Citizens’ agenda
Local elections 2019
 

Dublin city council must urgently embrace the "Vienna model" to increase the supply of affordable homes for the huge cohort who aren't eligible for social housing, but for whom renting is precarious and unaffordable. At the heart of the Vienna model is investment in "cost-rental" housing. Put simply, cost-rental would allow the council to use public lands and sustainable financing to build affordable homes for Dubliners. Land costs and the cost of construction is averaged out in the rent over 20 or 30 years, so that the cost of rent is decoupled from market forces. International experience would suggest that cost-rental results in rents that are around 30 percent less than the open market. This removes private interests and profit motives from the construction of affordable housing and recognises that adequate housing is a public good, a human right and a duty of local authorities. It's important to remember that the Vienna model is about more than just cost-rental. It is also about creating carefully and thoughtfully planned socially integrated places that people want to live in.

 

Dublin is suffering from a rent crisis. This will not be news to anyone who rents or who has family members or friends who do. As of the end of last year the standardised average rent for Dublin stood was €1,650, up from €1,530 a year earlier. The rental crisis is a national problem, which can only be solved by the government, but it is a problem that effects Dublin more than any part of the country. Two out of every five tenancies registered nationally are in Dublin. On a national level, we need action from the government on strengthening security of tenure and proper enforcement of the Rent-Pressure Zone legislation.

Recent announcements by the government in relation to restrictions on short-term lets are welcome, but they rely on local authorities taking enforcement actions. It is vital that Dublin City Council are proactive and zealous in using the powers they are to given. According to Threshold, 3,476 housing units are currently potentially removed from the capital’s housing stock due to short-term letting.

The problems in Dublin's rental market will ultimately only be permanently solved by increased supply, but not only supply of privately built homes. The rental sector is currently being used by the government to provide social housing via the HAP [Housing Assistance Payment] scheme. Sixty-six percent of all social-housing provision in 2018 was sourced in the rental sector via HAP. This is only necessary because of the disgraceful under-investment in social housing over many decades. HAP tenancies are a lifeline for those who can source a property, but they are insecure, temporary and often still unaffordable. According to a recent survey almost half of those in receipt of HAP are paying a top-up to their landlord. Twenty percent are spending over 30 percent of their income on rent and 10 percent are paying more than 40 percent.

People on the housing list deserve more. They deserve a permanent, stable home where they can put down roots and build communities.

 

The best way to address homelessness is to stop it happening. Dublin City Council and Dublin Region Homeless Executive are focused on addressing the needs of people once they have become homeless. This is obviously very valuable work and must increase, but more also needs to be done to prevent people becoming homeless in the first place. At the end of March there were 1,297 families homeless in Dublin. Dublin must lead the way in prevention.

Dublin City Council and the other Dublin authorities must invest in early intervention to save tenancies, solve issues and source accommodation. Every people who becomes homeless in our city should be a failure of the system designed to prevent it. It should not be just be when the system kicks in.

Much more investment is needed in both primary and secondary homeless-prevention services. Primary prevention services are available to everyone. Secondary prevention services target specific groups at risk of homelessness. The great majority of people who become homeless do so, directly or indirectly, from the private rented sector. In the context of the private rented sector these might be particularly vulnerable groups. This is what makes it an effective and valuable homeless-prevention service.

Currently, the majority of expenditure on homeless prevention is on tertiary services provided to people already experiencing homelessness or exiting homeless. The expenditure on prevention is often less than 30 percent of what is spent on homeless accommodation and in the Dublin region was less than 5 percent of what was spent on emergency accommodation in 2017.

 

It has been clear for some time that land-hoarding has been a significant part of the housing crisis. Land is being held back from development while its value increases. Sites are being flipped from one speculator to another. It is particularly galling to see sites formerly controlled by NAMA or other state entities being traded in this “pass-the-parcel” process with little supply at the end of it.

The Vacant Site Levy was a welcome intervention in 2015 but there are so many loopholes in the legislation that it is completely ineffective in activating vacant sites.

