Rodd Bond’s statement to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Housing

NetwellCASALA's Director Rodd Bond's statement to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Planning, 17 April 2018

Rodd Bond, Director of NetwellCASALA, gave a statement to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Housing in April, highlighting the benefits of introducing Universal Design principals to housing planning. Bringing a wealth of experience to this discussion, particularly from his role in delivering the Great Northern Haven, a best practice model of housing for older people, in collaboration with Louth County Council, the HSE and DkIT, Rodd outlined the need to move the conversation from meeting the needs of housing for older persons to empowering persons to meet their home needs as they age. The Joint Committee also heard from ALONE, Age Friendly Counties Programme and Age and Opportunity.

Last year the 'Division for Social Policy and Development' of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA) brought forward 'Older Persons and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development'. The overarching global, European and National policy objectives are outlined in goal 11 'to make cities, communities and human settlements age-inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable' and goal 3 'to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages'.

Rodd Bond, Director of NetwellCASALA, outlined to the Joint Committee the three key challenges in achieving those goals in the consideration for housing to meet the needs of older persons.

  • The first is to reframe the challenge of 'meeting the needs of housing for older persons' to meeting the 'housing needs for persons as they age' highlighting the fact that housing for older persons is not a segmented cohort problem. Ageing and associated age related decline in function is a universal reality facing everybody. He proposed universal, mainstream and inclusive responses that over time make our housing stock adaptive and fit for purpose for everyone in an ageing society.
  • The second challenge is to move from 'meeting the housing needs for persons as they age' to meeting the 'home needs of persons as they age'. The term 'housing' risks diminishing the value of our living human experience and the richness of the sense of home, place and belonging that is so vital to our mental and physical wellbeing, encompassing the security and identity of our attachment to a home within our community.
  • The last challenge highlighted to the Joint Committee was of 'meeting the home needs of a person as they age' to 'empowering persons to meet their home needs as they age'.

Today there is no 'market' functioning at scale that makes available Universal homes in sustainable neighbourhoods. Empowering persons to meet their home needs as they age is a societal responsibility, and Rodd suggested that the housing market needs to be stimulated, or incentivised to engage in greater innovation to address and seed initial supply.

He further stated that 'with the right mix of partners, risks could be spread across multiple stakeholders within the value chain for a defined period of time, in a range of public-private pilot engagements, to offer choice, test demand and evaluate socio-economic impact'. Such housing and health policy experimentation needs to be holistic;

  • Address planning Innovation (location, density and proximity)
  • Universal Design Innovation (building and urban context)
  • Service Innovation (access to more integrated community and health supports)
  • Digital Innovation (access to an eco-system of on-line services supporting health and wellbeing self-management and social connectivity)
  • Financial Innovation (possibly ranging from individual low-interest loans/grants to cross-sectoral social finance investments and pay by results)

With an age-dependency ration approaching 1:2 by 2060, this is more than a specialised housing problem for a cohort. It requires a paradigm shift in how we collectively envision and approach the challenge of our housing stock for current and future generations.

It requires aware citizens with the opportunity and freedom to responsibly plan and choose their solutions for their futures, and right now, it requires public policy experimentation to create conditions to foster innovation so that citizens can exercise choices to age in place soon and into the future.

Please click here for more information on the Great Northern Haven, a 16 apartment housing project for older people in Dundalk. It offers an example of collaborative working and planning to build homes to meet the needs of people as they age.