I will push for Dublin City Council to work intensively with the new Land Development Agency (LDA) to significantly increase supply in the short and medium term, given the need to ramp up the supply of social and affordable homes in a very short time frame. Like all city and county councils, Dublin City Council is dependent on government funding to build social housing. If the LDA fulfils its promise, it can work in partnership with DCC to rapidly build both affordable and social housing. It is critical, however, that public land owned by the council is used for public housing. This is the best tool available to councillors, as many other decisions regarding housing have been taken away from local government by central government, and is one of the key demands of the National Housing and Homelessness Coalition.
I will push for a major expansion of both social housing and "cost-rental" housing. This will reduce rents for many people who are currently at the mercy of market rents, which are unaffordable for most tenants. Vienna and other European cities have shown how a hands-on and proactive approach by city councils can deliver. This, combined with a cost-rental model which can reduce rents significantly through removing profits from the equation, can ease the pressure on tenants if we can ramp up our ambition and achieve scale.
But it’s not just about the cost of renting, it’s also about security of tenure. I will work with my colleagues to ensure that tenants renting in the private rented sector are afforded all the protections of the law as it stands, and that the Residential Tenancies Board is provided with the powers and resources it needs to ensure that tenants’ rights are enforced and enhanced. There are weaknesses in current regulations in this area, and I will add my voice to NGOs and others who advocate for greater protections for tenants.
I will advocate strongly for a change in the law to ensure that tenants are not evicted into homelessness as a result of their homes being sold or being refurbished. Research by Focus Ireland has clearly established that the most common reason for people becoming homeless is that their landlords have provided them with notice to quit from their homes on the grounds that the landlord is selling the property, is providing it for family use, or is refurbishing it. Unfortunately, councillors have little say on this, as responsibility lies with central government, but we can exert some pressure to change the current regulations to tighten up in this area, alongside NGOs and tenants themselves.
In terms of direct actions the council can take, as set out above, I will push for the provision of more public housing and more affordable rents to stem the tide of homelessness, as people will have affordable secure accommodation and no longer be pushed onto the streets. Most directly, the best thing we can do in Dublin City Council is to build more public housing.
I will actively work to change the rules around derelict sites. Many derelict sites are not on the Derelict Sites Register as they do not meet the standard of being derelict, as currently set out. Some unscrupulous owners, who should be facing penalties to encourage development, are able to avoid them. If elected I would use the council’s Planning and Property Strategic Policy Committee to review the thresholds and have a more realistic approach to dereliction.
But this, by itself, will not solve the problem. A house on the derelict sites register will be charged 3 percent of the market value of the property as a fine. The growth of property prices has meant that this can be easily covered by the developer’s profit as prices rise. The consequences of being on the register need to be made more severe. The challenge is that these consequences are set by national legislation and are not under the control of the council. If elected I will raise awareness of this among other councillors, from all parties and none, and work with them to lobby government to strengthen provision in this area.
I will push hard for the early adoption of a key policy demand of the Green Party: the creation of a directly elected executive mayor for Dublin. We will never solve Dublin’s transport problems without a strong mandate for action within Dublin. Currently there are 60 separate bodies and agencies with some input into transport decision in Dublin city, creating an unholy mess. We need a strong executive mayor to be able to cut deliver on public transport, and Dublin’s councillors need to demand that government make it happen.
In the meantime I will work to solve some of the "pinch points" that councillors already have an influence on. Public transport suffers when buses get stuck in traffic. When bus-priority measures were introduced on the north quays recently, journey times for buses improved significantly, making public transport a better option. This is a lesson that should be applied in other parts of the city.
Thirty percent of traffic in the mornings is composed of the school run. Reducing this will reduce congestion and help public transport work better. If we improve cycling infrastructure so that more school students can cycle to school, as I’ve set out below, this can also benefit users of public transport.
I will work for the creation of new separated cycle routes in Dublin. I will ensure that the position of cycling officer in Dublin City Council is filled so that we can take a more strategic approach to delivering improved cycling infrastructure in the city. We can’t let cycling routes be an "add-on" to new busways. We need to learn from other cities and how they have achieved a significant increase in cycling by designing the infrastructure around the cyclist. This bottom-up approach is more participatory, but is likely to make for better design. For example, it can be used to create routes to help children to get to school safely by bike, and to amend design traffic light systems and intersections to make it easier and safer for cyclists to traverse main roads, etc.
We also need to involve other organisations and agencies. Taking the case of safe routes to school for children and young people – schools and the Department of Education need to get involved. As councillor, I will work to ensure that the council engages with schools so they can invest in better and more secure bike shelters, with support from the Department of Education. We also need to involve school students themselves, and their parents, in a significant effort to encourage bike use. There is a significant gender aspect to this, as cycling to school by girls at second level is at a very low level, and I am committed to working within the council to encourage schools, parents and students to devise ways to change this.
Finally, I will work to increase the number of cycle stands throughout the city.
In everything I do in Dublin City Council, I will ask myself the question: how will this help Dublin to address climate change? Tackling climate change is not just one area of policy in the council, it needs to be is a key dimension of everything we do.
Improving cycling infrastructure and public transport will be part of addressing climate change. Ensuring we build housing in the right place, and in the right way with the highest levels of energy efficiency, will help address climate change. New innovations, such as installing micro-generation technologies on all council buildings, will also play their part. What pulls this all together and ensures everything we do in the council does indeed consider climate change is a strong Climate Action Plan. If elected I will work to ensure a strong action plan, with concrete action and clear targets for the next council to work towards.
The danger of treating climate change not as an foundational issue but as a distinct policy is that many councillors will speak in favour of action on climate change, but when it comes to supporting concrete actions, like supporting cycling and walking, they may bottle it. I will follow through.
I will work to increase the number of litter wardens in Dublin City from the current inadequate level of just 13. Enforcement is critical, and it is clear every day on the streets and roads of Dublin that our current systems to tackle litter, illegal dumping, and yes – the dreaded dog poo – are not working. Councillors have responsibility for the city budget, and if elected I will seek additional funding for more litter wardens. For dog poo, my Green Party colleagues who are already serving as councillors on Dublin City Council put together a wide ranging motion to tackle dog poo, and their proposals received cross party support. If elected I will work hard to have all elements of the motion implemented, delivering more dog poo only bins, more free dog poo bags, looking for an increased fine, and piloting innovative techniques that have worked in other countries such as DNA testing dog poo.
If elected I will push for an increase in the number and extent of green spaces within the city in Dublin’s City Development Plan. The Development Plan sets out the rules for planning decisions and it provides councillors an opportunity to demand more green space. I will also fight moves to take existing green spaces out of public use.
I will work to significantly improve the public spaces in Dublin. I’ll work alongside my Green Party colleagues who have already been driving this work, such as the efforts to take traffic out of College Green and pedestrianise it. I will push for a city councillor to chair the public-realm working group and seek to provide detailed public-realm improvement plans for an improved pedestrian and cycling environment at a range of sites, including in my own area in Ballymun, Finglas, Glasnevin and Santry.