Citizens’ agenda
Local elections 2019

Sarah Durcan

 

Accommodation costs have soared out of many people’s reach in the city, having a major negative impact on daily life and mental health. Housing should not be dictated only by market forces: government-driven social and affordable housing underpins a thriving economy and all our well-being by stabilising prices in the market. We need to prioritise public housing on public land, and to reskill and refocus council staff around the provision of housing. The council should increase its own capacity to develop social and affordable housing, alongside increased direct employment in housing maintenance and repair so housing stock is energy efficient and not detrimental to people’s health.

I would also encourage more co-housing initiatives, working with the community to design their own homes and communal spaces, especially for key public benefit workers (such as those in healthcare and education, and live/work spaces for artists), who are currently priced out of the city.

The next council should also make step-down housing a priority. More step-down housing would give older people the option to live in more manageable homes. And in turn it would free up family homes at a time when we desperately need them. There are over 300 people on a waiting list for such a scheme in Dublin at the moment.

 

The Social Democrats’ Rental Charter plan includes a ban on rental-bidding wars, the extension of legal rent caps throughout the country, and a deposit protection scheme. We would also introduce extensive rent control, security of tenure, and regulation of short-lets. We also need much more family-size units in the city centre, not just one and two bed apartments.

Living in a city-centre apartment, I’ve seen first-hand how short-lets begin to fray the fabric of our city community, and price out those who wish to live long term in the city. Tourists are very welcome, but we need to be first a foremost a city neighbourhood. I support significant fines for those abusing short-let legislation, and ensuring that the council has adequate resources to ensure compliance across the city.

 

The overall aim of the council’s housing policy should be to reduce the cost of housing so that housing is affordable and homelessness is prevented. The council alone can’t effectively address homelessness – urgent action is needed at government level to freeze all rents at current levels for two years, strengthen tenants’ rights to prevent homelessness and exploitation (see our rental charter). I support increasing housing supply by drastically increasing funding for not-for-profit building, co-op housing, and renovation of derelict buildings. The council should also ring-fence a higher proportion of all new development for affordable housing in addition to the existing 10 percent social provision.

 

Ringfence the vacant sites levy to bring derelict houses back into use along the lines of the McVerry Trust’s ReUsing Dublin project; and develop vacant sites into social and affordable housing, community gardens, wildlife preserves, and vegetable patches.

 

Dublin City Council policy needs to encourage more use of public transport, reduce the use of private cars, and support better flow of public transport through the city.

 

Dublin cyclists face unacceptable levels of danger in navigating the city. Many more dedicated cycling routes must be introduced to make cycling not only a better transport choice for climate action and health, but also a choice that won’t put lives at risk. I support safe cycle tracks and junctions, investing in cycling officers, and having a long-term plan to build cycling into everything we do as a city. I also support reducing non-resident parking spaces in the city, with more provision for cycle lanes and cycle parking.

 

Climate change and inequality are the two biggest challenges we face locally and globally. On the city council I will prioritise: 1) A new grants scheme for insulating homes that is available to everyone; 2) Promoting switch to electric vehicles, cycling and public transport; 3) City-wide reduction in plastic packaging, and ensuring more recycling; 4) Increased monitoring and accountability for air and water quality in Dublin Bay; 5) Increase biodiversity in the city by more planting, encouraging community gardens, and planting of appropriate trees; 6) Support Dublin becoming a smart city, using data analytics to monitor the environment (including air and water quality) and adjust our resources accordingly.

 

These are all social behaviour matters, where citizens have to take individual responsibility for the upkeep of our shared spaces. The council can do more to encourage better civic-mindedness. We need to build stronger communities not only housing.

Litter and illegal dumping: I will call for the adoption of policies to reduce the production of packaging and plastic waste in the city, encouraging local businesses to adopt zero-waste approaches where possible. We also need much better enforcement of rules and fines to tackle dumping, illegal waste.

Dog poo: Take a data-mapping approach, and encourage citizens to report dog littering sightings – such as the DoodooWatch in some UK towns – so solutions can be focussed on areas with habitual fouling. Supply free doggie bags at park entrances. Fines need to be enforced, so there are costly consequences for owners, so we need to increase the number of dog wardens in the city. Other cities have installed public dog toilets, and methane digesters in parks so poo can be turned into energy, (powering some street-lamps for example) so that’s something Dublin City Council should consider as well.

 

I support a green living city, with urban parks, trees and community gardens. Everyone in Dublin should have access to a public green space within a five-minute walk. Our green spaces make us happier, and healthier: filtering air and water and urban noise, helping regulate temperature, reducing energy costs, and supporting essential biodiversity in the city.

City planning needs to take more account of integrating green spaces into all development plans, planting of suitable trees, greening of waste-land, and supporting community gardens. We also need more arts and recreation spaces in the city. Artists are being priced out of the city, and they help make the city a more joyful place to live and work. I support the provision of free and low-cost spaces for artists and cultural initiatives, especially in Temple Bar. Our Cultural Quarter has seen too many artists and arts organisations depart for more affordable spaces far outside the city.

 

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