In January 2017, I launched the Rebuilding Ireland Homes for Smart Ageing Universal Design Challenge. The Homes for Smart Ageing Universal Design Challenge was an initiative under the Rebuilding Ireland programme (Action 2.19) and the Programme of Actions for Smart Ageing, which aims to stimulate and encourage the design and construction industries to be innovative in designing and delivering housing solutions for older people. The total Design Challenge prize fund of €100,000 was funded by my Department and project managed by the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design.
Over 60 high-quality entries were received from around the country, with five commended entries reaching the final round where they received funding of €10,000 and support to develop their idea further. In June 2017, I announced the winner of the Homes for Smart Ageing Universal Design Challenge during an award ceremony at Dublin Castle. The winner, who received €50,000, was The Abhaile Project.
The Abhaile Project developed an innovative new model to support older homeowners to reconfigure their family-sized homes by creating an independent living area suitable for the older homeowner, eliminating the need to use the stairs; and creating an affordable one-bedroomed rental accommodation upstairs. Using a Universal Design approach, this promotes an efficient way to use our existing housing stock by carving much needed new one-bedroomed rental capacity from existing housing stock in mature urban areas, allowing the homeowner to live securely and independently downstairs, whilst promoting interaction with the person living upstairs, thereby reducing isolation.