Citizens’ agenda
Local elections 2019

Hannah Lemass

 

Everybody needs a home. Affordable housing is a major issue that affects all people, from every background. For young people especially, the fear of never owning a home and being priced out of their community is huge. Fianna Fáil’s affordable-housing scheme is aimed at those who are above social-housing thresholds but are priced out of owning a home in their local area. There is enough state-owned land that could be used to build hundreds of social and affordable homes. Dublin City Council has to be equipped with the skills and expertise needed to deliver housing on these lands. Discretionary spending limits on how much a council can spend without departmental approval could be raised to allow greater flexibility and allow them to get on with the job. There should be no excuses getting in the way of action when homes are so desperately needed.

 

If elected to the council, I see it as a responsibility to help ensure that the city of Dublin remains a great place to live with a high quality of life. Friends and colleagues are struggling to make ends meet while forking out upwards of €800 a month each on rent. How can young people save for their futures if half, or more than half, of their income is spent on this basic need? This represents severe dysfunction in a system that is failing young people. Fianna Fáil supports the accelerated rollout of a cost-rental scheme in the city. This means providing lands for building units for rent at a not-for-profit cost.

 

It’s astonishing that the rate of homelessness continues to rise, but this only stands to prove that the problem lies in poor policy. This crisis must be given full political attention, a fundamental shift in attitude and immediate action. If this happens the problem can be solved. There, of course, needs to be a significant increase in new local-authority housing. A Housing First approach that takes a holistic view of addressing long-term homelessness and their complex needs should be at the core of government policy.

 

We need to regenerate the abundance of vacant and derelict properties. This is a crucial element of any meaningful response to the city’s worsening housing crisis. The Vacant Site Levy was recently reintroduced but for it to make a real impact and reach its potential more vacant properties need to be added to Dublin City Council’s Derelict Sites Register. The owners of vacant property across the city need to be strongly incentivised and encouraged to refurbish the premises or bring it back onto the market to improve the housing supply locally. One potentially useful incentive worth examining to tackle urban dereliction would be to provide tax breaks. We need to do whatever we can to make housing available to people in this city as quickly as possible.

 

I rely on public transport every single day, so I know the struggle faced by the average commuter trying to make their way around this city. We are fed up with being squeezed onto claustrophobic buses and crammed into overcrowded Luas trams and Dart services. We are tired of unreliable and infrequent buses. We are tired of ever-increasing fares without any improvement in services. I am focused on improving a number of elements of the public-transport structure in the capital: 1) increasing the capacity of Irish Rail commuter services; 2) improving the efficiency of the Dart; 3) introducing Dublin Transport Police to deter anti-social behaviour; 4) establishlishing a Dublin Transport Commission focused solely on transport in Dublin; 5) increasing bus and train frequencies with additional capacity.

 

As I mentioned above, I rely on public transport to get from point A to B. I would love to be able to cycle, but I feel that the safety of cyclists in our city is being jeopardised on a daily basis as a consequence of poor infrastructure and planning. A high number of cyclists each year are left injured and even hospitalised following road-traffic accidents in Dublin. These are often caused by dangerous gaps and oversights in our infrastructure that put cyclists, drivers and pedestrians at risk. In order to ensure ongoing quality improvements to cycle lanes, junctions and road verges, I would advocate putting in place a funding scheme that earmarks a portion of the Local Government Fund in DCC. I also propose: 1) extending the DublinBikes scheme; 2) ringfencing funding for cycle-lane maintenance and clean-up; 3) freeing up cycle lanes by putting fixed-penalty cameras in place to support stricter enforcement; 4) introducing segregated cycle lanes; 5) fulfilling the UN recommendation to allocate 20 percent of a national transport budget to cycling.

 

Ireland has been without a coordinated strategy to tackle its growing emissions for far too long despite coming under increasing pressure from Europe to step up in the global fight against climate change. Any further delayed action will result in higher costs and a greater burden that will be inherited by the next generation. I will push to decarbonise the Dublin Bus fleet and to reduce the over-reliance on unsustainable forms of transport in this city by improving our public-transport services and cycling infrastructure.

 

When local authority-led affordable waste collection was abolished in Dublin it didn’t just affect the city households that had availed of it, but it also led to the collapse of a well-organised, consistent system of street cleaning. I want to push for stricter enforcement of fines and public-awareness campaigns, but solving the illegal litter problem that continues to affect Dubliners' everyday quality of life can only truly be done by re-entering the waste collection market. In addition, the Green Dog Walkers anti-fouling initiative in Fingal should be rolled out to all local authorities, backed up by adequate provision of dog-fouling bins.

 

Urban parks and green spaces add huge value to a city and protecting the already limited amount of public green space in our area needs to be a priority. I would first set out about examining whether it is possible to increase the number of parks in the city. Where possible, plans to remove popular green space to cater for other projects must be avoided and an alternative solution identified. This could be achieved at the planning and design stage of any proposed residential, commercial or transport development. In addition, Fianna Fáil proposes setting up a €25 million park development fund for each local authority to bid on to finance development of new sites into parks and mini-parks with particular emphasis placed on re-developing derelict spaces in the city.

 

Dublin is becoming a more and more urban every year, but we are so fortunate to have a number of public spaces to get fresh air, exercise, relax in the sunshine or socialise. The Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin and Blessington Street Basin in Phibsborough and the Phoenix Park are great examples of open spaces that not only contribute to local’s better mental and physical well-being but are equally important cultural amenities. As our city continues to grow and expand we need to guarantee that while there is increasing demand for space for development, urban planning will prioritise the need to preserve the benefits of green areas for human and environmental health. Maintaining these spaces is central to creating a modern, sustainable city. This vision must be matched with government funding.

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