Citizens’ agenda
Local elections 2019

Artane-Whitehall

11 candidates competing for 6 seats
 

Affordable housing: yes, this is the most urgent crisis facing the council and if elected I will work to bring back the affordable housing scheme to Dublin City Council. Dublin City Council should be using its own land to build houses and not selling it off to private developers.

Social housing: yes, of course I will be supporting an increase in development of social-housing projects but only where it is done as part of social-mix development plan, this has been proven to be a better planning method for areas to ensure continued development of the community and attracting employers and local businesses to areas. Only in exceptional circumstance would I vote for 100 percent social housing and even at that it would need to be very small amount in an area with a good residential mix.

I’ve sat on the Housing SPC for the last five years and have used my role to speak out against the current model whereby we have a very slow increase in social housing and an insecure and uneconomical dependence on the private rental model. I’ve also spoken out about the lack of a proper affordable-housing model. DCC can only do as much as the funding afforded to it. Too much is controlled centrally and this makes progress with regard to direct-builds frustratingly slow. However, despite not having an affordable-housing scheme, I have supported retaining part of the Oscar Traynor Road Land Initiative for affordable housing – perhaps by the time we actually build, the government will have delivered a scheme we can use! If elected, I will continue to ensure progress is made on sites marked for development, and that any development is planned in a sustainable community-focused way – for example, my most recent motion to the North Central Area Committee calls on DCC to lead the development of an ambitious infrastructure and connectivity plan for the Oscar Traynor Road site to ensure we do not have massive congestion on the Oscar Traynor Road and rat-running though adjacent estates such as Castletimon and Lorcan. Another issue I hope to continue to progress is increasing the number of one-bed units [in DCC's social housing]. The longest list across all housing areas is the one-bed list, generally for single people. DCC is beginning to listen at this stage to my constant advocacy, so in the next term I hope to see some real progress in this area.

Solving the housing crisis will take time and vision. The roots of this crisis started with the creeping privatisation of our public-housing stock from the ‘60s onwards and the state moving away from providing homes to citizens. Under our Universal Public Housing system (more details on eirigi.org) everyone would have the right to rent a council property, regardless of their income. Cities like Vienna already operate similar highly successful public-housing schemes. Housing should also be a legal right, enshrined in the constitution. Only the state has the financial resources, legal powers and the expertise to build high-quality homes. Missing is the political will. For too long the process of housing prvision has been dominated by the private sector. As a result billions of euro have been channelled into the hands of private landlords, speculators, banks, developers, solicitors and estate agents – to the misery of others. Organised housing groups of citizens have a key role to play in applying pressure to push for this solution.

Use all land in the ownership of Dublin City Council to directly build the public housing the people of Dublin so badly need. Presently, Dublin City Council owns enough zoned residential land to provide 18,000 new dwellings, with Dublin County having enough land to provide 29,278 dwellings. Bizarrely, Dublin City Council is currently fineing itself because it has twenty-one sites on the Derelict Sites Register with the potential to provide 1,900 homes. We have the land, we need the political will. This will involve not only submitting motions at the city council Housing Strategic Policy Committee and full council meetings but linking in with the national housing campaigns and grassroots groups to demand that public homes are built and a new cost-rental model introduced.

Continue to push for DCC to build more social and affordable homes on their own sites.

Use public lands to deliver more housing as an immediate measure to build more social, affordable-purchase housing and affordable-rental housing. Give the Land Development Agency an explicit role to get homes built, to raise finance, and to plan for the future with a target of 20,000 homes per year (currently 7,500). Scrap the Rainy Day Fund and use the money to invest in housing. Introduce a new affordable-housing scheme to target first-time buyers and the “locked-out” generation. Significantly improve funding for local authorities and voluntary housing, and site enabling works. Take carrot and stick measures to free up vacant land, and vacant and underused homes. Introduce a land-hoarding tax. Ring-fence 20 percent of new developments for affordable housing – in addition to the existing 10 percent social. End overcharging by banks on mortgage interest payments.

 

Of course, the government as a whole should be providing more affordable rent conditions. The 4 percent-increase rent cap is being breached and not enough is being done to tackle this. I would be in favour of bringing back rent relief to tenants and that the government build private lets for those that are within the affordable housing cap earning limit.

I believe in the concept of public housing whereby anyone, regardless of income, can choose to rent from their local authority at a differential rent that is proportionate to their income. We are a long way from that and need the central government support to facilitate this. Another approach is the cost-rental model, which could be funded by trusts looking for low-risk, long-term investment. However, despite not having a cost-rental housing scheme or framework, I have supported retaining part of the Oscar Traynor Road Land Initiative site for cost-rental housing – perhaps by the time we actually build, the government will have delivered a scheme we can use! Ultimately, increasing housing supply should help reduce rents as demand will reduce.

