THE BACKBONE OF SOCIAL CAPITAL
observed Oliver Bond’s women arrange of money for families in need, or provide
a ride to the city, a sack of groceries to get through the
end of the month, fund-raising for the children summer trips, but also emotional
support, fostering community relationships, mediating between the public world
of schools, social services, medical care and all sort of everyday interactions that produce the #cityofcare.
The provision of social housing is always politically charged, and buildings can cease to be seen as dwellings and instead be viewed solely through the prism of the perceived success, or failure, of individual schemes. On the contrary, this photographic journey will allow us to experience the social production of community that constitutes Oliver Bond House.
in 1936, the Liberties
Bond flats complex is one of Ireland’s largest local authority housing estates
consisting of sixteen separate blocks of flats and three houses, a total of 394
households built over 2.847 hectares with a current population of about 1,200
establishment of such a large and distinctive city-centre flat complex was a
response to the 1932 Irish Housing Act, which placed increased emphasis on slum
clearance and, paradoxically enough, with the serious housing and public health
issues facing the city at the time.
The buildings themselves are monuments to
their architect, Herbert Simms, the man who designed them along with 17,000
other social housing units across Dublin between 1923 and 1931. The flat blocks
designed by Simms and his team were not just of architectural importance. Their
construction helped to retain population at the heart of the city, keeping
communities intact and contributing to the continued vibrancy of urban life.
This was facilitated by a policy of decanting residents from the slums to the
new dwellings, then building further blocks as the remaining slum buildings
were cleared. Simms himself preferred central block housing rather than
suburban schemes as a solution to large-scale slum clearance.
In this research I found extensive networks of kin and friends supporting, reinforcing each other, devising schemes for self-help, strategies for survival in a community of severe economic deprivation.
"Looking after one another, this is our community! I do have a passion
and for our community and we don’t want anyone that’s coming in and doing ill
to a community or is not good for our community. Everyone should make a
contribution to their community, no matter how small." (John, 72, long-term resident).
A special thanks to Fran Dempsey
(Iron Man) and
(Diesel) from the Liberties Food Bank for posing in these photographs.
Community support in the Oliver Bond flats is based on a common ground: people take care of each other and as such take over several welfare functions of the state.
"The community built through the tenants association and there were a lot of matriarchal women, a lot of them are dead now, they were matriarchs. You did nothing wrong in our flats and they would stand when there was drugs coming into the flats they stood at the gates and they prevented all that happening and they marched for much better conditions for the city!" (Riona, 60, long-term resident)
"We've always been basically really strong for as long as I can remember. I remember years ago even when there was a football match... The women organized it. Get to tell you, getting around, getting everybody down, putting through, voluntary for a cause, everybody looking after everybody. Strong women, all women.
And now? [lipsmack] I'd like to think that DCC would do
more for... for the kids, yet they live in these facilities and the
way we're living is absolutely disgraceful, there is
absolutely nothing in there. The football team is fantastic, it's all we have... the
football team, that's-that's a blessing in the sky!"
Thanks to Eddie Keogh -
Oliver Bond Celtic
manager - posing
in the last photograph for #cityofcare.
The women interviewed in Oliver Bond view community work as a personal calling, putting emphasis in their motivation in early exposure to spatial segregation, stigmatization and class oppression. Their own mothers helped interpret experiences with classism and segregation and instilled in their daughters a belief in their ability to overcome these obstacles.
ethnographic study of the Liberties has shown that disadvantaged communities
have historically relied on their social capital to aid in survival when other
forms of capital have been lacking.
material and cultural support needed to absorb, sustain and socialize community members
in Oliver Bond is provided by networks of kin, friends, and more or less formal local
institutions and associations. Their
social and economic lives are so entwined that community produce a tangible response to economic restructuring and welfare state
A special thank to Edward Whelan posing with his daughter in their Oliver Bond flat (above) and outside it (below) for #cityofcare.
The people who live in the flats are heavily networked, I observed a complex, interhousehold kin network (blood relatives and others) that facilitates sharing of all kinds of resources and creates pressure among members to share whatever they have.
The COVID-19 pandemic, along with the shelter-in-place orders implemented to manage the crisis, put a spotlight on these enduring housing affordability and quality gaps, particularly among low-income and vulnerable households. People living in poor quality housing or unsafe living conditions (such as overcrowding or homelessness) faced elevated health and safety risks. The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced the critical role of social housing in providing stable, safe and affordable accommodation – and spurred a renewed urgency to address housing vulnerability.
Back on March 2021,
the Oliver Bond residents distributed a survey containing seven simple questions
about environmental conditions to all 397 units within the estate with the
support of the local community development project Robert Emmet CDP. The
evidence described a living condition clearly in breach
of residents Right To Adequate Housing
that must be “habitable”, in
terms of providing the inhabitants with adequate space and protecting from
cold, damp, heat, rain, wind or other threats to health, structural hazards and
disease vectors. The vast majority of people in Oliver Bond House are living with
damp, mould, and cold. About a third doesn’t have cold or hot running
water. A third has problems with pests,
including rats, and two-thirds don’t have adequate vermin free refuse storage. These are very basic issues that go
to the very heart of what decent, healthy and safe accommodation should be.
We are grateful to Caroline for allowing us to come in and photograph her home and the mold within its walls.
The renovation of the social housing stock has been a priority for social housing providers in recent years, to upgrade ageing dwellings but also to improve the overall energy efficiency of the stock in the context of energy poverty and a changing climate. Nevertheless, it will be important for policymakers to ensure that largescale housing regenerations do not result in the displacement of low-income tenants. To avoid “renovictions” – the residential displacement of low-income and vulnerable households following investments to improve housing quality.
This project has received funding from the European Commission Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie
Individual Fellowship (G.A.890603).
Please cite as: Manzo, L.K.C. (2019) CITY-OF-CARE, the University of Milan, Italy.
©2021 Lidia K.C. Manzo - Pierluigi Cattani Faggion - Alison Fernandes