There should be a specific tax on land-hoarding. This should be a site value tax (with appropriate but limited exemptions) that is variable by local authorities and is set at an annual rate that exceeds inflation in land values in that local authority.

The Social Democrats have committed to introduce a vacant housing levy for vacant homes (duration to be set by each local authority with appropriate but limited exemptions applying) and set down a higher levy the longer the home remains vacant; reform the Fair Deal Scheme to remove financial barriers to letting a vacant home; and introduce legislation to provide for compulsory letting orders for vacant homes.

 

There are few actual competencies reserved for city councillors in the area of public transport but it is incumbent upon us to demonstrate leadership to our constituents as Dublin evolves from what is still effectively a mediaeval town, to a modern European capital.

This will require councillors to be brave in listening to the fears of their residents around the BusConnects project but not resorting to simple nimbyist responses to the detriment of the city. BusConnects is an ambitious plan that has some designs faults that can be worked out through effective consultation and dialogue between communities and the NTA [National Transport Authority]. Councillors should be honest brokers to these discussions and not seek to take advantage from the anxiety that exists in communities around this project.

 

Allocate funding, including councillors' discretionary fund to making roads safer for cyclists. The first priority for extra funding for cycling should be the construction of a network of cycle lanes so that they are as segregated as much as possible from other traffic. This does not need to be a typically convoluted plan that takes 20 years to draft and implement. There is a lot of best practice already available to use from cities such as Copenhagen, Seville and Amsterdam.

 

–Councils leading by example in housing design and energy saving in their own buildings

–Designated drop-off points around our urban centres within 1 km radius of schools so students walk on dry mornings

–Agree Local Area Plans that plan for public transport and community facilities before homes are built

–"Cycling buses" for children travelling to school

–Promote the use of heat waste in district energy schemes

–Promote public awareness events on climate change, energy conservation etc.

–Reduce the energy consumption of public lighting

–Promote and expand number of community gardens and allotments where feasible

–Public recycling bins

–Better collection opportunity at amenity centres for mattresses, sofas, large plastic toys etc.

–An end to single-use plastic at council events and time lines to end or reduce them in council-supported events

–Bicycle shelters and secure lock-ups at all public buildings

–Wildflower gardens

–Water fountains

–Awards for the most environmentally friendly and most-environmentally improved multiple in your area

–Car-charging points in every small town and village

–Car-pool initiatives

–Tree-planting initiatives

 

One of the most dispiriting aspects of being a city councillor was the prevalence of illegal dumping on the streets of Dublin. The privatisation of waste-management services was an abdication of responsibility from the state that has done a disservice to the city but we shouldn’t have to teach people that it is wrong to illegally dump waste on to the streets of Dublin.

We need to fine those responsible for illegal dumping and proper enforcement, where necessary, to include the Gardaí to target those unlicensed collectors who are collecting large household waste and dumping it in side streets.

Illegally dumping waste is a form of anti-social behaviour that has a multitude of negative impacts for the communities who are experiencing it, there should be a greater role for the Gardaí in confronting this type of behaviour.

On dog poo, we need more pooper scoopers and bins for doggy bags on our streets, but it must take a particular mindset for a person to believe that they should remove their own dog's mess from the streets of Dublin. This requires a cultural change and collective pressure from the community to call out those responsible.

 

Through the City Development Plan, I’ll be prioritising that more green space is written into any developments that are to occur in the city. Green space is vital for the health of our city – we need a lot more of it!

 

Public land is the greatest resource available to the state at this moment in time. I will oppose the selling off of any public land that can be developed by the city council as housing or a public amenity.

Making them nicer is the key! Investing in ensuring that they are green, well-lit, family-friendly with toilets and nappy-changing facilities gives people a sense of feeling safe and welcomed in these areas.

I believe that the city needs safe injecting facilities and a well-resourced Garda presence to stifle the effects of anti-social behaviour around our public spaces.

Ensuring that there are cafes and shops that don’t all simply close at 6pm too helps create vibrance in our public spaces.

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