We need to change our housing system so that we deliver good quality housing at low cost to purchasers and renters rather than the highest possible profit to developers and land speculators.
To do this, we need to stop approaching housing and land like they are commodities and start building homes using the extensive resources of the state. Local authorities have a crucial role to play in this, especially in building on public land at their disposal and working with other government agencies to plan and deliver new homes.
We need to use the extensive residentially zoned public land that is available to public authorities to build homes that are affordable. The Ó Cualann housing model – which has very successfully delivered housing at low cost in Poppintree – should be rolled out in other areas of Ballymun-Finglas.
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. In turn, it would free up family homes at a time when we desperately need them.
The Social Democrats' clear overall objective is to tackle the housing shortage and homelessness crisis by ensuring homes are built and are made available at affordable prices to rent or buy and this will ease rental prices
We will continue to campaign strongly for improved rights for renters. Our 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 will continue to campaign strongly for improved rights for renters.
The Social Democrats commit to ending the preferential tax treatment of REITs [real estate investment trusts] and use the savings from this initiative to provide increased funding to local authorities.
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 strengthen tenants’ rights to prevent homelessness and exploitation. 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 ringfence a higher proportion of all new development for affordable housing in addition to the existing 10 percent social provision.
I will work to significantly reducing voids and re-let times of council properties so that social housing tenancy is offered quickly to people in need. Empty properties are a wasted resource, and adversely affect homelessness and waiting lists. I will also work to bring derelict houses back into use.
The Social Democrats believe the National Development Plan should be redrawn so that public transport and cycling are re-prioritised over roads expenditure. This simply has to happen in order to reduce carbon emissions from the sector and to be able to plan for additional housing and sustainable communities.
We will continue to campaign for lower fares so that the use of public transport is encouraged and congestion reduced. We would like to see no/low fare public transport piloted in Ireland.
We will promote active travel to schools and ensure that the local authority prioritises the provision of safe walking and cycling paths around every school in the country, so that those children who choose to walk, scoot or cycle to school, can do so safely.
We must also end the practice of building homes before we build the infrastructure that new communities will depend on.
We need to make cycling a safe, realistic alternative to the car and encourage more people to take up cycling as a normal part of their everyday lives. Ireland is far behind much of Europe in terms of cycling policy. We need to recognise that cycling is a major transport area that can contribute hugely to society. The benefits of cycling are enormous. And cyclist or not, everyone gains from them.
We have produced “Safer Cycling for Healthier Communities”, our 12 point plan for cycling. It sets out clear commitments to cycling including:
–Significantly improved funding for cycling
–Proper segregation for safe cycling and improved infrastructure
–More cycling greenways and urban bike schemes
–Safer cycling to school
–Improved cycling tax schemes
–Cycling officers and training
–All Local Area Plans should provide for the delivery of public transport, cycling and walking infrastructure and community facilities, in tandem with new homes being built.
The Social Democrats believe that Ireland can do much more to promote sustainable and affordable energy and that local authorities can be significant players in this.
Climate change is a real thing and the role of carbon is undeniable. Equally, energy poverty is a real thing and blindly lumping more taxes on the most vulnerable in our society is simply creating another problem and undermining public support in the fight against climate change.
We will ensure that housing energy standards on all new developments is rigorously applied in planning conditions. We will heavily promote the retro-fitting of existing local-authority housing stock to reduce carbon emissions from this sector.
We will cut the carbon footprint of all councils, from transport planning and street lighting to tree planting and recyclingand extend the number of public charging points for electric vehicles
We will also support zoned "green communities" where councils promote biodiversity, boost investment in public transport and cycling under the National Development Plan, and reduce spending on roads.
We will seek to reverse the trend of councils removing public bins. We are particularly anxious that bins are provided in areas such as bus-stops and taxi ranks, on approaches to schools, outside neighbourhood shops, ATMs etc.
We want to set strict enforcement targets for local authorities and the Environmental Protection Agency to deal with the chronic problem of illegal dumping and infringements of conditions attached to waste licences and permits and we would improve national funding to allow the recruitment of additional staff in this area.
We will also promote the expansion of council furniture/junk collection days as resources allow.
Charges for bringing disposable items to public facilities should be as uniform as possible across the country and should be pitched at a level that discourages dumping. We favour doubling the on-the-spot fines for littering and further increasing fines for illegal dumping.
Regarding the problem of dog poo, we wish to replicate a successful community experiment carried out in Beaumont in Dublin where dispensers with free doggy bags were erected at entrances to a park. The experiment has resulted in a very significant decline in the problem and we are keen to expand it to as many areas as possible. The marginal cost for the council is very low and can be met out of existing funding.
We also wish to expand the number of bins so that dog-owners can easily dispose of dog litter. On the spot litter fines should be doubled from €150 to €300 to improve the deterrent of dog-owners not picking up after their pet.
The Social Democrats want to set a general target of a community centre in every significant population base in Ireland. This can be made available to young and old alike and funded by an enhanced sports capital programme and the two regeneration funds earmarked under the National Development Plan.
I will play an active part in maximising the funding of community facilities, such as swimming pools, skate parks etc through the sports capital programme and we are committing that if in government we will maintain a funding programme on an annual basis.
We want to expand the number of parks with strip lighting so that joggers can use parks safely after dark. We will also seek to improve access to and expand the number of public allotments and community gardens.
There are some fantastic examples around Ballymun-Finglas where councils have partnered with local communities to deliver superb local festivals, cultural and heritage events and I will be supporting more of these types of events.
I want to improve planning and development in our area to enhance the overall quality of life for residents by increasing and improving public spaces and enhancing common areas like shopfronts and town centres. I will also prioritise a healthy, pleasant environment which is an essential component of a thriving community. We also need development designs that promote “passive policing”, and seek to ensure that all public parks and public places are well lit and safe for all users and support initiatives.