Citizens’ agenda
Local elections 2019

Deirdre Conroy

 

I have been writing about planning, housing crisis, homelessness, and human rights for the past five years in the Irish Independent. On 15 September 2018, my opinion on the Land Development Agency was published – well before it was suggested that I run for local election. Dealing with the housing crisis is nothing new to me.

In my article I wrote that the taoiseach "considers the LDA to be a radical idea, saying it is the first time that State land is in place and the first time such an agency has been put in place to meet the present and future needs of our growing population. The major factor is that 30pc of State land is to be used for affordable and social housing.” I will engage with the LDA and seek information on procedures, and report on progress or lack thereof.

Next is my recent opinion on the "cuckoo/vulture funds" published on 8 April 2019. Note that when I say "rental is not part of our culture", I mean rental for life, and then having a pension to keep paying rent until you pass away. That is not part of our culture. We must have an opportunity to purchase and pay off in 20 or 30 years. We all rent for a few years and should be able to save or get a mortgage to buy a property, nearly always with a partner, unless you’re lucky enough to inherit.

I will also seek construction budget costs from established contractors and the CIF and provide this essential information to the local authority. Ireland has a Housing Agency which came into effect on 1 August 2012 and seven years later the housing crisis is worse than ever. There is a gap in the provision of housing – no joined-up thinking.

Housing development should connect with transport infrastructure – that is the whole point of my campaign for underground transport, to generate affordable housing in the greater Dublin area and bring commuters – new affordable house owners – into the city-centre workplace or recreation faster and SAFER.

 

I am aware of people obtaining accommodation through Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) in the city centre, but that relies on means testing and low income. I am also aware of individuals being offered two- or three-bedroom apartments in the city centre and refusing them as they don’t like the location.

I don’t own property in the city, nor do I have a share in anything other than a family home with a mortgage. I note from working in the city that new build is predominantly student accommodation funded by international investors and tall office blocks in the Docklands.

I know from personal experience that derelict protected structures get constant refusal for adaptation into good-quality apartments, not dysfunctional bedsits. This has to change so that derelict buildings can be used for affordable rent.

 

On 13 January 2017 my opinion piece on Apollo House and homelessness was published.

I donate to the Capuchin Day Centre and the Peter McVerry Trust. I raise donations by doing the Calcutta Run for the last three years. I commend the effort of all the various bodies that aid homeless people. However, the crisis is on the increase. There are different scopes of homelessness. The very worst that I see is individuals lying on footpaths in a sleeping bag. What kind of state economy can allow this to continue, within yards of the government building?

Some individuals without accommodation are seeking homes near their parents and refuse offers of homes not close enough. Some people are accommodated in hotels. Sadly this is not ideal for schoolchildren. Other people have to work long hours, to save, to sacrifice, to pay for accommodation, and have to move far away from their family in order to find something affordable. Our society – like any other – is diverse. If you earn over a certain level, you receive no social welfare, if you earn very little, you can seek housing, but you can’t afford anything in Dublin. A balance is required to aid those trying to earn and save, and have to live at home way past their late twenties.

We have a small population and reducing homelessness must start in childhood, by providing essential education, inspiration and encouragement to help find suitable employment, find affordable rental accommodation in order to save, to eventually purchase, if that is the choice of the individual. In that regard, every government must supplement childcare costs, education and provide affordable rental accommodation and affordable housing to purchase.

 

Legislation is enacted to cover this issue. Owners of derelict buildings and vacant sites need to be contacted. Chartered surveyors are also involved in this issue. I have asked Dublin City Council directly as to why so many derelict buildings are left in disuse around the city. The response is that the owners can be difficult to find, they may be very old and disabled people who inherited property and are not in a position to sign contracts. I will continue to pursue this issue. But I have been writing about it for years, see below.

On 27 OCTOBER 2016, I published opinion on derelict buildings in the Irish Independent, here is the headline and the link: "Refurbishing our derelict, decrepit buildings could help ease housing crisis". "Hiding in plain sight, one solution to the housing shortage has been staring successive governments in the face for decades. Derelict and decrepit Victorian and Georgian buildings scattered within our cities had, in the most part, fallen victim to pre 1963 multiple occupancy."

Here is my opinion piece published on 5 January 2017, where I state that "pumping people into homelessness" is the fault of the state and Central Bank – not county registrars. This opinion is about homeowners who lost their homes due to negative equity and comments made by the master of the high court, Edmund Honohan, blaming county registrars: "The Master of the High Court, Edmund Honohan, takes no prisoners in motions before him concerning defendants in mortgage arrears – any advocate acting on behalf of the bank must be able to exhibit every email, letter and phone-call to the defendant. There is zero tolerance for financial institutions in his court."

