Carbery Housing Association (CHA) is a community-based housing association based in West Cork.
A native of Colombia, José been working and living in Ireland since 1996. In previous work in Colombia and England, José developed participatory models for co-operative self-help and self-built housing, attempting to integrate sustainable design and energy into construction. One of these was notably featured in the UK TV Programme Grand Designs.
In Ireland, Jose helped found Carbery Housing Association in Skibbereen, West Cork. CHA is a non-profit Housing Association with charitable status. At that time, holiday home developments were pushing house prices out of the reach of local people, and CHA was set up by local residents to help address this problem.
After the 2009 implosion of Ireland’s housing bubble, a cutback in building, paired with a need to house a growing number of families, led the housing association to focus on looking for new and innovative ways to use empty houses. CHA undertook the leasing of empty properties. It received some backing for this proposal, and is currently leasing two long-term private properties for use by families who cannot afford housing on the open market.
Jose has also pursued the development of green and sustainable housing through project carried out with CHA and the Cork Centre for Architectural Education. He is currently project manager of a project involving 5 countries that is exploring the use of renewable and recycled building materials as a more sustainable option for buildings. Details of the NEES (Natural Energy Efficiency and Sustainability) Project may be found on www.neesonline.org
Through projects in Ireland, Colombia and UK, hundreds of people have benefited from the work of the association over the years, and several of José’s projects have won awards for design excellence, energy efficiency and sustainability. Through these projects José has over the years developed social housing projects that incorporate resident-participation; energy efficiency and micro-generation of energy for people who cannot afford to buy or rent on the open market.
CHA’S leasing initiative has provided a number of high-quality affordable homes for people that need them in West Cork. The Mortgages to Rent initiative is aiming to rescue a number of families from the nightmare of repossession. The NEES Project and other initiatives proposed aims to continue developing the principles of low-carbon, low energy, sustainable construction.
CHA re-affirms that its original mandate to build sustainable communities has not been put aside in favour of long-term leasing. They will continue to explore and develop alternatives for permanent sustainable housing within co-housing and community framework, incorporating self-built and green building. At present they see long-term leasing and maximum use of empty properties as a fundamental step towards achieving that vision.
It is my conviction that the social housing sector in Ireland could lead the way in promoting socially and environmentally sustainable communities, and combat the social segregation and degradation of the environment which is linked to the wrong sort of development.