The extremely high rents in the private sector are forcing many families into poverty and despair. Rents controls would see private tenants provided with real security of tenure and rents set at an affordable level. A ban on economic evictions would also stop evictions of those who are genuinely trying to pay their rent or mortgage.

This is a national government competency but as a public representative I would make the call and demand that real rent controls and rent reductions are brought in to ensure that nobody is paying more than 30 percent of their income on rent. More long-term, however, I believe a radical transition from the current social-housing model toward a new cost-rental model, similar to the housing model in Vienna and Copenhagen, needs to be introduced. This would see individuals, couples and families of all income levels becoming eligible for public housing and paying fair rents which would be up to 40 percent less than private market rents, which are currently squeezing the life blood out of people.

Continue to call for measures that aid renters such as a three-year freeze on rent increases and tax relief for tenants.

Freeze all rents at current levels for next two years. Strengthen tenants' rights. Provide incentives for business to convert "over-the-shop" accommodation. This accommodation would be in older buildings, and may have noise, traffic issues, but therefore would not command premium rental. Take the lead from other European cities, e.g. Vienna, where the city council plans and provides for affordable-rental homes and apartments, it works with developers, under stringent conditions, to provide a wide selection of types of accommodation to suit people at different stages of life, larger homes for families and "step-down" dwellings for older people/those wishing to downsize. Support budget increase for DCC to enforce new legislation with regard to short-term rental properties.

 

Supply is the key issue here and we simply need to start building homes, however I am very much in favour of supporting the work that focus Ireland and the Peter McVerry Trust are doing in this area, as they are experts in tackling long-term homelessness and with the right support and resources I believe that they would be able to have a huge impact on this problem. It’s high time the council and government began listening to those working at the coalface of this issue, rather than paying consultants with little to no experience in the area to tell them how to act.

Again, the central government needs to step up to the mark and better regulate the private rental sector. Research by Dublin Region Homeless Executive shows that most of those who enter homelessness do so because they have lost a private rental tenancy. As a councillor I will continue to advocate that that those who attend our services receive the most appropriate support, particularly in the area of securing another home.

Long-term I’ve outlined our party’s solution in my answers to questions 1 and 2. Short-term, with over 10,000 on the homeless list state-wide, a national emergency needs to be declared on this issue. While a large-scale state building programme would take time, there is no reason the state can’t house people in buildings under its control or begin to requisition private derelict property.

Remind the powers that be that we have declared a national housing and homelessness emergency and introduce some real urgency in setting about the work involved in constructing the new dwellings on public land and introducing the new cost-rental model of housing.

Look for the introduction of legislation to protect home-owners from vulture-fund evictions and plugging of loop-holes to prevent unscrupulous landlords from evicting tenants under false claims just to get new ones in on increased rents.

Many of the above points, if implemented, would go towards reducing homelessness. If rents are affordable, and kept at an affordable level, and if the supply of housing is increased, there will be an automatic reduction in homelessness. The current government see housing as an issue, like all other social issues, to be solved by the "market". This neo-liberal attitude to social issues is one of the key causes of the current situation. Instead of creating REITs for foreign investors to purchase whole blocks of newly built apartments the government should be providing funding for DCC to purchase to add to its stock.

 

By and large I am in favour of the derelict and vacant properties tax levy, with an open-minded review process to ensure that it is not unduly penalising those that may not be able to look after properties in their care but who’s hope is to pass them as inheritance to their families.

We need to be concentrating on penalising property speculators who are only interested in increasing profits not punishing people who simply don’t have the resources to develop sites. The option of Dublin City Council purchasing derelict and vacant properties in something similar to a compulsory purchase order scenario should be a consideration with the appropriate suitability to build homes being one of the key factors.

Any time I see a house/site that I think might be derelict or vacant I report it to DCC and encourage others to do the same. This allows DCC to follow up and apply the various sanctions (which should be increased in severity) that are in place or encourage the use of the Repair and Lease Scheme. I proposed that DCC set targets for compulsorily purchasing vacant houses, but this proposal was rejected due to constitutional concerns!

See my answer to question 3. Yes, the state needs to take derelict or empty properties and use them to address the housing crisis.

