Deputy Carol Nolan
The Housing Minister has been asked to directly intervene in the long running dispute between residents of a housing estate in Birr and the approved housing body, who manage the estate.
In December 2020, the Tribune reported that a number of residents of Chesterfield Close, Birr were losing patience with the Respond Housing Association after asking it to carry out essential works on their homes for the last five years. However, they said that nothing has happened and they continued to be unable to have heat and issues with poor insulation.
In a statement to the Tribune this week, independent TD for Laois Offaly Carol Nolan has repeated her request to the Minister for Housing, Darragh O’Brien, calling on him to directly intervene in this long running dispute between residents of Chesterfield Close and Respond.
Deputy Nolan said that residents in 16 houses and 8 apartments in the Birr estate, which are under the management of Respond have been unable to have heat and poor insulation issues addressed.
Speaking this week, the local TD stated: “This is going on for far too long now and it is simply unacceptable that these residents, which include the elderly and young families, have had to put up with constant draughts and wind blowing in through their doors and windows.”
“I have repeatedly called on Respond to address this situation, but nothing has been done. I have also directly asked the Minister for Housing to engage with Respond given that it is in receipt of considerable amounts of state funding every year.”
“Indeed, government grants toward capital projects engaged in by Respond exceeded €33 million in one year alone.”
“As far as I am aware, Respond has delivered over 200 homes in Offaly and for that I can only congratulate and thank them. There is no denying that the organisation does fantastic work and that it delivers a vitally needed service for thousands of people each year.”
“But that great work cannot be allowed to excuse its clear obligation to meet the basic demands of the Chesterfield Close residents for warm homes-especially in an era where the government is emphasising the importance of homes having good energy ratings.”
“The Minister must intervene and demand that Respond step up to the mark and deliver for the residents. I will certainly not be letting this issue go until that is done,” concluded Deputy Nolan.
Responding to queries from the Tribune, a spokesperson from Respond confirmed the housing body was aware of the queries tenants in Chesterfield Close have about their windows and doors. However, the spokesperson said they weren't aware of any calls for the Minister to intervene in the matter.
Replying to the Tribune, the spokesperson outlined how it was a key priority of Respond to ensure the energy efficiency of all of its homes and an energy upgrade on this estate with partial funding from the Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland (SEAI) was carried out in 2015.
“Unfortunately at that time, window and door replacements were not eligible as part of the scheme. In 2019, our CEO, Declan Dunne, visited the estate and discussed this matter with tenants explaining that we did not have funding for window and door replacements but, with tenants agreement, we would undertake a window and doors servicing programme. This servicing programme took place in 2019, with the input of tenants, to address any defects to the windows and doors,” they continued.
According to the Respond spokesperson, they will be completing a National Stock Condition Survey this year. It had been hoped to complete this in 2020 but it wasn't possible due to Covid-19. “This survey will help us to prioritise upgrade works, ensuring that limited resources are targeted to those homes where this is most needed. Respond has over 4,250 units around the country.,” they continued.
“Once we have completed the National Stock Condition Survey we will be in a position to develop longer term programmes and offer tenants greater certainty as to when they might expect the replacement of windows and doors. We will of course continue to address any repair requests relating to the windows and doors, as and when they arise,” they added.
Meanwhile, speaking to the paper late last year, Desmond Daly said: "In 2014," he pointed out, "Respond installed an Air to Water scheme in the estate. This is a great scheme which gives the houses hot water. At the time, they said they would return in 2015 to draught-proof the doors and windows of the houses and apartments but since then there has been one excuse after another and they haven't returned."
The Tribune heard how that as a result residents were having to use their fossil fuel stoves to heat their dwellings. "The stoves are not linked to central heating," said Des in December last. "Without the stoves we would be too cold. Respond did put a sealer on the windows and doors but the sealers weren't fit for purpose and have fallen off." He said the houses are 25 years old and there are significant draughts.
"We have been complaining about this problem for the last five years but have got nowhere. We have reached the end of our patience….Every time we approach Respond they give us a different excuse. The most recent excuse was Covid. I think Covid is being used as a handy excuse, by some people, to do nothing,” he said.