Citizens’ agenda
Local elections 2019

Annette Mooney

 

Last year, for example, Dublin City Council built just 74 social homes and 69 of these were rapid-build modular housing. In other words, just five standard social homes were built in 2018. This helps to explain why there are 17,745 people languishing on the housing list in the city. In my view the unelected city management is in dereliction of its duty. If there was a genuine left-wing council this would not be tolerated. I believe that public land should be used exclusively for social and affordable housing. At present the council majority is agreeing to the sell-off of public land if they can achieve a 30 percent target of social and affordable housing. I don’t agree with this. There should be no sell-off at knock-down prices to developers. If land was available, then houses can be built for less than €200,000. The council should start assembling its own direct-labour unit – so that the city is not dependent on builders whose main aim is profit. I want to see the promised 900 social and affordable homes at the Irish Glass Bottle site go ahead. That would allow people who grew up in the area and want to live near family and friends, get a home there.

 

Rents should not consume more than 25 percent of a person’s income. But in Dublin, it is not uncommon to find that they now account for 50 percent. This is a scandal. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have allowed rents to escalate because they are dominated by property interests. I have three proposals: 1) There must be rent reviews to enforce a reduction in rents, and where individuals or a group of individuals can show that rents have risen above an acceptable proportion of their income, there has to be a rent reduction; 2) after that there must be strict rent controls, and rental increases must only be linked to rises in the Consumer Price Index; 3 )tenants must be given security of tenure, where a building is sold off, the tenants must keep their homes, and there should be a ban on evictions, except in exceptional circumstances, while the present housing crisis persists.

 

Through the above measures. Evictions, for example are one of the main causes of homelessness. We also have to stop Dublin City Council culling the figures for the numbers of homeless people simply because people do not return questionnaires on time .The homeless figures, for example, should include all those who are forced into couch surfing because they have nowhere to live. I also want to see an expansion of homeless shelters and an end to the degrading practice whereby people have to ring every day at a certain time to see if they can secure a bed. In particular, we need an expansion of refuges from domestic violence. A 2014 report indicated that 14 women a day were being turned way because there was no accommodation.

 

We need a vacant site and property register. The city council should carry out regular inspections and follow up immediately on reports on vacancy. I want to see more compulsory purchase orders to bring vacant property back into use,. Dublin City Council has requested just 25 houses since 2011 while Louth, with a much smaller population, has had compulsory orders for 141. Vacant sites worth more than €400 million have been identified at 114 locations across Dublin city and county – and this is an underestimate. I am totally against a practice whereby big developer companies are buying up land banks and then leaving them idle while they seek planning permission to change their use to commercial or residential. This is simply a means for escalating the price. I will highlight and oppose such activity.

 

Dublin is one of the slowest cities in Europe, with drivers spending a staggering 246 hours in their cars over the course of a year. Losing these days of your life in traffic jams is bad for your mental well-being – and the climate. Three hundred buses were cut from the Dublin Bus fleet by the last Fianna Fáil-Green government. I want those cuts to be reversed and want to see an expansion of the fleet. Once that occurs, we can move to cheap and reliable public transport. I think, for example, there should be a single €1 fare throughout the city. We should then move to free public transport. How will be pay for it? By closing the tax loopholes given to banks – or by taking some of the Apple money.

 

I want to see proper cycle lanes. This means a soft barrier to clearly delineate a cyclist’s space from motorists.

 

I will move a resolution to declare a climate emergency in Dublin. That means that all pubic buildings will have to shift to renewable energy. New planning permission will be made conditional on use of renewable energy. Dublin City Council will also have to embark on a major insulation programme for all the homes it lets. Currently, those in inner-city flats complexes are spending huge sums trying to heat their homes and avoid dampness.

 

The privatisation of the bin service has been a disaster. Costs are escalating and the private companies who gain contracts also are tax dodgers. High costs mean that many poor people cannot pay and so drop off their rubbish in side streets. Nineteenth-century Britain brought in waste collection as a public service to avoid risks to health and safety. Twenty-first-century Dublin should do the same. We need a return to a public bin collection, conducted by council staff. We also need a regular "pick-up and recycle scheme" where the council collects furniture that is no longer wanted, and lets people pick it up for free so that it is recycled.

 

Dublin needs more green spaces. Planning standards recommend devoting 15–20 percent of the land in cities to open green spaces. Phoenix Park is clearly a large open space – but smaller open spaces are needed in built-up areas. Currently, Dublin City Council appears to have an "in-fill" approach to new housing, but this sometimes involves taking away green spaces from neighbourhoods, as occurred at Weaver Square in the Liberties. I will advocate for a planning strategy of 10–15 percent green space for each electoral division. I will also push for parklets – the use of waste empty space for art installations, seating and planting

 

Include a plan for children’s space, youth clubs, public leisure centres, and playgrounds. Here are my proposals on extending the public realm:

1) Free wifi. You should not have to go to Starbucks to get free wifi. Free wifi should be made available in Dublin city centre and in all council and state public parks – those managed by the Office of Public Works (Stephen's Green, the War Memorial Garden, Phoenix Park, and St Enda's).

2) Drinking fountains. Why do we have to buy bottled water in plastic containers which have an adverse effect on human health? We should provide drinking fountains in areas of heavy footfall.

3) Street furniture. Ever get tired walking around and just want to sit down? We need more benches around the city.

4) Community mural schemes. We can brighten up our city with murals. We need more commissioned murals and free-space art walls where people can experiment with their own designs.

5) Urban living rooms. We need to restore a sense of community to break down social isolation. We will create "urban living rooms", which are places where people can sit down and chat to strangers.

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