Citizens’ agenda
Local elections 2019

Gillian Brien

 

The state needs to build social housing, even if this means transgressing the laws set by the EU. For too long housing supply has been left to the private sector, leading to a complete failure to address the housing needs of working families, single workers, the unemployed, students and those who are generally on the margins of society. Local authorities and state agencies own a vast amount of land around the city. But Fine Gael want to hand it over to private developers who will charge high prices for homes. This should be resisted and the public land should be used to build social and affordable housing at cheaper rates.

People Before Profit has campaigned for:

1) The declaration of a national housing emergency to release funds for local authority and affordable housing;

2) The holding of a referendum to insert a "right to housing" clause into the Irish constitution;

3) The creation of a national construction company to take control of building supply;

4) A five-year programme to house 100,000 families and individuals in secure, permanent public housing;

5) Raising the income thresholds for public housing to €60,000 per annum. People on modest incomes should be able to be housed through state provision;

6) An end to gentrification: the south and north inner-city areas are being saturated with aparthotels, hotels and student accommodation, with few or no social and affordable homes. Local people are being driven out of the city for the sake of profit. Dublin's inner-city will be a dead zone except for tourism in the next decade. We will put a halt to this policy and re-generate inner-city council property.

 

The government has deliberately allowed rents to rise so that they now consume nearly half of many people’s weekly incomes. People Before Profit councillors will back up any tenant fighting evictions. We shall mount a city-wide campaign for reduction in rents and for rent controls. Rents in high pressure areas are too high and this is leading to social cleansing. The poor are being pushed to the outer suburbs. Rents must be reduced to 2011 levels and only landlords who show clear evidence of improvement should be allowed to increase rents above this. Simultaneously, we need real rent caps. Rents should be based on transparent criteria and rent increases are linked to the Consumer Price Index. Tenants must be given greater security of tenure.

 

We could create a national construction company to take control of building supply. There should be no evictions where there is genuine economic distress. People Before profit supports:

1) Transfering 20,000 Nama housing units to local authorities. Nama has failed the public –we need to change its mandate and take back housing units for those on waiting lists;

2) A clamp-down on short-term letting for tourism or corporate rental in this time of the housing emergency;

3) Stopping the sell-off of public land to private developers at knock-down prices;

4) Fine Gael wants to sell off as much public land as cheaply as possible to their developer friends. This must be stopped. Public land should be used for council housing and community amenities;

5) The imposition of a vacant-dwelling levy. There are over 200,000 vacant properties in Ireland – even though thousands have no home. We need a "use it or lose it policy" whereby private property owners will pay a special levy if their property is left empty for more than six months (except under particular circumstances such as probate);

6) The use of compulsory purchase orders. In some cases a levy will not be enough. If the public good demands it, the state should be able to use a CPO to attain appropriate accommodation;

7) PBP also supports specific drug- and drink-free hostels so that those in recovery or at risk can still use homeless services in an emergency, and the introduction of legal measures to outlaw discrimination: an end to “Rent allowance not accepted”. Too many landlords discriminate against people on government-led schemes. PBP would outlaw this practice.

 

As stated above PBP supports:

1) The imposition of a vacant-dwelling levy. There are over 200,000 vacant properties in Ireland – even though thousands have no home. We need a "use it or lose it policy" whereby private property owners will pay a special levy if their property is left empty for more than six months (except under particular circumstances such as probate);

2) The use of compulsory purchase orders. In some cases a levy will not be enough. If the public good demands it, the state should be able to use a CPO to attain appropriate accommodation.

 

In general terms PBP favours a major shift to public transport and the prioritisation of public transport and cycling across the city, but particularly in the centre of Dublin. This is not just good for the people of Dublin, but can help in the fight against climate change. We need to follow countries like Luxembourg and make public transport free. We need major investment in public transport – expand the bus fleet nationally and in Dublin, increase rail services on suburban lines. We support the electrification of transport as far as is possible. Following an expansion of public-transport services we will support the restriction of car use.

 

PBP supports a major expansion of cycling across the city. While levels of cycling have increased in recent years, many people are afraid to cycle as it is too dangerous. PBP wants:

1) To create proper cycleways. We need safe cycleways that are separated from cars and pedestrians. This will mean using soft barriers to demarcate them.

2) To make more free bicycles available. For a limited deposit, people, should be able to pick up a bicycle and leave it back in a different space. We aim to expand the free bike scheme, run by the council itself.

 

Above I have listed actions that will contribute to combatting climate change by expanding public transport and cycling across the city. PBP stand for a major programme of retrofitting homes in order to save energy and reduce energy bills. New builds should be to near zero energy standards. PBP has opposed the carbon tax as an unfair tax on working people and called for a levy on corporate polluters to reduce emissions and to pay for the necessary investment in transport and buildings to reduce fossil-fuel use.

 

PBP want to take bin collection back into control of the councils: the privatisation of the bin service is a disaster. Waste companies are charging high prices – then dodging their tax obligation by locating in the Isle of Man. Waste is being dumped around the city by those who cannot afford to pay, creating a health hazard. It needs to be brought back under public ownership. We need more smart bins around the city that can use solar power to decompose waste. The Dublin councils should organise an annual "big waste collection" for recyclable furniture and make it available free for those who need it. PBP want to work to make Dublin plastic-free. Ban single-use plastic in all public buildings. Impose special rate charges on supermarkets who use needless plastic wrapping.

 

We need to restore a sense of community and fight social isolation. We will create "urban living rooms", which are places where people can sit down and chat to strangers. Dublin needs more green spaces. Planning standards recommend devoting 15–20 percent of the land in cities to open green spaces. Phoenix Park is clearly a large open space – but smaller open spaces are needed in built-up areas. Currently, Dublin City Council appears to have an "in-fill" approach to new housing, but this sometimes involves taking away green spaces from neighbourhoods, as occurred at Weaver Square in the Liberties. People Before Profit will adopt a planning strategy of 10–15 percent green space for each electoral division. We shall also push for parklets – the use of waste empty space for art installations and seating and planting. A recent study ranked children’s mobility in Ireland in 12th place out of 16 countries, and found that only 17 percent of children surveyed walk to school, compared to 47 percent in 1981. Children have less free areas to play because the city is shaped by profit and designed for cars. Planning must be linked to the provision of more playgrounds and more informal spaces for play.

 

As can be seen in my answer above, PBP wants a city run by the people for the people. The city needs left-wing city council that is willing to bring change. It won’t be easy because we are currently run by people who think of the city is a just a marketplace for business. Change will mean standing up to an unelected city manager who controls our local authority. We want high-quality public services, especially housing, transport and leisure facilities, provided across the city. We want public and green spaces where people of all generations can socially interact and enjoy living in a vibrant city that meets their needs rather than the needs of a wealthy elite. We want a democratic city where local communities are given a real say on issues that affect them and city officials work under the direction of elected councillors.

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