Dublin City Council, like all councils, is dependent on the Department of Housing and the government for funding to build social housing, funding which they have not provided in the amounts needed. We need to ensure that the public land owned by the council is used for public housing. This is the best tool available to councillors, as most other decision have been taken away from us by central government. This is also a key policy of the cross-party National Housing and Homelessness Coalition.
We need real rent controls and rights for tenants. In both these areas, we compare poorly with other European countries. The difficulty is that the only rents the council controls are its own rents! The key to making renting more affordable is to build more public housing. Vienna shows what can be achieved with high-quality public housing. The council building more will help make rents affordable.
Most people entering homelessness today are coming from the private-rented sector due to unaffordable rents or insecure tenancies, and frequently both. Providing more public housing and more affordable rents will stem the tide of homelessness as people will have affordable secure accommodation and no longer be pushed onto the streets. The best thing we can do is to build more public housing.
In Harold’s Cross, there were three houses in a row, all boarded up and empty, all covered in graffiti. Only one was on the Derelict Sites Register – the one with a hole in the roof. The others were not felt to meet the standard of being derelict. This is just one example of how the standard is too high, and of how houses which should be facing penalties to encourage development avoid them.
If elected I would use the Planning and Property Strategic Policy committee to review the thresholds and have a more realistic approach to dereliction. However, getting a house on the Derelict Sites Register means it will be charged 3 percent of the market value of the property as a fine. With property prices growing so fast, a fine that is 3 percent of last year's value will easily be covered by the developer’s profit this year as prices continue to soar.
The consequences of being on the register need to be made more severe. The challenge is that these consequences are set by national legislation and are not under the control of the council. If elected I would work with councillors from all parties and none to lobby the government to strengthen the consequences.
There are 60 separate bodies and agencies with some input into transport decision in Dublin city, which is one of the reasons it is such a mess! We need a strong executive mayor to be able to cut through this mess and deliver on public transport. However, a strong mayor is something that central government must create, and has repeatedly failed to do so. Until then, we need to improve public transport by ways that are actually available to councillors.
One key difficulty that councillors can do something about is the fact that public transport suffers when buses get stuck in traffic. When bus priority measures were introduced on the north quays recently journey times for buses improved significantly, making public transport a better option. This is a lesson that should be applied in other parts of the city.
Likewise, 30 percent of traffic in the mornings is the school run. Reducing this will reduce congestion and help public transport work better. This can be done by providing safe routes to walk and cycle to school. To do just this, I recently proposed creating “school streets”, and the motion was passed at the transport committee. If elected, I would continue to work for the implementation of my motion.
Better cycling infrastructure has numerous benefits – reduces congestion and so improves public transport, helps address climate change, promotes physical and mental health, and has been shown to increase the amount of money spent in local shops. I have happily and consistently supported improvements to cycling infrastructure , even in case where I was warned by a residents association they would actively campaign against me for that support as happened in relation to my support for public consultation in relation to the South Dublin Quietway.
If re-elected, I will ensure that the position of cycling officer is filled so that councillors have an ally in the officials to deliver improved cycling infrastructure. I have been one of the councillors on the Dodder Greenway Steering Committee, just one key route in the Greater Dublin Cycling Network.
If elected, I would hope to continue on this committee and help deliver this much-needed piece of cycling infrastructure. Cycling infrastructure is of course more than safe segregated cycle lanes. In the most recent budget, I helped deliver an increase in cycle stands for the city and will continue to push for more.
Addressing climate change is not done with one policy alone, everything we do in the council should consider climate change! Improving cycling infrastructure and public transport will be part of addressing climate change. Ensuring we build housing in the right place, and in the right way with the highest levels of energy efficiency, will help address climate change. New innovations, such as installing micro-generation technologies on all council buildings, will also play their part.
What pulls this altogether and ensures everything we do in the council does indeed consider climate change is a strong climate action plan. This has recently been put out to public consultation and will be coming back to councillors for approval. If elected, I will work to ensure a strong action plan, with concrete action and clear targets for the next council to work towards. The danger of treating climate change not as an foundational issue but as a distinct policy is that many councillors will speak in favour of action on climate change, but when it comes to supporting concrete actions, like supporting cycling and walking, they will vote them despite voicing concerns.
In relation to litter, there are only 13 litter wardens assigned throughout the city, which clearly from the litter around us is not enough. Councillors have responsibility for the city budget and so if elected I will seek additional funding for more litter wardens.
In relation to dog poo, I recently proposed a wide-ranging motion to tackle dog poo that received cross-party support. If elected again, I will work hard to have all parts of the motion implemented, delivering more dog-poo-only bins, more free dog-poo bags, looking for an increased fine, and piloting innovative techniques that have worked in other countries such as DNA-testing dog poo. This motion was accepted. Now I want to make it happen.
The city development plan sets out the rules for planning decision. This provide councillors an opportunity to demand more green space that are public out of large developments. Should I be elected I would use the development plan to increase the number of green spaces.
Dublin City Council desperately need a forward-looking and visionary public realm strategy. One aimed at making Dublin a nice place to be with full details of where to increase the numbers of benches, where to put water fountains, where to put new trees.
If elected, I would push for this work to be taken on by the Arts, Culture, and Recreation Strategic Policy Committee. To help prevent the privatisation of public spaces if elected, I would use the development plan to put in stronger planning rules about public space and about ensuring they are taken in charge quickly so the public at large can use them.