Ó Cualann Hous­ing al­liance makes it into fi­nal of in­no­va­tion awards

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - NEWS -

WICK­LOW-BASED Ó Cualann Co-hous­ing Al­liance, has made it through to the fi­nal of the In­no­va­tion Awards 2018, the win­ner of which will be an­nounced later this month.

The com­pany, which is based in Bray, has been nom­i­nated in the Sus­tain­abil­ity cat­e­gory. The over­all win­ner of The Ir­ish Times In­no­va­tion of the Year Award 2018 will be se­lected from among the five cat­e­gory award win­ners. The Ó Cualann Co­hous­ing Al­liance has come up with an in­no­va­tive so­lu­tion to the very dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion fac­ing many fam­i­lies who find them­selves earn­ing too much to qual­ify for so­cial hous­ing but not enough to af­ford a mort­gage on a home of their own.

The ob­jec­tive of the or­gan­i­sa­tion is to build mixed de­vel­op­ments of so­cial and af­ford­able hous­ing where no owner-oc­cu­pier has to spend more than 33 per cent of their net house­hold in­come on their mort­gage. The cost of the homes is re­duced mainly through lo­cal au­thor­i­ties sup­ply­ing sites at lit­tle or no cost and waiv­ing de­vel­op­ment levies.

Hugh Bren­nan, CEO of Ó Cualann said the Al­liance in 2014 to pro­vide fully in­te­grated, co-op­er­a­tive, af­ford­able hous­ing in sus­tain­able com­mu­ni­ties.

‘For years, hous­ing in Ire­land has been seg­re­gated on the ba­sis of in­come. If you couldn’t af­ford your own home the State de­cided where you lived and in do­ing so cre­ated very big es­tates of so­cial hous­ing which be­came more de­prived with so­cial prob­lems mag­ni­fy­ing over time,’ he said.

In the Ó Cualann model, so­cial and af­ford­able homes are mixed to­gether one be­side an­other to form fully in­te­grated com­mu­ni­ties.

‘We set about de­vel­op­ing a model that we hoped could be repli­cated around the coun­try. Each buyer pays a book­ing de­posit of four per cent and a de­vel­op­ment won’t go ahead un­til it is fully pre-sold. That en­ables Ó Cualann to se­cure bank fi­nance to fund con­struc­tion work.’

With two de­vel­op­ments in Bal­ly­mun un­der its belt Ó Cualann is now in dis­cus­sion with other lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and agen­cies around the coun­try. ‘We have a site in Water­ford where we are go­ing to build 15 co-op­er­a­tive and five so­cial houses. We are also talk­ing to Lim­er­ick Coun­cil, Cork County Coun­cil, Dún Laoghaire-Rath­down, Fin­gal, and the Hous­ing Agency about repli­cat­ing this model in other ar­eas.’

Ó Cualann is up against two Dublin based firms; EirGrid is nom­i­nated for its pi­lot sys­tem for in­te­grat­ing re­new­able-en­ergy sup­pli­ers with the grid while Parkpnp, which de­scribes it­self as the Airbnb of park­ing so­lu­tions is nom­i­nated for the on­line park­ing mar­ket­place it of­fers users.

The prize for the over­all win­ner is a unique com­mu­ni­ca­tions pack­age worth in ex­cess of €150,000 as well as a schol­ar­ship for all three Ex­ec­u­tive De­vel­op­ment cour­ses from UCD Smur­fit Busi­ness School com­menc­ing in 2019.

CEO Hugh Bren­nan and Tim Crow­ley, Head of Fi­nance, at Ó Cualann Co-hous­ing Al­liance.

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