Increase the Derelict Site Levy from 3 percent to 10 percent and the Vacant Sites Levy from 3 percent to 10 percent for the first year, and 15 percent for every subsequent year. We are in the midst of a housing and homelessness crisis in the city so any land laying idle has to be brought into productive use. This will not only have an immediate positive impact on the housing crisis but will also visually improve the look of Dublin and enhance the many local communities and particular streets that are currently blighted by derelict and vacant site.

Increase vacant/derelict site taxes.

As above – introduce a land-hoarding tax. Provide incentives for small builders/individuals to build on brownfield/vacant sites in the city. Vote for more local area plans to be drawn up, so that more vacant sites can be identified.

 

The north side of Dublin needs Metro North starting development now. We have been waiting for over a generation for it, and the delay is not acceptable and would not happen in any other major European city. Also every major city in Europe has direct transport from the airport to the city centre; I can’t understand why this project is continually redrafted.

I strong believe in proactive public consultation on local development and infrastructure. At present we are in the process of deciding on new bus routes, core bus corridors and a possible Metro line. As a local councillor I have disseminated pertinent and relevant information on these proposals and held local public meetings to explain them and to hear local concerns. I view it as part of my role to make observations to these public consultations that not only reflect their concerns but that also suggest possible alternatives.

This is an issue we have campaigned on locally, mobilising citizens in opposition to the BusConnects/NTA proposals. A key platform of the campaign is opposing the privatisation of our public transport system. Our public transport needs to be properly funded and run by the state for all citizens. It should not be run for profit. While transport infrastructure should always be reassessed and improved, the recent NTA proposals do not do that. The biggest changes would see seven "high frequency spines" on main routes across the city, along with 11 "orbital routes". Citizens in many working-class areas of the north-east city would lose their direct link to the city centre. Citizens are then expected to take additional buses to suburbs off these main routes! In Dublin north-east we ran a successful campaign opposing these proposals.

I would continue to advocate for the prioritisation of pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users over the private motor car. Unfortunately, due the weak nature of local government in Ireland, Dublin City Council has little real influence in public transportation matters, that competency lies with the National Transport Authority. So I would call for more public transportation decision-making powers to be devolved to local government, so that our Transport Strategic Policy Committee becomes the forum through which elected representatives, members of the public and all the other stakeholders can democratically discuss and decide on public transportation matters.

Continue to oppose attempts at privatisation of our public-transport system, which is contributing to its decline.

Put transport planning at the heart of all significant housing plans. We must end the practice of building homes before we build the infrastructure that will serve them.

 

While there are many restrictions on the lanes on our national roads, for new cycling lanes we need to be looking beyond the main roads and see where cycle lanes and tracks can be developed. Simply looking at including cycling lanes along existing roads is not enough, there is plenty of opportunity to create tracks in safer locations. A great example is some of the New York City cycle tracks that do not rely on the road network. There are also many areas across the city that could have dedicated cycle lanes alongside the road network created and I think this should be in the greater Dublin city plan.

I have supported the Sutton-to-Sandycove cycle route and took an active part in the discussion around the city-centre-to-Clontarf route. I am very conscious that any new development needs to support good permeability for cyclists and pedestrians.

It is clear Dublin is not a cycling-friendly city. More effort needs to be made to provide safer and accessible cycle lanes. A campaign needs to be ongoing to increase awareness of cyclists, especially among motorists.

As someone who walks, runs, cycles, hops on the buses and the odd Luas, as well as driving around the city, I am convinced, more so now than ever, that we have to prioritise walking, cycling and public transport and allow the people of Dublin and the city itself to breathe a little more easily. I fully support the demand to increase the percentage of the national capital budget for transport allocated to cycling and walking to 20 percent and would use my position as a Dublin City councillor to ensure that the five principles of the Cycling4All campaign are adhered to when trying to achieve a more cycle-friendly city, namely: that the space for walking and cycling needs to be segregated; priority must be given to pedestrians and cyclists; routes need to be coherent and comprehensive; permeability for cyclists and pedestrians needs to be far better than that of cars, with contra-flow being regarded as an obvious, sensible and inexpensive way to achieve that permeability; and finally, that best cycling guidelines need to find their into the planning policy and practices of both national and local government.

Continue to work with stakeholders in planning and introducing new/improved cycling infrastructure to our city.

First and foremost – SEGRATE CYCLE LANES. Allow for left-hand turning for cyclists, when safe to do so, on a red light. Start making certain streets in the city centre cycle-only. It has taken almost eight years to decide on a route for the Liffey Cycleway, and work has yet to start, so be more experimental –try out different ideas and see do they work – copy how this has been pioneered in Copenhagen. Reduce the number of on-street parking spaces available. Discourage people from driving into town and remove obstacles to cyclists. On all of the above, I would hope to make proposals and work with DCC officials to make cycling a viable and option for Dubliners.

