Janet Horner

Green Party candidate for North Inner City

How would you help get more housing built in the city – especially social and affordable housing?

There is a huge amount of work to be done to deliver the safe and sustainable homes and communities that Dublin needs. Although there are a lot of projects in the pipeline at the moment (approx. 12,000 homes across the city) we need to move a lot quicker to get them from concept to delivery as soon as possible. The Green Party in the City Council have pushed for a policy of public housing on public land and particularly the cost rental model, which will bear fruit with some of the housing coming on stream in the next few years.

I have pushed the Council to take a more proactive role in tackling vacancy and dereliction and turning round city-centre sites to become homes and/or retail units and ensuring that as many vacant or underused sites as possible are subject to the incoming residential zoned land tax to push landowners to develop them. Due to the urgency of the need for housing at the moment, we need to look at every possible avenue for acquiring and accelerating housing delivery: regeneration of existing social housing projects, development of new sites, acquisitions under Part V, tenant-in-situ purchases, CPOs (compulsory purchase order) of derelict sites and working with private owners to develop over the shop units.

It’s also important that we move quickly to clamp down on AirBnBs and other short term lets that don’t have planning permission so that we can bring these homes back into the long-term rental market. This is something that the Green Party have pursued at both national and city level but have faced obstacles by the European Commission. Now, finally, those obstacles have been cleared and we need to get on with implementing it.

How would you help improve conditions in existing housing, both social and privately rented?

Particularly in the inner-city, too many tenants are living in substandard accommodation - including mouldy, draughty, cold, insecure and overcrowded houses. In social housing, we need to significantly increase the budget for maintenance so basic things like upgrading to double glazed windows, adding insulation or fixing a mould problem doesn’t take years to do. There has been significant progress on this over the past few years with much greater emphasis on retrofitting and an “enhanced works programme” which supports relatively small but important upgrades. I will push the Council to continue to grow this area of work.

There are also plenty of examples of extremely sub-standard private rented homes in the area too. There is a delicate balance between ensuring environmental health inspections take place to address vitally important issues such as fire safety, while also trying to avoid people being pushed out of their homes (however substandard) into homelessness.

Ultimately increasing the availability of affordable alternatives is the answer to this but in the meantime, we can increase information and support to tenants to understand their rights and take action as and when they decide.

There is also an important body of work in providing information and supporting renters to make basic upgrades so their homes are warmer and more efficient.

What would you do to help make the city feel less dirty, tackling the rubbish and dog poo all over the streets?

Litter and dumping are at crisis levels in the North Inner City. People are stepping over bags torn apart by seagulls, dumped furniture, strewn litter and dog poo every day when they leave their houses. The vast majority of people who live in the inner city are doing the right thing but are being let down by the rest and by a system which wasn’t designed with inner city living in mind. So many apartments, flats and terraced homes don’t have wheelie bins, can’t separate their food and organic waste and rely on bags that are messy and obstructive on footpaths.

I set up a working group on the Council, supported by Minister Ossian Smyth, looking at what is possible within our current powers to tackle the issue and then make recommendations on what needs to change in our primary legislation and bye-laws so we can take more effective enforcement action. We’ve been trying the same thing for years and things are getting worse - we need to try something different now! I’ve also worked with Neasa Hourigan, Green Party T.D. for the area, to bring in a new bill to tackle rogue landlords who encourage tenants to dump their waste instead of providing them with suitable disposal facilities.

In addition to this, I am pursuing simple but important pieces: more bins, seagull proof bags, shared bins for terraced streets, education so everyone knows where to get bags, what day they will be collected etc, proportionate use of CCTV and greening and beautification of dumping blackspots to restore some pride in areas that are mistreated. Ultimately I would love to see shared and underground bins for the city but I think its important that we continue to act on other solutions in the meantime. And while no one intervention is a silver bullet, in combination, I think we can turn the tide.

What would you do to help tackle vacancy and dereliction?

Dereliction is dragging down our whole city. Walk a couple of hundred metres along Parnell Street from O’Connell to Marlborough and you will pass 6 or 7 derelict, dilapidated and vacant buildings, preventing the whole street from living up to its potential. I am pushing the Council to add all eligible buildings to the derelict sites register and to move forward with buying these buildings and turning them around so they offer something back to the street in the form of retail, hospitality and ideally over-the-shop living instead of taking away from it. Buildings like Aldborough House at the Five Lamps need to be championed to push for community, childcare, arts and social spaces that the city desperately needs instead of a building that has been vacant and idle for as long as I can remember. I have also worked with communities on projects like community gardens to make good use of spaces that are underused while a long-term development plan is progressed.

What needs to be done to make the city feel safer?

