Citizens’ agenda
Local elections 2019

Micheál Kelliher

 

I will push for 100 percent public housing built on public lands, preferably by a publicly owned construction company. The Alterlaa district in Vienna is a good example of a high-quality public housing system where over 60 percent of people living in public housing. Public housing should be available for everyone, not just for people with low incomes.

We can put compulsory purchase orders on vacant properties and vulture funds’ properties. We can also stop NAMA selling properties owned by the public to private interests and use them as public housing instead. When we increase the percentage of publicly owned properties, we can force the prices of private housing down to a sustainable and affordable level, benefiting almost everyone in Dublin.

Developing and expanding public housing needs to be seen as an investment by the state instead of a cost. Currently €1 billion per year is paid in rent supplements (HAP, RAS) to private landlords. The state gets no return from this and does not even own the assets. If, however, the properties were owned by the state, we would own the asset and receive an income from the renters’ contribution.

A public-housing building programme of 10,000 units per year is entirely possible. Over the past five years, successive governments have implemented tax cuts targeted at high-income earners and corporations well in excess of €10 billion, and yet they plan to implement more in future budgets. This amount of funding could have built more than 50,000 three-bedroom houses in Dublin, enabling us to clear homelessness lists, and eradicating social housing lists. Solving our housing emergency is a matter of political choice.

 

We could put a cap on rents and force them down to an affordable level. The current legislation with 4 percent rent increases in pressure zones is not working.

I will push for secure and long-term tenancies and removing loopholes for evicting tenants. I would also like to ban properties from being used for short-term tenancies (e.g. less than six months).

Ireland is a low-paying economy, which makes renting even more difficult. I will push for stronger workers’ and trade union rights so that workers can win higher pay increases, making it easier to pay rents.

The expansion of public housing will also have a downward effect on rents.

 

The measures I mentioned above will help to reduce homelessness.

Furthermore, I would support the Focus Ireland "anti-homelessness amendment" which would prevent landlords who had bought a property with a buy-to-let mortgage, or availed of Section 23 property tax reliefs, from evicting tenants when selling their house. This measure alone could reduce new homelessness by up to one third.

Implement a moratorium on evictions by banks for those in mortgage arrears.

End the practice of removing HAP and RAS tenants from the primary housing list.

I would also support a properly funded advice and information campaign targeted at those at risk of homelessness.

 

Imposing compulsory purchase orders on all vacant and derelict properties and sites while retrofitting and building public housing. I will support the introduction of a significant vacant property tax above the rate of house price inflation to disincentivise property hoarding.

 

I will push for a substantial increase in investment for public transport, including Dublin Bus, and make them free to use for everyone. There are currently 114 free public transport systems around the world, mostly in Europe, and if we are genuine about tackling climate change and taking cars off the road, this is an essential solution. I will also push for public transport that can take in multiple wheelchair users and buggies. It’s crazy that buses can’t take in more than one. I have seen buses in Vancouver, Canada that can accomodate more because they have foldable seats plus they are run on electricity. Why not have something like that here in Dublin?

 

Dublin city is an old city and wasn’t designed for cars. For me, it’s important to make the city centre safer for pedestrians and cyclists. I will campaign for segregated cycle lanes and pedestrianising some streets and ensure that they are accessible for everyone.

 

100 companies are responsible for 71 percent of carbon emissions. They should be our targets for combating climate change. I support carbon taxes in the form of additional corporate taxes and not by penalising ordinary people, as well as pushing for divestment from fossil fuel and carbon-intensive companies.

A carbon tax alone, even one which targets wealthy corporations and heavy emitters, will not address climate change.

I will campaign for massive investment in public transport, retrofitting public housing and public buildings with energy-reducing and waste-reducing solutions. We could set up community-owned renewable energy cooperatives, with the communities deciding where profits will go e.g. investing in community facilities, local jobs, etc.

Importantly, when tackling climate change, we must ensure that the most vulnerable are protected and I will campaign for workers and communities to have a strong voice in the development of any climate change legislation.

 

The current privatised bin service is inefficient, unaffordable for many and environmentally unsound. I will campaign for bin services to be brought back into public ownership with the cost of maintaining the service covered by progressive taxation. This will help to tackle illegal dumping, which is deteriorating in Dublin City.

We could have a Dublin City Council department focused on maintaining streets and cleaning litter and dog poo. Dublin City Council cut down the number of public bins and that isn’t helping the situation. We could go back and increase the number of public bins and also increase penalties on those who refuse to clean up their own dog's faeces.

 

The importance of parks and green spaces should not be underestimated. They allow residents to participate in physical exercise, improve air quality and allow residents of all ages to socially engage. They bring many health and wellbeing benefits, physically and mentally.

Firstly, Dublin City Council should audit all sites to see where is suitable for the development of parks and green spaces.

Thereafter we could convert some public land unsuitable for buildings into green spaces and plant not only grass, but also wildflowers and pollinator-friendly plants. It would also be interesting to plant trees along the sides of some streets.

 

While increasing the number of housing units is vitally important, equally as important is smart planning and ensuring there are public spaces available for residents in any urban environment. This requires smart planning. The Health Impact Assessment of the Built Environment report by the Institute for Public Health in Ireland (IPH) is essential in understanding how we can plan properly for the residents of Dublin, from a societal and environmental perspective. As the report states: “City residents need a breath of fresh air, a visual and mental escape into the countryside within an urban setting of parks and surrounding parkways.”

As such, I will oppose every attempt to privatise any public space, land or services. I will also, again, work with Dublin City Council on an audit of land that can be utilised for the provision of public spaces, including, where necessary, the compulsory purchase order or nationalisation of areas being underutilised by private owners in the interest of the public good.

Also, too often those with disabilities or those of a particular age are excluded from our public spaces. It is extremely important to me that all of our public spaces are accessible to all so that all of our population can benefit from them.

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