 

I held a public meeting THIS WEEK on 16 April with expert speakers on the potential provision of this best solution. Circa 200 people attended (as seen in the Irish Times video – not the "over 80" mentioned!) and it was brought to the attention of the Dáil the following day. The coverage and videos are in today’s Irish Times, here is the link.

I would very much appreciate improved public transport through south-west, and west Dublin, bringing commuters from the greater Dublin area to work and home again. The coastal routes are so lucky to have the Dart. The Luas is a very positive advantage in certain areas.

The recent proposals privately issued by National Transport Authority to individual homes who would be directly impacted by the new bus corridors through suburbs and historic villages have begun to become public due to the shock of other residents and traders when they found out what was being proposed and that the deadline for submissions was so short. I have produced impact assessments for five communities.

Other European and global cities have had a metro underground for over 100 years. It is time that Dublin moved on from destroying what’s left of the city by adding more double-decker buses, increasing carbon emissions and segregating communities.

We need more park-and-ride locations for drivers coming from long-distance Dublin and beyond, free bus links, and school buses. We should build better and safer cycle lanes. And an underground rapid rail system – a metro.

 

There would be an instant improvement if underground transport was provided.

 

Decrease the cost of electric cars. Provide electric buses. Introduce an underground metro system. Increase Luas tramlines. All to reduce carbon emissions. Reduce plastic in retail.

 

I cleaned up after my dog for 14 years until she died recently. It is a duty.

The most litter and dog poo on the streets of Dublin I have seen is in the inner-city and poor areas, where there is insufficient signage warning about litter, and insufficient litter bins.

The local citizens expect Dublin City Council waste department to send out humans to pick up their litter and clean up after their dogs. The local residents need to be trained to put their litter into bins, pick up dog poo with appropriate bags provided by DCC and into special bins provided by DCC.

In the past DCC and DLRCC provided free special paper scoops for dog poo. This was not possible to continue due to cost during the recession. The Local Property Tax and other increased taxes could be used to distributed these paper dog scoops again.

I dismounted from the Luas Red Line at 6pm one evening and a commuter threw a squeezed can on to the platform. I turned around and said "pick that up". A man behind me shouted. "It’s none of your business." That is an attitude that the council cannot challenge. More local groups need to deal with their local residents on this matter.

Underground containers beneath bins should be provided in order to avoid the excess litter falling out of bins. The issues in this city have a lot to do with the attitudes of individuals – basically, the belief that other people should clean up after them.

I did a travel feature on Llubljana – the most litter free city in Europe – last September. The city has litter bins with underground containers. It is something that DCC should look into.

 

I am aware that some local residents are concerned about development plans for St Kevin’s hurling grounds. This is something that I am looking into.

I would like to know who wants more green space and parks and where? Crumlin has an extensive park with football grounds, running tracks in Eamonn Ceannt Park. Kimmage has Mount Argus park and Poddle Park. Terenure has the enormous Bushy Park with tennis courts, a skate park, a bandstand, attractive landscape and the river. Rathgar has no park. Rathmines has no park other than the small squares, Palmerston Park and Belgrave Park, which have improved playgrounds. Harold’s Cross has a tiny park. Islandbridge has a fantastic park – the Memorial Park. North-west has an incredible park – Phoenix.

 

The boardwalk along the Liffey was very expensive to build, and it has turned out to be an unsafe public space, despite the attractive and high-quality materials. It was made a very much "nicer place" to be, but is abused.

It would be nice to have some open-seating spaces, like the Flat Iron area in New York. Just places where people can sit and have their own coffee, read a paper and talk to each other. It is very common throughout European towns. However, they have many more sunny days for sitting out.

Restaurants are restricted from having open-terrace eating space. Irish weather restricts the ability to have expanded public open space – we don’t have enough warm weather to make the College Green area a total pedestrian zone – and all pedestrian zones, particularly Grafton Street and Henry Street are covered in chewing gum that people spit out – this is another issue, despite all the advertisements about not wrecking the ground with gum.

In regard to open public spaces in the city, I am informed by legal practitioners in the city centre that the NTA bus corridor proposals will congregate, muster, call it what you will, into Parliament Street. The Liffey quays will be thronged with buses. Our city council must review this entire NTA proposal and engage with government on underground transport.

This is a project by Dublin Inquirer, a reader-funded local newspaper covering Ireland's capital. You can support our work by becoming a subscriber.