 

Climate change is the single biggest threat to our planet that we are likely to see in our life time. Having a positive impact for our children’s and the planet's future must be a priority. The council itself needs to lead by example and there should be more of the new solar-powered compactor bins and lighting along our streets. Dublin City Council should also be looking at the direction An Post has gone in order to reduce their carbon footprint and move towards electric vehicles and other alternatives which are cost effective and better for our environment in the long term.

DCC has just completed a Climate Change Action Plan consultation. If re-elected I will actively engage with realising an ambitious, sustainable plan for our city. One small project that I would like to progress is the idea of some sort of acknowledgement – perhaps a plaque and official list – of all cafés/restaurants that use compostiable coffee cups, do not use straws or any other single-use plastics and offer a price reduction for using "keep cups" for take-away beverages. I think this would both provide those of us who want to make environmentally friendly consumer food choices a list of appropriate places to eat/drink and encourage other establishments to get more environmentally friendly.

One of the key issues facing humanity into the coming decades is climate change. The recent march by young people in Dublin on the issue was brilliant. Environmental policy should be based on the "polluter pays" principle. This would ensure that those who pollute the most – invariably big business – would not do so without financial consequences, hopefully discouraging the worst aspects of environmental vandalism. This needs to be done in conjunction with the democratic management of our economy. Unfortunately, the artificial demise of our planet is still firmly rooted in the context of protecting the profits of big business. People power, like the recent young people’s march, has a key role in effecting real change on the issue.

Call for the full implementation of the Dublin City Climate Change Action Plan, which seeks a 33 percent better energy use by the Council by 2020, a 40 percent reduction in the council’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, aims to make Dublin a climate resilient region, by reducing the impacts of future climate change-related events and wants to actively engage and inform citizens on climate change. Alongside these minimum targets at the council level, I will use my public position to call for a more enhanced role for local government in tackling climate change, identified recently in Mary Murphy’s report More Power To You: Stronger Local Government Means Better Local Services as a key actor in the public administration sector in leading the initiatives that will help us transition to a low-carbon society.

Continue to work on education around energy and waste and push for sustainable energy systems as the only option.

Ensure that Ireland meets its emissions targets by investing in high-capacity transport, retro-fitting for homes and workplaces, helping agricultural business to reduce their carbon footprint. A new Home Energy Grants scheme were home owners and small businesses can avail of retro-fit grants and pay for the work through their utility bills. The above is Social Democrats party policy on climate change, which I would use my position to promote. However, as a councillor, I would actively work to fund improvements to infrastructure for electric cars, cycling and public transport in Dublin city.

Could DCC be a pioneer in making Dublin plastic-free? I would work to improve the waste recycling and reducing options for the public with better information, more civic amenity centres, and a focus on upcycling/repairing unwanted goods. Charges for household recyclables should be restricted. I would vote to introduce a ban on micro-plastics and on certain single-use plastics, encourage the introduction of a deposit-return scheme and to provide more options for householders to recycle plastics. Work on a scheme whereby businesses, particularly convenience stores, are incentivised to provide plastic recycling options for the public, at their premises.

Plant more trees.

 

I would be in favour of Dublin city taking back the refuse collection for a start; privatisation of the industry has only served to worsen problems. There is plenty of space for a limited Dublin City Council service to operate, allowing for those who struggle to pay private companies to avail of for a nominal charge.

I think that there should be a compost facility in Dublin City Council from the brown bins which would be completely free and available to the public. I would also be in favour of bringing back the bulk collections on a more frequent basis. Illegal dumping needs to be tackled better and more resources needs to be allocated to litter wardens. More dog poo bins is of course a good thing but we also need more litter wardens enforcing fines in area affected by dog fouling otherwise with all the good will in the world this will remain a major issue in our communities.

We need more litter wardens and dog wardens – this is a budgetary choice that I will advocate for. I supported the name-and-shame photos of illegal dumpers that DCC used a couple of years ago – this approach needs to be revisited. Fines need to be increased as a deterrent, but this will only work if there is an efficient process in place to catch offenders. People’s attitudes need to change and I do not buy into the argument that because of the bin charges people cannot afford to dispose of their waste. There is no excuse for not picking up your dog’s poo!

