installations, planning compliance and BER ratings. These documents are submitted to the Department and to the local Council.
The local Council will then inspect the property to verify its condition. This is done through a further survey by a Council Engineer, who verifies the property meet the required standards.
The Engineer will draw up a Schedule of required works. The owner will be asked to complete the required work as soon as possible. When these works are completed, the Council Engineer will then inspect again, and if works are satisfactory the property will be approved by the Council for use for social housing.
CHA makes a second and final application to the Department for approval to have the property included in the Leasing Scheme. The application includes the results of Council inspection, a valuation of the market rental of the property, a BER certificate and evidence of compliance with planning.
The Department will the give approval for the Council to entering into a Payment and Availability Agreement with the Housing Association. The rent payable to the Housing Association by the Council will be 80% of the market rent for a period of 10-20 years. This Payment and Availability Agreement is signed between the Council and the Housing Association.
The Association then enters into a separate Lease with the owner, for the same period, agreeing to pay the agreed rent on to the owner, and to manage and maintain the property for the period of the Lease.
The Council then nominates people from its housing list, so that they can be allocated the property by the Housing Association. These could be single persons or families, who are on the council housing List, or have been in receipt of rent allowance for more than 18 months.
CHA interviews the Council nominees, to confirm their interest and suitability for the proposed tenancy, and explain how the initiative works. Training will also be provided to future tenants. The Housing Association then enters into a Tenancy Agreement with the nominated persons.
CHA tenants will pay a means-tested Council rent as for the period of the tenancy, and the tenancy agreement sets out the tenants’ responsibilities in terms of upkeep of the property and payment of service charges, as well as reasons why the tenancy could be terminated.
To date has been offered and inspected around 20 possible properties for possible leasing. So far they have obtained full approval for leasing 6 properties, 5 apartments and a house, all in Drimoleague. They are currently seeking approval of a further 3 one-bedroom flats in Drimoleague, and a 3-bedroom house in Kichronahe. They are also surveying further properties in Dunmanway, Durrus and Owenahincha. The response from owners to date has been encouraging, and CHA are confident that their private leasing initiative will steadily grow, and provide an increasing number of good quality affordable homes for people that need them all mover the County in the coming months and years, in spite of (or because of) the Recession..
But they need your help to make this happen!
They need properties – for this scheme to work we need to get the word around to as many owners of properties as possible, that in this initiative they have the opportunity lease their properties securely for relatively long period, and get a guaranteed return for this letting. Also to have the satisfaction of knowing that their property is being used to meet a real social need
They need funding – each house survey to date has cost us approximately € 500 per property and this is not taking into account the considerable cost of legal fees in drawing up and revising the many complex legal agreements involved. We have been kept going so far by a donation o € 4,000 from the Community Foundation for Ireland and fundraising by members. But this is now running out and we need to raise more funds.
They need housing applicants – people that cannot afford to buy or rent affordably on the open market must ensure that they are on the Council housing list if they are eligible and that the Council is aware that they are interested din being h9oused in Leased housing managed by CHA.
They need members and volunteers – the work done to date to get this far has been done by people working on a purely voluntary basis, because they believe that in building a healthy communities and community resilience, so important in times of cutback and recession. CHA needs more volunteers to do this work. They believe that if all sectors of the community work together, without recriminations and negativity, we can greatly improve the situation for everyone with the resources are available It just needs the will to work together to make it happen.
CHA is committed to providing housing, but is also determined to develop complimentary initiatives for the benefit of tenants and the community. They would like to support and develop related initiatives involving growing of food, providing childcare, and repairing empty properties that owners would like to lease but cannot afford to repair the standard required for letting, CHA plans to work on developing such initiatives over the coming years
When asked if their original aspiration of building sustainable communities has been put aside in focusing on long-term leasing. CHA affirms that it has not. They will continue to explore and develop alternatives for permanent sustainable housing within co-housing and community framework, incorporating self-build and green building. But at present they see long-term leasing and maximum use of empty properties as a fundamental step towards achieving that vision.
For more information contact:
Carbery Housing Association
Tel 028 21890
Mobile 086 8224429