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Replicating and scaling the Ó Cualann model

Ó Cualann Cohousing Alliance outline how their model can deliver affordable housing.

Re-emergence of Cooperative Housing

Ó Cualann Cohousing Alliance continue to encourage the re-emergence of cooperative, affordable housing and cohousing in Ireland. This is being done with support from Local Authorities around the country, and from other housing associations such as Túath Housing. Túath, who will acquire and manage the new social homes in our scheme in Waterford, will also work with us to deliver affordable rental apartments in other cooperative schemes.

The key to success of this sector is cooperation and collaboration

The cooperative-housing and cohousing sector has deep roots in Ireland. It is currently very active all over Europe and is now growing again in Ireland, north and south. Post-war Ireland saw the formation of many cooperative-housing societies. Similar to the groups being supported by Ó Cualann today, they were local, self-help, home-ownership housing cooperatives providing affordable homes for their members. From the 1950s to the 1970s, many people, attempting to provide for their own housing needs in the new ‘suburbia’ and in growing rural towns established several successful cooperatives and cohousing groups. These co-ops provided over 4,000 homes in communities of eight to 65 homes all around Ireland.

Currently, there is a new and welcome groundswell of groups from all over the country coming together to address their own housing needs. Many of these groups — more than 20 over the last two years — have approached Ó Cualann for help in establishing themselves.

These groups include the Ardmore Grange Housing Study Group in Waterford. Here, locals are being priced out of the market; one of the problems stemming from an oversupply of holiday homes in this attractive seaside resort and fishing village.

Other groups include:

• a local Employees Housing Cooperative in Bray, where well-educated, loyal workers cannot afford to live anywhere near their place of work;

• four artists’ groups in Dublin, Kildare, Limerick and Galway who are looking for live/work spaces;

• a group of dedicated carers in Kilkenny who work with and care for people with intellectual disabilities; and

• two cohousing groups developing a shared ownership plan and many more.

On site with Ó Cualann

We turned the sod on our inaugural project in Poppintree, Ballymun in October 2016. By May 2016 we had pre-sold and allocated all 49 houses in the development.

On 7 July 2016 we handed-over our first five homes and by the end of the year Phase 01, comprising of 17 homes, had been completed. By December 2018, all 49 homes should be occupied.

At the end of 2017 we were awarded two additional sites; the first close to our existing site at Cranogue Road in Ballymun and the second in Ardmore, County Waterford. The Cranogue project is moving through the planning process and, with support from DCC, we hope to be on site in the autumn. The development will comprise of 28 houses and 11 apartments.

In Ardmore, we are working closely with Waterford City and County Council and will shortly submit a planning application for an integrated community of 20 new homes for 16 homeowners and four tenants.


The Ó Cualann model is affordable for all members and is funded as follows:

• A booking deposit of approximately €4,000 secures a house for a member. This will be used to fund design team fees for the planning process;

• 10 per cent deposits on signing of contract (including booking deposit) is used for construction finance and is guaranteed by HomeBond;

• Savings are invested to reduce bank borrowings with a return of approximately 4 per cent per year deducted from the sale price;

• Land for development is provided at a substantial discount by the local authority: €1,000 per house plot. Development levies are waived for Ó Cualann due to it being awarded Approved Housing Body (AHB) status and there are no developer margins apart from the minimum 5 per cent surplus required for due diligence;

• Loan Notes: We have been fortunate to attract private funding through our loan notes. These are available for either 18 months or three years and provide a return of up to 4 per cent per annum for the lenders;

• The bank currently provides construction finance at 5.5 per cent + 1 per cent facility fee and legal, monitoring and valuation costs. This amounts to approximately 7 per cent on current max borrowings. We have a no-variation contract with our construction team which allows for a fixed-price build.

Lastly, in the spirit of co-operative housing, it is important that members do not exploit the early sale of their homes. A gainsharing/clawback arrangement will be put in place in favour of the local authority for 20 years when houses cannot be sold or let without triggering the clawback.

The Ó Cualann funding model results in housing being delivered at an affordable price to members at approximately 25 per cent to 30 per cent discount compared to similar houses in the local market.


We were honoured to have been awarded a Social Entrepreneur of the Year award by Social Entrepreneurs Ireland. The award, accompanied by a grant of €10,000 and a place on a business accelerator course, has opened many doors for us and has directly led to further and very generous philanthropic funding from The Lauritzson Foundation which is being provided to help us build our administration capacity over the next three years. We are also receiving generous support from TOMAR Trust to assist us with professional fees in relation to our planning application in Waterford.

We are very grateful for all this support which enables us to further our ambition to replicate and scale the Ó Cualann model all around the country.

Co-operative housing, properly managed, is now playing its part in resolving the housing crisis in Ireland. In partnership with Local Authorities, we are delivering affordable housing.

The dream of Ó Cualann — to develop and support fully-integrated communities, deliver well-designed, top-quality, energy-efficient, affordable homes and to ensure its cooperative  model can be replicated and scaled across the country — is becoming a reality.

Ó Cualann believes that affordable, integrated housing will continue to have a transformative effect on wider societal issues and in building a more just and equitable society. We are willing to work in an open and collaborative fashion with others who are committed to improving society through the Ó Cualann model for cooperative housing.

T: 01 286 9237
Twitter: @cualannO