Citizens’ agenda
Local elections 2019

Cormac Newton

 

As a councillor I would:

1) Oppose the sale of any council-owned land for private, for-profit development, and ask all state bodies to impose a moratorium on the sale of public land to private actors;

2) Put forward costed proposals for 100 percent public, mixed-income housing on council-owned land like O'Devaney Gardens and in Ballymun. These new developments would remain owned by the council, and have a mix of both low- and middle-income tenants, many of whom would not necessarily qualify for traditional social housing, but can't afford Dublin rents. Homes would be rented with lifetime security, with rents linked to income – i.e. wealthier tenants would pay more – and with a strong emphasis on open, green space and facilities;

3) Introduce a new zoning category in the city development plan, for "affordable housing", justified by the fact that the current "residential" zoning category is not currently serving its intended purpose of ensuring sufficient supply of affordable homes in the city;

4) Use the development plan to introduce restrictions on for-profit development such as luxury apartments and unaffordable student housing;

5) Push city officials to increase applications for borrowing to invest in the delivery of cost-rental housing (as described above);

6) Campaign for a citywide referendum to nationalise institutional landlords, similar to Berlin;

7) There is much more that needs to be done at national level – nonetheless, councillors CAN stop the sell-off of public land, and this is the key first step to tackling the housing crisis.

In relation to height, the Workers' Party believes medium-height building – not sprawling suburbs – is the way to tackle the housing crisis, and build walkable, liveable neighbourhoods. We support appropriate multi-storey development, and believe Dublin must become a city in which apartments are lifelong homes, for families and everyone else. The "trade-off" to building more apartments must be that those living in them have lots of green space in exchange. However, currently, the housing crisis is being used as an excuse to push for high-rise developments that are either non-residential, or are either luxury apartments or extremely poor-quality, and targetting transient populations. This is not the way to build apartment living in Dublin.

 

Radically increasing the supply of publicly owned housing (for both low- and middle-income tenants) is the best way to drive down rents. Most changes to private-rental-sector legislation must come from national government, and I will continue to campaign for measures to drive down rents, and introduce lifetime leases as standard. In addition, in terms of what I can do as a councillor, I would:

1) Increase funding to monitor illegal short-term lettings, and lobby for changes to national legislation to ban them entirely;

2) Amend the development plan to prohibit changes-of-use for buildings from residential to holiday letting/commercial;

3) Introduce a reference to "affordability" into the City Development Plan so that when a new building is applying for planning permission, it has to submit an "affordability assessment" along with its environmental assessment, which shows the likely affordability for an average worker of whatever accommodation is being proposed.

 

Radically increasing the supply of publicly owned housing (for both low- and middle-income tenants) is the best way to drive down homelessness. This is fully within councillors' control, if they stop selling off public land.

 

At a local level, I would push for officials to drastically increase the number of properties which are CPOed once on the Derelict Sites Register. I would also lobby for national government to expand the definition of "dereliction" to include long-term vacancy, not just buildings which are causing a hazard, and for the radical restructuring of the vacant sites levy so that it applies to both buildings and sites, and is high enough that no company is willing to pay it in order to be allowed to hoard land. Currently, the levy is lower than the increase in land value, so developers can pay the levy and still turn a profit because the land they hoard increases in value.

I would campaign for a "vacant property clawback tax" under which, when a piece of land or a building is sold following a period of being left vacant, the increase in price since the land was first bought is taxed at 90 percent. This would prevent land hoarding, under which speculators buy and hold on to land simply waiting for its value to increase.

 

Most importantly, I would campaign for power over public transport in Dublin to be brought from national government to local. I would also campaign for the National Transport Authority to be scrapped, and replaced with a public transport company, such as a revitalised CIÉ. These changes would enable us in Dublin to ensure our public transport is not sold off to private companies, and also to ensure that transport decisions that affect Dublin are taken by those who represent Dublin. It makes no sense for transport for our capital city to be a responsibility of the national government. Unfortunately, without this, the amount that local government can do to improve public transport (i.e. buses, trams and trains) is very limited.

Some specific actions that could be taken at a local level to improve life for cyclists and pedestrians however would include: 1) Ensuring a greater percentage of the city's roads maintenance budget is spent on footpaths, cycle-lane maintenance, and proper marking of cycle lanes, and making our streets walkable, rather than all being spent on roads maintenance, which overwhelmingly benefits car users; 2) Increase the levy on corporations building in our cities, so that the damage done by HGVs and other construction traffic can be properly remedied.

 

The Workers' Party on Dublin City Council would ensure that the position of cycling and walking officer is funded and filled. I would advocate for this position to have a specific focus on liaising with schools, to identify and amend local obstacles to schoolchildren cycling or walking to school. I would propose and vote for the reallocation of funds in the city's budget from roads maintenance to specific cycle-lane maintenance, and painting to ensure cycle lanes are properly marked. I would support and propose as many cycle lanes of possible to be segregated and physically separate from traffic, including removing or relocating parking if possible. I will continue my party's full support for initiatives including the Liffey Cycle Route.

 

Climate change is fundamentally something which needs to be tackled by national government. The Workers' Party's view is that it requires state investment in large-scale transition of our economy away from dirty industry and towards publicly-owned companies that provide good jobs and clean industry and infrastructure. Small changes are not going to solve the climate crisis. We need a massive economic transition, and that is not something local government can provide. At a local level, probably the biggest difference we could make is to take bins back into public ownership so we can actively reduce waste and do recycling in a way that prioritises the environment over profits of companies like Greyhound, who just export our recycling.

 

I would propose and push for Dublin City Council to take bin collection back into public ownership. This is the only solution to the growing problems of litter and illegal dumping. The Workers' Party have fully costed a public bin service, which would be funded through a number of innovative local revenue-raising initiatives, and through the establishment of a national, public recycling centre under the auspices of a repurposed Bord Na Móna. By taking recycling into public ownership, we the people would own the funds made from recycling – and this could be reinvested in a public bin collection service, instead of going into the pockets of private companies. We would propose the funding of a large expansion in public litter bins, and continue to oppose the removal of litter bins as a "solution" to illegal dumping. On Dublin City Council, we secured the inclusion of a new commitment in Dublin's litter management plan that commits Dublin City Council to not automatically removing litter bins when they attract illegal dumping. We support the mandatory DNA-sampling of dogs, so that dog poo can be linked to owners, and they can be held accountable. I would also propose the introduction of specific "dog zones" in public parks.

 

An important component of this is opening up our existing green spaces, many of which remain locked or off-limits. I would strengthen measures designed to stop "gated communities" which currently mean large amounts of open space are gated off from many people in the local community (by introducing stronger protections against "gated communities" in the City Development Plan). I would increase the required provision of green space for all new apartment developments in the City Development Plan. I would propose measures to ensure all locked public parks are opened up.

 

One clear action is to strengthen and enforce the current planning rules against "gated communities". The development plan currently sets out that these are not allowed, but this has not been enforced. Secondly, Dublin City Council should begin a process of taking private shared space (such as in the IFSC) back into public ownership. This means increasing budgets for proper maintenance of such land – the driver behind privatisation of public land is an unwillingness on the part of the state to pay for its upkeep.

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