Illegal dumping is always an issue raised during our daily activism. In our view, one reason for this is the privatisation of our bin-collection services. They need to be taken back into council control and, like our transport system, remain in public control and not run for profit by private companies.

To fully implement the motion passed that I proposed in July 2017 to fully remuncipalise waste services in Dublin City. Dublin City Council spends €1 million of taxpayers’ money each year collecting illegally-dumped waste, a by-product of the privatisation of the service. Increase the number of pubic bins and dog poo bins in every estate in the city.

Continue working with the council on education and public-information campaigns and signage. Continue to press for our refuse collection to be returned to public service away from the profit-driven private companies – the evidence of the failure of this is ever-increasing all over our city.

Encourage people to report dog-littering sightings – similar to the DoodooWatch in some UK towns – so solutions can be focussed on areas with a high level of fouling. Supply free doggie bags at entrances to parks and sufficient bins to dispose of waste nearby. Substantially increase fines for all of the above and, importantly, enforce fines. Employ more litter and dog wardens, deliver on-the-spot fines. Illegal dumping – greater investment in and use of cctv and drones. Increase fines to fit the crime, especially when illegal dumping is being carried out by businesses. It all boils down to providing more funding to DCC to employ more staff to enforce laws already in place.

 

Encouraging local residents to be more active in their communities is key to having better facilities, advocating for community spaces and assisting Dublin City Council in upkeep of these spaces has been very successful in certain area. There are lots of small verges and wasteland around the city that can be used for recreational use. The council needs to advertise the local grants scheme better and the clean-up facilities they offer. The council could also look into a deduction on business rates for business that partake in an environmental and community facilities. There is also the possibility of looking into an allowance for volunteer part-time park caretakers.

There is a good consciousness among all councillors about the need for parks and green spaces. Indeed we voted to keep green spaces in our Development Plan that could have been used for building, which caused some frustration at the executive level [in the council]. At local level, I would be imaginative about small local spaces and work with locals to secure funding to enhance their appearance, particularly through the use of our discretionary fund.

It is vital, especially with apartment developments and major built-up areas, that parks and green spaces are planned for and provided. Crucial is the funding to maintain these facilities.

I will continue to ensure that every new residential development includes 20 percent green space and will work with communities, other stakeholders and the city council to identify any suitable sites that have the potential to be transformed into green spaces.

Push for their inclusion in future plans and developments.

More institutional lands behind high walls should be opened up to the public. Increase the number of small green spaces, on corners of city-centre residential streets. I saw this done really well recently in Amsterdam. Knock down one-off derelict buildings to achieve this. People have a greater sense of ownership of small, local green spaces and play areas, as opposed to the the huge empty greens that you find in housing estates all over Dublin.

 

Not every public space needs to be park land, so it is important to have community facilities especial for youths. There is also a strong need for more communal work spaces for those setting out in their business and for community organisations. There are a number of old industrial buildings that could be converted into community spaces and this could also create employment and training opportunities.

DCC councillors have to approve the disposal/sale of any DCC-owned property, including public spaces. This simple action can prevent them from being privatised. At local level, I would be imaginative about small local spaces and work with locals to secure funding to enhance their appearance, particularly through the use of our discretionary fund.

Well-kept public amenities (preferably free) should be built into any planning or major building projects undertaken in the Dublin City Council area.

Dublin’s parks and green spaces are places where people can relax and enjoy themselves. So as a councillor I would ensure that our public “breathing spaces” are properly maintained, with long opening hours and proper security in place.

One of the biggest problems facing the city of Dublin is the increasing privatisation of public space. Beyond our parks and green spaces, there are not many public places in the city so I fully support the pedestrianisation of College Green as Dublin city is crying out for new public spaces for people to enjoy, and welcome the initial designs for the new Dublin Central library on Parnell Square which will see one of our five Georgian squares partially pedestrianised.

Again, push for their inclusion in future plans, new or re-developments. Aid the council in optimising the use and upkeep of our existing public and green spaces and ensure that none are lost to speculators or sold off under false promises of improvement.

I would work with council officials to bring more public spaces into public ownership, if they are not already. I would investigate whether it would be possible to introduce a new scheme, whereby high-net-worth individuals or companies could be encouraged to fund public spaces, art, culture and heritage. Request that when leases of new public spaces are being drawn up, that provision is made to maintain them in public use. To make public spaces ‘"nicer", I think people should be encouraged to develop a sense of ownership of said spaces. So, as already mentioned, create smaller more localised public spaces, encourage more use of public spaces by organised groups and continue/improve the work of Public Domain staff, in conjunction with local groups, to have regular "clean-up" days.

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