I believe a safe city is one where everyone feels safe walking, cycling, relaxing, socialising, exercising and enjoying themselves regardless of their age, gender, gender performance, class, ethnicity, whether they are with children or any other attribute at any time of day or night. There isn’t one single solution to get there. We need to look at how we plan and lay out our city, making sure there are “eyes on the street”, with appropriate lighting and animation of the streets. There is also a vital role for the Gardaí to play in tackling criminal behaviour and working with the Council and businesses to support communities dealing with criminality. We also need to support our youth services, arts and sports clubs to nurture the energies and talents of young people and prevent them being drawn into criminal activities. We need to work with minority communities and encourage good relationships with the Gardaí and support people to report incidents that they face.

What needs to be done to improve public transport in the city?

There are big plans on the way for Dublin’s public transport network and it is important that Councillors work productively with the NTA and other bodies who are leading on the delivery to ensure the projects are of maximum benefit to the community. These include BusConnects, Metro, Luas extension and Dart West. I largely support BusConnects and want to see it delivered quickly so that we can benefit from more frequent, reliable services and improvements to the cycling infrastructure. I have worked closely with communities to highlight local concerns and push for improvements in safety for people walking and cycling, greening for the area and traffic calming.

I support the City Centre Transport Plan which the Council is delivering to radically reduce the amount of traffic passing through the city, without a destination in the city centre, which will support buses to flow better. I want to see ongoing monitoring and audits done of this and some of the other larger projects e.g. Clontarf to City Centre scheme to make sure the interventions are working to improve safety and make changes where necessary if not.

I have championed red light cameras and camera enforcement for traffic offences to free up our bus lanes and help transport to flow smoother.

I have called for 24 hour bus lanes, which would mean buses would still be able to move on match days around Croke Park and other venues and it would make public transport a viable way for many more people to access the matches/events.

I have also worked to improve the winter maintenance plans for the city so that we can prioritise the movement of public transport during extreme weather events rather than focusing on the movement of private cars.

At a national level, I have worked with Green Party colleagues to push for the delivery of large-scale infrastructure projects, while lowering public transport fares and improved accessibility of our buses, trains etc to make them easier to older people, people with disabilities, those travelling with children in buggies etc.

What should be done to make it nicer and safer for people to get around the city on foot and by bike?

We have taken huge strides in walking and cycling in the city over the past five years but we need to keep that going so that walking and cycling to school is a realistic choice for children and cycling around their community is comfortable for older people. We know this is possible. We see it in other cities around Europe but we need to have vision, ambition and commitment in Dublin to make it happen.

The “Active Travel Network” for Dublin will deliver over 300km of cycle lanes and I will work for these to be as high quality and comfortable as possible for all ages and abilities to use. I convened and chaired a working group in the Council to bring zebra crossings back into the city policy handbook and will be working to see these rolled out far and wide (currently we have just 4 in the whole of DCC!). I have pushed hard for upgraded and well maintained footpaths - which receive far too little attention in Dublin - and will continue to do so. I’ve also pushed for lighting that is “human scale” directed at footpaths instead of towards carriageways, often leaving our paths in near darkness.

I have supported “bike parks”, converting a small area in a car park for free, secure bike parking. And I want to roll out more of these, particularly near transport hubs. I have also supported the “Bike Bunkers” and look forward to supporting residents in getting them installed on their streets over the next few years.

I want to see a comprehensive shared mobility strategy for Dublin - Dublin Bikes, Moby and Bleeper are an important part of mobility in the city but we need more bikes and more options - for ebikes, cargo bikes, trikes and others to cater to a variety of mobility needs, as well as the growth of car clubs. Finally we have worked to deliver lower speed limits for the city, tiered parking charges, and better parking enforcement to clamp down on dangerous behaviours and support people to walk and cycle safely. However, these are still works in progress so I want to continue this in the next term!

What would you do to help counter the rise of the far right, anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ+ hate, and anti-asylum-seeker arsons?

I am very proud to represent one of the most diverse constituencies in the country, with almost 50% residents born outside of Ireland. Our communities are stronger for our diversity and the vast majority of people in the North Inner City stands in solidarity with each other across our differences and against those who would divide us, drive hatred or scapegoat vulnerable people.

There are, however, deep challenges that our communities face to make sure we can thrive together and I want to take on the hard work needed to make that happen. We need to support integration work across every sector: community, sports, employment and housing. I’ve fought for the recruitment of additional integration workers for the Council and look forward to working with them and for more funding for integration projects. I have engaged with and supported several “For All” groups in the area and want to see this work expanded. We also need to address the structural inequalities of our communities, which are an injustice in themselves, but also a breeding ground for discontent. This means improving housing, supporting young people, access to justice for individuals and communities, enhanced school supports, and wraparound supports for everyone impacted by homelessness. And we need to tackle racism and hatred being spread in online spaces - while this might be somewhat beyond what Councillors have direct remit over, we need to work with national representatives and the Gardaí to properly tackle it.

Peace, non-violence and cooperation are at the core of the Green Party values and these should be brought to bear at the local level too. I have met thousands of residents of the North Inner City over the past few years and know so many of them to be wonderful people committed to bettering their society and communities - if we all work together, I know that we can achieve incredible things for our city.