2020s and beyond “The co-operative ethos should be available to all, regardless of their income level” #Celebrating50

December 15, 2023

In more recent years, CHI has grown its capacity rapidly to support its burgeoning output and adapted to new regulations for AHBs as well as an ever-challenging building climate. With 5,000 homes under its management, the organisation has, once again, restructured its housing management services to ensure a strong quality of service across the organisation. Chairperson of CHI, Pearse O’Shiel discusses the important changes that have shaped the organisation since his appointment five years ago. “

The main change that sticks out from my being Chairperson for the last five years is the introduction of the regulator and the response of the organisation to that. When that regulation was put on a statutory footing, we changed in response to those new regulatory requirements, so the organisation became more professional”, says Pearse.

Increasing the organisation’s capacity through recruitment to meet the demands of housing management has been a consistent theme at CHI since Pearse’s appointment, he says, and will remain so in the coming years.

“The organisation has grown rapidly in response to the housing crisis and its requirement. Matching growth with the organisation’s capacity and number of employees has been an ongoing task”, he says.

An important part of growing CHI’s capacity has been attracting the right type of personnel at every level, including the Board. This has been a key focus, especially addressing the introduction of new regulations for AHBs and the foundation of AHBRA in 2019.

“The Board has been very effective and very fortunate in many ways to attract such high calibre individuals both in terms of the elected members but also those who were co-opted onto the board by virtue of their experience and expertise. They’ve been a great support in this period of growth for CHI and it’s important to recognise and commend them for that”, says the Chairperson.

Pearse O’Shiel, Chairperson with Cllr Alison Gilliland (Lord Mayor of Dublin from 2021-2022)

Pearse believes that the organisation is keeping on track with healthy growth and high performance across each strategy point. “The current situation for CHI is that we are maintaining its growth. According to our metrics things are in a very healthy state and we’ve been able to respond effectively to the demands that have been put on us by state in terms of the housing crisis and the Housing for All programme. I think we’d acknowledge the targets for Housing for All are inadequate and we need toramp up the delivery of homes beyond what is delineated in that programme”.

Looking ahead, Pearse foresees the need for housing to adapt to the ever-changing world in which we live. “Looking into the crystal ball, it is rather cloudy and unclear. There is an increasing housing crisis to which we seek to respond to, but circumstances are changing. The environment in which houses are being built consists of innumerable moving parts with energy crises, the war in Ukraine, increased labour costs, and the lack of availability of skilled labour. There are many unknowns, but what seems to be clear is that many things that were taken for granted in the past are being questioned, the way we live, how we heat our homes with fossil fuels and so on.”

Pearse believes community development and the cooperative values are a central component of CHI’s work, “Many aspects of life are being questioned, and I’ve a strong sense that in fact the co-operative model will be increasingly needed in these next few years, and I’m very gratified that CHI is putting more emphasis on building communities and on community development, that’s a very important part of our work, beyond the quantitative aspect, beyond the numbers, that those more human, more qualitative sides are getting attention.”

“The CHI Community Engagement Team supports communities across the country to set up member associations, run meaningful community events, and come together as a united voice to influence their neighbourhood and locality in positive ways. The Community Engagement team runs events and activities for CHI Member tenants such as bingo, book club, gardening groups, and has also facilitated larger projects, such as, ‘It Takes a Village’, a series of mental health and wellbeing workshops and member-led toolkit which was delivered in 2022. I am excited to see this work progress and what results come from it.”.

Leas Cathaoirleach of Carlow County Council (2022-2023) , Cllr Michael Doran, CHI Members, Community Engagement Manager, Anthony Burrowes, Senior Facilitator at Soar, Clodagh Leonard, and Darragh Johnston from the HFA pictured at the launch of the ‘It Takes a Village’ mental health and wellbeing toolkit

Pearse would like to see CHI lean into its co-operative identity more to maximise the number of people who can be supported by the opportunities the co-operative ethos presents. “We’ve been operating very successfully as an AHB over the last number of years. However, there’s a danger that we forget that the co-operative ethos is something that should be available to all, regardless of their level of income, and there are certainly opportunities that I would like to see explored, for people who would not be eligible for social housing”. I would like to see people over the social housing income threshold co-operate and utilise the co-operative expertise that CHI has, and that we make our co-operative knowledge available to them. It would be great to see these people work co-operatively to explore solutions to their housing needs through land trusts and so forth with the support of CHI. Good housing came about a lot this way in the past. There are risks attached to that, but it shouldn’t be beyond CHI to manage and deal with those risks.”

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