Clúid Housing and the housing associations model of Ireland: Promoting community-based housing solutions.
Housing associations represent a third sector-based solution to the existing affordable housing crisis affecting many European countries. This model is particularly consolidated in the United Kingdom and Ireland, where it has consolidated its role as social housing provider over the last decades. This interview has been developed within the framework of the 2023 International Social Housing Festival held in Barcelona to present the specific case of Clúid: a successful housing association with almost 30 years of experience in providing community-based housing solutions. We talk to Andrew Daly, Policy and Research Coordinator and Steve Loveland, Resident Engagement Manager with Clúid Housing.
Can you tell us about Clúid?
Clúid Housing is an Approved Housing Body (AHB) based in Ireland. It was founded in 1994 with the mission of developing and managing social housing in Ireland. Our commitment to creating affordable, safe, and sustainable homes has allowed us to make a significant impact over the past three decades. We have provided housing options that meet the diverse needs of individuals and families across the country. From urban areas to rural communities, Clúid has been dedicated to fostering thriving neighbourhoods and empowering individuals to build strong, connected communities.
Clúid believes that the landlord/resident relationship should be centred around providing a high level of customer care but that relationship should provide opportunities for the residents to influence and help develop the services that they receive. To this end, Clúid has developed tailored menus of involvement for both staff and residents, setting out the various channels through which individuals can influence decisions on services and policies that may affect them now and into the future.
What is the role and background of non-profit housing associations like Clúid in Ireland?
Non-profit housing associations like Clúid have played a vital role in Ireland's social housing landscape. While public administrations initially took the lead in social housing development during the mid-20th century, housing associations have since emerged as key stakeholders in addressing the evolving housing needs of the Irish population. As public funding and housing resources were reduced, housing associations stepped in to bridge the gaps, particularly in meeting the requirements of specific population cohorts. Our role has expanded beyond catering to specific cohorts to addressing broader housing needs. Clúid, with a portfolio of over 10,000 homes, is at the forefront of delivering comprehensive housing solutions and actively collaborating with other stakeholders to create sustainable communities.
Does Clúid maintain a specific focus on particular population cohorts?
Absolutely. While our aim is to provide housing solutions for all, we recognize the importance of tailoring our initiatives to the unique needs of different population cohorts. Clann, one of our major initiatives, has been instrumental in offering age-friendly social housing options for those over the age of 55. We understand the desire for older individuals to maintain their independence while remaining part of a supportive community. Through Clann, we have created environments that promote active aging, social engagement, and overall well-being. Looking ahead, we are committed to exploring similar age-friendly housing solutions for young people who face distinct challenges in accessing affordable housing. We believe in empowering people of all ages to lead fulfilling lives in safe and inclusive communities.
What are the specific housing needs of younger generations?
Younger generations in Ireland are confronted with a host of unique housing obstacles. The shortage of social housing exacerbates their struggles, as the average waiting time for a social housing allocation stands at around 10 years. This prolonged wait forces young people to navigate the private rental market, where they often encounter unaffordable rents and poor conditions. Major cities like Dublin, Cork, and Limerick are experiencing particularly acute housing challenges but the lack of options for young people and students is being felt in all parts of the country. Ensuring accessible, affordable, and secure housing for younger generations is crucial for their overall well-being, stability, and future prospects.
What is the existing legal framework in Ireland to guarantee the right to housing?
Ireland possesses a comprehensive body of housing legislation; however, 'the recognition of a right to housing in the Constitution is currently absent. Efforts are underway to address this gap, with hopes for a referendum in the near future'.
While regulation provides a foundation for addressing housing issues, challenges persist due to a lack of enforcement, particularly regarding ever increasing rental prices. In response, the Irish government recently introduced the Housing for All strategy, an ambitious plan aimed at increasing the availability of affordable housing. Through collaboration with housing associations like Clúid, the strategy seeks to unlock new social housing developments and enhance the accessibility of suitable homes for everyone.
What are the main challenges and aspirations for Clúid in this context?
Clúid faces a number of challenges within the current housing landscape. The most pressing is the limited capacity for developing new social housing due to insufficient technical and financial supports. Since we operate without direct grants from public administrations, we have relied on low-interest loans to fund our developments. However, we are now reaching our borrowing limits. This restricts our ability to take on new projects. To overcome this, we urgently require access to grant funding or assistance in redeeming our existing loans.
That said, we also recognise that there are great opportunities available to our sector. The Land Development Agency was recently set-up to manage public lands and we are hopefully that our sector will be able to partner with them to do so. Cost Rental is also an exciting new tenure type which provides affordability and security to those who do not quality for other social housing supports. Cost Rental allows us to assist the so-called ‘squeezed middle’ and will hopefully bring stability to the private rented sector as a whole once it is offered at scale.
Through membership organisations such as the Housing Alliance, the Irish Council for Social Housing, the Tenant Engagement Network and the European Federation for Living, and with opportunities to participate in events like the International Social Housing Festival, we have more chances than ever to respond to similar challenges as a sector, learn from other organisations and share our own experiences.