Críona Ní Dhálaigh
Sinn Féin’s position is that government policy needs to change so that the state builds houses. It happened in the past and can happen again. Successive governments have insisted on depending on private developers to solve the housing crisis. That has failed and policies like this caused the economic crash in the first place, and are not a solution. Only a radical change in policy with the state taking responsibility to supply social and affordable homes will solve the problem.
Currently, citizens in Ireland do not have a right to housing. Sinn Féin has continuously advocated for a rights-based approach. If you had a right to housing, amongst other things, then the government would have a legal responsibility to deliver on that right. Currently housing is a commodity and not a right for our people.
In our 2019 alternative budget, Sinn Féin proposed to double government spending on social and affordable homes, delivering twice as many units. In the short-term this would help, but a change of policy as I mentioned earlier is ultimately needed.
At a local level, I would continue to push for: 1) public housing on public land and a much quicker turn-around time for government approval of housing projects; 2) the return of the financial-contribution scheme to allow for the downsizing of older people to smaller accommodation and freeing up much needed family sized accommodation; 3) changing Part V from 10 percent back to 20 percent of all units in private developments to be social units; and 3) addressing the oversaturation of expensive student accommodation in the Liberties and the increasing transient developments of hotels, aparthotels and Airbnbs by changing the Dublin City Development Plan.
Housing is not a place to park capital. It’s a place to live, raise families, work and play.
Across Europe renting is much more prevalent than in Ireland. Some of this is due to historical reasons, but it also has to do with the legal structure. Renting can be good for some, but only if properly regulated. In Europe, the legal infrastructure is in place with regulation on security of tenure and rent levels. These models are available and whereas no two systems are the same, this problem can be solved.
Fixed long term leases, backed by strong regulation on both sides, are necessary. This government has consistently refused to examine these alternatives, mainly because ideologically they give more importance to property than to people.
Sinn Féin were the first party to advocate for an immediate rent freeze for a period of three years, preventing any further rises in rents. This would be accompanied by a renters' tax relief equivalent to one month's rent for every renter in the state.
As a member of the Inchicore Regeneration Consultative Forum where we are to deliver a cost-rental model, I am very aware that the government still has not issued a cost-rental policy. I will, as I always have, push for a proper affordable cost-rental model for this site.
This cannot be separated from the previous two questions. An adequate supply of social and affordable homes, alongside a properly structured rental market, will reduce homelessness. It won’t solve it, as there are many reasons people end up in homelessness, but it would go a long way. However, the state also has a responsibility to all its citizens, even those who do end up in homelessness.
On top of our above proposals to tackle the severe undersupply in the housing market, and to reduce the financial burden on hard-pressed renters, Sinn Féin advocated for an increase in investment in homeless emergency accommodation and support funding in our alternative budget. In the same document we proposed allocating more funding for accommodation of survivors of domestic violence. We would also ensure that those leaving homelessness and going into mainstream housing get all the supports they need.
For residential properties, Sinn Féin would introduce measures to stop the widespread practice of land hoarding. In Dublin 8, dereliction is a huge issue. I have supported the call for the introduction of a vacant property tax, and increasing the vacant site levy. Again, the reason these investors and developers can get away with this is that government policy is dependent on them to build houses and they don’t wish to upset them. A state building programme would remove that dependancy.
For commercial property, Sinn Féin have developed a policy aimed at investing funds from the Irish Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) in run-down town and city centres, instead of underperforming investment funds abroad. In partnership with local councils across the island, the ISIF would purchase disused sites and vacant commercial properties and then let them out on a commercial basis, creating more revenue for councils and regenerating Irish towns.
Sinn Féin have advocated for increased capital investment in low-carbon public transport to increase the capacity of our transport network. A properly functioning public transport system is a service that brings benefits to all sectors of society. Greater state involvement in a joined-up transport system – e.g. linked bus and rail, integrated ticketing – would ensure proper infrastructure. This government’s policy is to promote privatisation of profitable sectors and transport routes, which will lead to inefficiencies, low pay and bad working conditions, for the enrichment of the few. There can be a place for private transport providers, but only as a support to a properly supported public transport system. Ensure that state transport companies can tender, alongside the private companies for public-service obligation (PSO) funding for the unprofitable routes, and that the amount available be increased to reduce fares by 10–12 percent.
In Sinn Féin’s capital investment plans we identified the need for additional resources for cycling infrastructure, especially in Dublin, along with the creation of additional routes and bike services in smaller towns without such infrastructure. We also see cycling as part of the overall transport system and again called for the integrating cycling infrastructure with bicycle-friendly buses, trains and trams.
Climate change is the most pressing problem of our age. The effects of climate change are visible to us all. Sinn Féin advocates that climate change issues should be addressed in all areas of government. We oppose the regressive carbon tax, and believe it is the government passing the buck onto hard-pressed families for the government's abject climate failures.
Sinn Féin advocates increasing grants for electric vehicles, providing state-funded retrofits to thousands of homes to improve efficiency and tackling fuel poverty, and investing heavily in our renewable energy infrastructure.
We support more and cheaper public transport and have laid out spending plans to achieve this. We also provide for increased funding towards Science Foundation Ireland, and believe the state should do more itself in generating cutting-edge research and development to get the most out of our renewable energy potential and place Ireland at the forefront of the fight against climate change.
Dog poo is a growing problem in our city. It is constantly being raised with me, especially at policing forum meetings. I have consistently called for additional dog poo bins and dog wardens to try and tackle the problem, but we also need to enforce existing by-laws and encourage responsible dog ownership.
I believe the privatisation of waste collection was a disaster. We now have an inefficient waste-collection mode, with multiple companies and waste trucks clogging up small residential streets and at times providing a poor service. It has also led to an increase in dumping across the state. I would support waste collection services being brought back into public ownership and treated as a service to society and not simply to the individual. Sinn Féin supports the introduction of a franchising model for local waste services, in order to secure one waste collection provider per council area. This state is alone in the EU with a fully privatised waste-collection model. Because of this, up to 25 percent of homes opt out of expensive waste collection entirely, leading to illegal dumping and litter. Our franchising model would reduce costs, and make waste collection more accountable and more efficient.
I would support councils providing residents with the basic facilities to ensure they can keep their communities clean and tidy. We need more public bins and dog litter bins, as well as more recycling centres that allow people to reduce their waste output.
Urban green spaces are a necessary component for delivering healthy, sustainable and liveable cities. Dublin 8 is the most urbanised paved area in the city, with only 6.4 percent public green cover. It has one of the lowest proportions of space under grass in Dublin or any city in Europe according to the World Health Organisation. I have been part of the campaigns to address the lack of green spaces and fought for Weaver Park, Bridgefoot Street Park, a full size GAA pitch and sports campus at Donore, but even with all this delivered we will still be below the recommended green space, so a lot done, but a lot more to do.
As well as the reply to question 9, Dublin 8 has some of the most historical sites in Dublin. The south-west inner-city is an area steeped in history and character and is often under threat or overshadowed by developments. Our parks should be safe and enjoyable places to visit but some of them have become no-go areas due to high levels of anti-social behaviour, drug taking/dealing, open drinking and gangs. As a member of the local policing forum I’ve supported residents' calls for the reintroduction of park wardens, monitored CCTV and more investment in the upkeep of our parks.