The recent global financial crisis has had a significant impact on Ireland’s housing industry, disproportionately affecting older people in society. This has prompted Fold as a Housing Body, to meet the needs of older people in Irish society and provide affordable, specialist housing. Fold Ireland is one of Ireland’s leading approved housing bodies providing housing, care, and support to older people. Fold ensures to provide homes to individuals from low socio-economic backgrounds, with a particular emphasis on housing older people, ensuring they can age in place.
New Dolphin Park, one of Fold’s award-winning schemes, is situated in the wider New Dolphins’ Housing Estate, a 1950s estate of 400 flats, the largest remaining council flat complex in the State. It became notorious for its substance use issues in the 1980s and 1990s, from which it has been difficult to recover. The units were increasingly neglected. It was designated for redevelopment, yet the elderly residents in Dublin’s Dolphin House complex were being left out of the regeneration scheme because of budgetary constraints from the city council. They were residing in damp, cramped bedsit accommodation, where their space requirements would not meet the minimum standard for new builds. The development of the units destined for the elderly was undertaken by Fold Housing on a site transferred from Dublin City Council. Many individuals residing in Dolphin’s Estate and the bedsit accommodation wished to see this lot transformed into something sustainable that would benefit the community.
The design of New Dolphin Park was the culmination of more than two years of collaboration and consultation between Fold Housing, Dublin City Council, the residents of Dolphin Park and the wider community.
Fold’s two Community Engagement workers empower tenants and act as the link between our communities and a range of other local authority and voluntary sector providers.
Fold took 44 individual, dark, cramped flats and regenerated them to deliver 43 modern, energy-efficient, accessible, and universally designed apartments. These apartments are linked by a communal day room where tenants meet for socialising and are provided subsidised meals. Fold had continuous meetings with the prospective tenants and their architectural representative and included their ideas for design, this resulted in many additional client-led features, such as a sedum roof, photovoltaic solar panels, bright colour scheme, community centre, community development workers, level access throughout the apartments, 24 hour on-call service and much more. The success of this particular project illustrates what can be achieved by working in collaboration with prospective tenants and the wider stakeholders.
Main Goals of Fold:
Building, development, and regeneration of housing in Ireland are property-led. Fold adopted a human rights-based approach of collaboration with the prospective residents and wider community stakeholders to build a long-term sustainable community through consultative forums. Community investment continued after the completion of the build through their active housing officer and tenant engagement roles.
The human rights-based approach to housing is a practice not widely utilised in Ireland. There is no national policy statement on regeneration and these projects are usually property led and fail to recognise existing community networks that create a safe and sustainable community. Using the PANEL principles of Participation, Accountability, Non-discrimination, Empowerment and Legality, Fold gave the residents and stakeholders the opportunity to influence how their housing and community would be built, they used collaboration to rebuild New Dolphin Park to a high standard that met the residents’ needs.
Fold worked with the local council to build and develop a community space to benefit the residents and the wider community. This is not included in most modern builds due to space constraints. This space has been planned to facilitate a community employment scheme, designed to provide paid employment and experience to long-term unemployed and disadvantaged people in the community.
The whole building has been designed with ageing in place as the forefront. The apartments are level access throughout. Bathrooms are fitted to DOCM standards. The apartment layout is designed to provide space for free movement with wheelchairs and mobility aids and are equipped with charging points for wheelchairs. The layout of the building is designed with mobility and ageing in mind with numerous rest and meeting points to allow residents to remain active and avoid isolation regardless of their ability.