The shortage of housing impacts on all Dubliners, but most acutely on those on the housing list. Given that 10 percent of housing in new developments is designated for social housing, one of the quickest things we can do to increase the provision of social and affordable homes is to increase the speed at which housing development can take place across our city. By cutting back on bureaucracy and unnecessary red tape, together with the strict enforcement of the Vacant Sites Levy, we can promote a new wave of housing development across Dublin, benefiting both those in the private rental sector (through stabilising rents) and in the social housing sector (through increased supply). Dublin must also strengthen its ability to build social and affordable housing through public bodies and non-profit housing associations.
While the current rent-control system has gone some way towards preserving affordable rents for those already in the rental sector I don't believe the measures have helped those who need to move or people moving to Dublin for the first time. Many other European cities, such as Stockholm, have tried to address their chronic housing shortages with rent controls, which has created a two-tier housing market in which long-time tenants enjoy excellent housing at a good price but young people moving to the city are left on 10-year-plus housing lists or couch-surfing for months before they secure a rental property at an inflated price. Other cities, such as Tokyo, have built more as the population of the city grew, resulting in stable housing prices despite their colossal size. The only long-term solution is to increase the supply of housing through expediting construction of both private and social housing to match housing construction to population growth.
There are two distinct elements to the current homelessness tragedy which is unfolding in our city. The first is those who have been priced out of the private rental sector, are on the housing list and cannot secure a home under the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme and the second is those who are suffering with addiction and who are using shelters and sleeping rough. I believe these two communities have distinct needs. Those who have been priced out of private rental accommodation will be best served through a rapid increase in the provision of social and private housing both by direct state construction of affordable and social housing and facilitating greater private development by consolidating building requirements, speeding up the planning process and strict enforcement of the Vacant Sites Levy. By treating addiction as a health issue rather than a criminal matter, I hope we can help those who are suffering from an addiction to address this issue and support them through the health service into assisted living facilities as they hopefully return to a healthy lifestyle free of substance addictions.
I believe the recently introduced Vacant Sites Levy, which began implementation in January of this year, is an excellent tool to encourage derelict urban land to be developed. This levy places an annual charge on a vacant development site that has not been developed and recently increased to 7 percent of the value of the site per year. This has to be strictly enforced to ensure that the policy is effective. I hope by the end of this year this policy will encourage many vacant and derelict sites into development.
Public transport in Dublin is woefully inadequate and doesn't serve the needs of the city well. We have for too long tried to please everyone, with the result being that we are pleasing no one. Firstly, Metro North has to be built without any more delay. Secondly, the previously planned comprehensive network of Metro West, additional Luas lines and importantly, Dart Underground, need to happen. Dart Underground – connecting Heuston to Pearse Street with intermediate stops across the city centre – would dramatically improve the interconnectedness of our whole transport system. Finally, our current bus network is not user-friendly or properly integrated. I hope that the BusConnects plan will go some way towards addressing these weaknesses in the short term.
As someone who cycles every day around Dublin, this issue is extremely important to me. There are a few immediate "wins" that cycling in Dublin needs to encourage more people out of their cars and onto bikes. The first of these is the Liffey Cycle Route, which would open up safe cycling to thousands of people who currently have to negotiate horrible conditions on the Liffey quays to get in and out of the city. Cycle lanes on other major routes in and out of the city also need to be grade separated. Another key consideration for cyclists in the city is the lack of enforcement of traffic rules in relation to parking in cycle lanes, which forces cyclists out into car traffic, which is both stressful and dangerous for cyclists. Some of the plans in BusConnects should improve cycle infrastructure in Dublin, but if elected I would like to use my position to work with council officials to improve enforcement and enhance the design specifications of our existing infrastructure.
Climate change is the key challenge facing our civilisation over the next decades and indeed we will need to plan the city for mitigating the effects that we already know will happen due to our collective inaction in tackling the issue. A lot of the best ways to address climate change have been detailed above in my responses on public transport and cycling. Transport is one of the key areas where the city can encourage low-emission or zero-emission transport to reduce our impact on the environment. Cycling must be made attractive and safe. The city council can also implement other schemes that encourage the greening of our city, such as the expansion of allotments to reduce the carbon embodied in foods having to be transported over great distances. Finally, unfortunately there is a certain amount of climate change that we will have to deal with due to our inaction thus far. I believe flooding may become a key risk for Dublin in the years ahead, as a low-lying costal city. A large increase in urban tree planing will help our built environment absorb excess rainwater and the protection of green spaces will allow for better drainage in times of heavy rainfall. Flood defences will have to be made more robust for those living near rivers in the city.
I believe stronger enforcement is the best way we can address littering across Dublin. The fines and consequences of littering in Dublin today are not enough of a deterrent. If elected I would campaign for stronger penalties for those caught littering or allowing their dogs to foul on footpaths.
In the part of the city that I live in we have a chronic undersupply of green spaces and parks. I believe that as sites are redeveloped across the city the provision of public green space should be one of the key planning considerations as a balance to more dense residential development. In addition, some of the publicly owned sites in the city should be developed as parks and playgrounds for the benefit of the entire community. Weaver Square in Dublin 8 is a perfect example of what can be achieved with a solid effort and good decisions taken by the council.
Dublin can do public space very well, such as Meeting House Square in Dublin 2, and quite badly, such as the Liffey boardwalk. The key things to consider are the overall attractiveness of the space by reducing the noise from traffic to create tranquil spaces within the city. and making sure there is good oversight from surrounding residents and businesses to ensure anti-social behaviour is reduced to ensure that everyone can enjoy the spaces. I would like to see the city development plan incorporate more courtyard-type spaces found across Europe in areas of high density housing so that city residents can enjoy shared outdoor space. In order to make them nicer places to be, I think broadening the variety of events that take place in these spaces would be a key way to ensure that people know about them and use them to their full potential.