Speech at Launch of Homes for Smart Ageing Universal Design Challenge

Address by Mr. Damien English, T.D.

Minister of State

at the Rebuilding Ireland – Launch of Homes for Smart Ageing Universal Design Challenge

on Tuesday, 31 January 2017 at 10:40 a.m.

at the Department of the Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Conference Room, Custom House, Dublin 1

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to be here this morning to launch the Rebuilding Ireland – Homes for Smart Ageing Universal Design Challenge. As many of you are aware I announced, last September, at the National Ploughing Championships, that I had provided €100,000 in prize money to support the Design Challenge and today’s launch is the culmination of many months of hard work by the Design Challenge Steering Group, which is chaired by my Department.

At the outset, it is important to reiterate that homelessness and the acute shortage of homes available to those who need them is one of the greatest challenges facing this country today. It is having a profound effect on the daily lives of many individuals and families who feel they have been failed by the system and who urgently require homes.

As I have said before, the Government and I have made it our number one priority to resolve the housing and homelessness crisis and under “Rebuilding Ireland” we have set out a broadly based and comprehensive set of actions to do just that. However we cannot implement this plan without the collaboration and assistance of our partners in industry, our NGO’s and the wider public sector. This Design Challenge is a strong example of that collaboration.

Housing in Ireland and Rebuilding Ireland as a solution to the challenges

  • As you may be aware “Rebuilding Ireland” sets out a practical and readily implementable set of actions that will increase housing supply to create a functioning and sustainable housing system that is capable of: –
  • Providing homes for families in emergency accommodation;
  • Tackling the underlying causes, addiction and otherwise, of people living on our streets;
  • Producing a minimum of 25,000 housing units nation-wide every year by 2020;
  • Responding post-2020 to meet future housing needs;
  • Delivering more social housing, much faster, and putting in place financially sustainable mechanisms to meet current and future requirements for social housing supports.
  • Since taking up this Ministry, I have seen daily the negative impacts that the housing shortage is having on our people and their families and how the whole system is struggling to cope and devise solutions.
  • “Rebuilding Ireland” is, I believe, a really good starting point to resolve these problems. Our commitment of €5.35 billion will go a long way to providing much needed social housing and the €200m infrastructure fund should unlock the potential of key sites to deliver thousands of homes for the market.
  • The Government has set out ambitious targets for the delivery of social housing supports over the lifetime of Rebuilding Ireland. Last year, over 18,300 social housing supports were provided across a range of delivery programmes. Within this, preliminary data show that around 5,280 new social houses were either purchased, leased, remediated or built by local authorities and approved housing bodies across the country using a range of funding mechanisms and delivery programmes.

 Homes for Smart Ageing Universal Design Challenge

In addition to the actions aimed at the accelerated delivery of quality housing and a more responsive housing market, Pillar 2 of the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, contains specific commitments to meet the housing needs of the vulnerable, which includes our older people.

As with many of the themes within Rebuilding Ireland, addressing the needs of older people will require cross-Departmental and inter-agency co-operation and collaboration. In this regard, the commitments in the Action Plan are complementary to the objectives of the Programme for Actions for Smart Ageing published by the Department of the Taoiseach in April last year.

The National Positive Ageing Strategy (NPAS), published in 2013, also provides a framework for cooperation to address age-related policy and service delivery across Government and society in the years ahead. This Strategy is intended to promote older people’s health and well-being so that older people can continue to contribute to social, economic, cultural and family life in their own communities for as long as possible, thereby representing a vision for an age-friendly society.

The Strategy also highlights that ageing is not just a health issue, but rather requires a whole of Government approach to address a range of social, economic and environmental factors that affect the health and wellbeing of our ageing citizens.

The ageing of our population represents one of the most significant demographic and societal developments that Ireland faces in the years ahead, with the number of people over the age of 65 expected to reach 1.4 million by 2041.

Across this same period, the number over the age of 80 is set to quadruple, from 128,000 in 2011 to some 480,000.

The implications for public policy in areas such as housing, health and urban and rural planning are considerable.

Government policy is to support older people to live with dignity and independence in their own homes and communities for as long as possible.

In terms of cost effectiveness, home care costs in Ireland are estimated to be consistently lower than hospitalisation. For many, living in adapted or specialist housing reduces reliance on health and social care services and can result in measurably improved health status and lower rates of hospital admissions, while also contributing to a greater sense of well-being among our older population.

Smart ageing is a broad concept that has been largely defined as using technology and innovation in both the public and private sectors to design and produce products, services, solutions, and systems to improve the quality of life of people ages 50 and over.

Adaptable and smart homes will be the future in the developed world with advantages from saving energy to creating homes suitable for a lifetime. This Design Challenge presents an opportunity to develop the know-how and commercialise the knowledge of smart ageing adaptation to support assisted living for older people in their homes.

In terms of housing there are collaborative approaches already underway involving local authorities; the HSE; the Department of Health and NGO’s (such as Age Friendly Ireland). For example, the Age Friendly Cities and Counties Programme, which provides a local multi-agency collaborative structure in partnership with older people, with local authorities taking the lead on changing thinking about ageing, and how services are planned and delivered.

The Homes for Smart Ageing Universal Design Challenge aims to stimulate and encourage the design and construction industries to be innovative in designing and delivering housing solutions for older people and implements Action 2.19 of Rebuilding Ireland.

This Design Challenge, focuses on three distinct areas: –

  • smart technologies in housing for older people;
  • adaptation of existing houses to meet the needs of older people; and
  • life-time communities.

As I mentioned earlier, my Department, established a steering group comprising the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design which is part of the National Disability Authority, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, the Construction Industry Federation, Enterprise Ireland and Dublin City Council.

This steering group, in consultation with stakeholder groups and other interested parties, has developed a comprehensive Design Challenge brief for the competition

This brief sets out clearly how to participate, what is required of potential entrants, and of course details regarding the awarding of prize money amounting to €100,000 that I announced late last year to support this “Homes for Smart Ageing Universal Design Challenge”.

Conclusion

Returning to a normally functioning housing and construction sector is critically important in order to support economic growth, social progress and environmental sustainability which will benefit all of our citizens irrespective of age, size or disability.

While the Government is acting, the challenge does not stop there. It is vital that, as the 84 actions to facilitate house building are implemented, local authorities, approved housing bodies, voluntary bodies, builders and developers proactively respond to the housing supply challenge.

The “Homes for Smart Ageing Universal Design Challenge” is a small but key element of the Rebuilding Ireland solution.

I urge everyone involved in its implementation and those of you here today, to use your networks, contacts and organisations to promote and highlight the Design Challenge in order to elicit support and to invite entries from as many of our talented innovators as possible.

I call on anyone with a novel and inventive idea that can be further presented as a solution; that is feasible, cost effective and has the potential for mainstreaming into the future in support of smart ageing solutions to participate.

With this in mind, I hereby officially launch the “Homes for Smart Ageing Universal Design Challenge” and would like to wish those who take part in the Challenge, every success. I also look forward to seeing the winning ideas and solutions incorporated into the future delivery of good quality housing to those who need it.

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