If elected to the city council on 24 May I will campaign for the establishment of the office of directly elected Lord Mayor for Dublin with executive powers and a budget to run the city. This is a long-term objective of the Labour Party and we believe that such an office would facilitate a resolution of the difficult issues of the day such as housing and homelessness, transport and climate change. Housing and homelessness are a national scandal and will be the biggest challenge facing the new city council.
In March of this year over 10,000 men, women and children were homeless. This is the first time the number exceeded 10,000. Despite all the plans and targets the situation is deteriorating. Dublin City Council is the statutory body with responsibility for housing in the city. To date, it has failed dismally to fulfil that responsibility and builds only a handful of housing units each year. If elected, I will insist on the city council fulfilling its statutory remit and building social and affordable housing on city council and state-owned land of which there is an adequate supply within the city boundaries.
The city council must stop relying on the private and voluntary sectors to do what it should be doing itself. Renting accommodation in Dublin is exorbitant. The rental market has become dysfunctional with the most expensive rents only 1.8 times the cheapest compared to other countries, where the most expensive rents would be triple the cheapest. This dysfunctional market condemns low and middle- income earners to rental poverty.
Young working couples find it impossible to rent and save for a home of their own. I will urge my fellow councillors to declare a housing emergency, halt evictions and introduce stringent rent control for the duration of the housing crisis. Homelessness is at unprecedented levels. It is exacerbated by high rents and shortage of housing supply. However, no child or family should ever be homeless. A moratorium on evictions would go a long way to protecting families against becoming homeless. Restoration of the local authority grants for building extensions for overcrowded families would help to prevent homelessness in many instances.
Derelict sites and vacant properties are a valuable resource for housing. At present, they are an eyesore and a blight on neighbourhoods all over Dublin. The derelict sites tax should be increased and rigorously enforced and the powers to compulsory purchase such properties should be increased in proportion to the housing need. Large numbers of underused family homes are also available where the elderly occupants are looking to engage with Dublin City Council for smaller senior citizen accommodation but cannot because of the 8-10 year waiting list.
An urgent programme by the city council to build senior citizen complexes is required. I would also designate the entire country a Housing Approved Payment (HAP) area so that families and individuals on the housing and homeless list who might wish to transfer out of Dublin would have the option to do so.
Public transport is very poor in Dublin. The transport committee of the city council has lacked a coherent approach to planning a city transport system. I believe that a Dublin Transport Authority needs to be established to plan and supervise the transport system in Dublin. A whole new fleet of electric buses is required. There must be practical incentives to use public transport.
There should be park and ride facilities along all bus and rail routes and fares should be very reasonable or at token levels during peak hours to entice commuters out of their cars. To protect fragile urban communities a congestion charge should be introduced to reduce private transport between the canals.
The 2016 Census showed that cycling was the fastest growing form of transport in Dublin in the previous five years. However, the cycling infrastructure is woefully inadequate. Safe, segregated cycle lanes are necessary along travel routes to work and to school, in particular. The announcement this month by the National Transport Authority (NTA) that the Liffey Cycle Route was finally selected is to be greatly welcomed. It will provide safe cycling from the Phoenix Park to the sea along the Quays.
The recently announced ambitious plans by BusConnects to provide 200 kilometers of cycle lanes in the city are also welcome. I would extend the Dublinbikes scheme to every area in the city and encourage the other Dublin local authorities to establish their own bikes scheme.
Climate change is the global challenge for us all. Ireland has a dismal record in almost every sphere. Our schoolchildren had to march on Dáil Eireann recently to remind us, the adult population, that our negligent behavior was jeopardizing their future and the future of the entire world.
If elected to the city council I will seek to establish stringent targets for an electrified rail, bus and taxi fleet in the city and place a deadline on the use of diesel and petrol in private vehicles. Dublin is a signatory to the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy (2008). That covenant contains a comprehensive set of proposals for reducing CO2 emissions and achieving and exceeding EU energy targets. A new Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) should be established to deal with climate change.
Litter, dog poo and illegal dumping is a problem in many parts of the city. I believe the carrot and stick is the approach that is most likely to succeed. Good civic education in the home and school will teach children to have respect for their environment and for their neighbour. Many communities now engage in neighborhood clean-ups which bring people together to create local pride of place.
However, there are areas where littering and dumping are endemic. In these areas CCTV should be used more extensively and bags of dumped rubbish should be checked more rigorously for identification. Landlord accommodation should be checked regularly to ensure that there is adequate storage space for tenants’ rubbish and landlords should be made responsible for ensuring that their tenants are registered with a reputable waste disposal company. The city council must lead the way and engage more proactively with local communities.
It is not an easy matter to increase the number of parks and green spaces in the city as space is at a premium. In the first instance existing green space must be preserved. For example, BusConnects and the MetroLink have proposals which would encroach on significant chunks of green space along their routes through the city. This should be avoided at all costs.
Good planning is a way to provide new parks and green spaces. Rather than each planning application standing alone and making provision for a sliver of greenery, good planning practice could require a pooling of green spaces into a coherent larger space or a public park.
The proliferation of gated communities is alarming. They privatize the city and prevent other communities and citizens from engaging with each other or sharing their environment. Incidentally, they make it impossible to canvass people personally during elections which is not good for democracy. The community sector of Dublin City Council needs to be greatly strengthened and resourced. Strong open neighborhoods with good community engagement are the best places to live and work and are the best protection against crime and anti-social behavior.