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Respond: Committed to providing future-proofed and cost efficient homes

The opening of St Doulagh’s Oaks, Malahide Road, County Dublin delivered by Respond in partnership with Fingal County Council.

Respond has been delivering homes as part of integrated communities for people across the country for 40 years. Over this time, the Approved Housing Body has demonstrated its track record for both scale and capacity to successfully deliver large and complex projects.

Respond works together with its partners and multiple stakeholders, across the public, private and voluntary sector, to deliver sustainable targets and innovation. Respond’s current construction schemes range in value from €15 million to €65 million with a total programme value in excess of €1.5 billion. The organisation began as a social housing provider but recognised very early on that housing does not exist in isolation but as part of a wider community. It now also provides a broad range of services including family homeless services, early learning and school-age care, refugee resettlement services, day care for older people and family support services, alongside their work as an Approved Housing Body, delivering homes and services all around the country.

Delivering high quality homes

Recognising that housing delivery is a specialist area, Respond has a development department that reflects this with a multi-disciplinary team of registered architects, quantity surveyors, planners, clerks of works, technicians and project managers who deal with all aspects of construction and project management and delivery.

An Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD officially opening Westview, County Cork. The homes were delivered by Respond in partnership with Cork County Council and Cork City Council.

There can be no doubt that the last few years have been challenging in terms of delivery, managing project risk, and ensuring the well-being of those working to deliver new homes for those most in need. Despite these challenges, in 2021 Respond delivered 624 new homes and commenced construction on a further 778 new homes. It has 1,441 homes in construction across the country right now. Its focus has been to add to the national housing stock by facilitating new construction across the country working with its partners. Respond’s pipeline continues to grow with additional new homes secured for both social and cost rental homes which will be delivered over the next three years, with the support of local authorities, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, the Housing Finance Agency, and the Housing Agency.

Mid term review of the strategic plan

From 2019, the start of Respond’s current strategic plan, the organisation has overseen construction commence on 2,850 homes, with just over 90 per cent of this delivery accounting for new construction, and an expansion of their services offering. In the last two years, the world has changed considerably. Acknowledging this changed context, Respond has undertaken a mid-term review of its strategic plan to ensure they remain agile in responding to the changing external environment and to reflect the growth of the organisation over the last few years.

The plan originally included the ambitious target of providing 2,500 homes from 2019 to 2023; this has now been increased up to 1,000 social homes and 250 cost rental homes. An important goal in the strategic plan is to provide cost rental homes for people whom the housing is too expensive to buy and who do not qualify for social housing. Respond has led the way in the provision of affordable, cost rental homes and say it will continue to work with government to ensure there is a sustainable and replicable model model for this tenure type into the future. In addition, a new goal has been added to include Respond’s community-based services.

Tenant satisfaction

The most important way for any Approved Housing Body to understand how it is performing, is by asking its tenants. Earlier this year, Respond undertook a national tenant satisfaction survey, asking tenants a range of questions about the quality of their homes and estates as well as the services it provides.

Of the tenants who participated in the survey, 90 per cent were satisfied with the overall service provided by Respond, up from 86 per cent since 2019 survey. The survey also helpfully identified areas for renewed focus over the next few years.

Strategic partnerships

As a learning organisation, Respond is at an exciting stage of its growth. It is partnering with the Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI) in Trinity College, collaborating to enhance the brain health of Respond’s tenants, service users and staff. It has been working with the Centre for Effective Services (CES) to redesign how it delivers services to tits tenants, creating a new way of working which will mean greater involvement of tenants. It is also creating a new design guide to enhance their delivery of quality housing.

Respond is committed to providing future-proofed, energy efficient, well designed, and cost-efficient homes which benefit their tenants in the long term. It is also focused on developing a tenant engagement strategy where tenants are deeply involved in co-developing this new approach working with Supporting Communities. Respond hopes to launch this strategy later in 2022.

Building on years of achievement, experience and considerable learnings, Respond has set out the direction in it which it wants to go and where will be focusing its efforts over the next three years. The Government’s Housing for All plan sets out delivery pathways and ambitious targets with a significant role for approved housing bodies. Respond looks forward to continuing to play its part working in partnership to deliver much needed social and cost rental homes as part of vibrant communities.

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