Carbery Housing Association (CHA) is a member controlled housing association with charitable status, registered as an Approved Housing Body (AHB) with the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government (DEHLG). CHA was set up in 2001 by local residents in West Cork, who wanted to help people who could not afford to buy or rent good quality housing on the open market, in particular young local people who had to move away from home to secure affordable homes.
Since its creation, CHA has made several attempts to redress this by developing community-friendly housing for rent in West Cork, while at the same time designing these homes to be energy efficient and to incorporate community amenities. CHA made two Planning applications for sustainable social housing projects in Bantry, one of them on a Cork County Council site that it still undeveloped today. We also made several approaches to Town Councils for support. None of our proposals have been supported by Cork County Council or the Town Councils.
During this period Council Housing Lists nationally and locally have increased dramatically, from 60,000 households nationally, and around 9,000 in the Cork region in 2006, to 80,000 households nationally and around 12,000 for respectively in 2010. Ironically, around 70,000 new private homes were built every year from 2002 to 2007, and this has generated an apparent “oversupply” of houses.
A UCD study, meticulously researched but source of some controversy, reported in early 2010 that there were 345,000 empty homes in Ireland, and event after subtracting homes that were “justifiably” empty (such as holiday homes, natural voids and houses in need of repair) there were still around 170,000 homes that were empty and available for sale.
Because we believe this to be a major issue that is not receiving sufficient attention, CHA has set up a Campaign to Use Buildings (CUBE). We aim to work for national action around this issue. We believe that the first step if for Government to draw up a National Empty Buildings Strategy, aimed at bringing in as many properties as possible in every region through a series of local actions. Part of this strategy must involve support and development of housing associations and co-ops like CHA that can work with the community to bring these properties into use, not only for housing, but also as premises for local arts and craft projects, community and environmental initiatives. For more details on CUBE see www.facebook.com/cubecampaign.