Jen Cummins

Social Democrats candidate for South West Inner City

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

I would fight to stop long-term leasing as a policy for social housing delivery. It is incredibly wasteful for the council to pay nearly market rent for up to 25 years to a landlord, only to then hand the house back at the end. This money should be diverted towards building social and affordable housing.

My party wants to create a specific zoning for affordable housing so that only genuinely affordable homes can be built in specific areas. The zoning conditions need to ensure that these homes remain affordable in future, even when the initial occupiers move on.

The Social Democrats are fans of the O Cualann model for affordable housing delivery, where the subsidy is near the beginning of the process (waiver of levies, cheap land, or early stage financing on favourable terms) rather than via tax breaks, which just inflate the purchase price and line developer pockets.

The Vacant Site Levy failed in large part due to the fact that a huge number of councils failed to engage with the terms of the Levy. I’ll work to make sure DCC properly engages with the legislation governing the Residential Zoned Land Tax (RZLT), which replaces the Vacant Site Levy this year. This would help end the underuse of city centre sites, counter land-hoarding, and minimise dereliction.

Ultimately, we need to get councils back building social housing again, re-building capacity within the council to act as developers and project managers on large housing schemes on public land, rather than passing on that land (and with it the profit) to private developers.

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

The conditions some renters have to put up with is totally unacceptable.

In private rented accommodation, I would promote an information campaign to ensure renters are aware of their minimum standards rights and how to take action if they are not being met.

I would push for the Environmental Health Section to be properly resourced so it can increase inspections, issue improvement notices, and carry out enforcement proceedings.

For improving social housing, councils often have their hands tied because so much of their budget comes from the central government. If the Department of Housing is not providing enough funding to carry out essential maintenance, then the council should ringfence the rents collected from social housing tenants to pay for repairs.

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

We need more bins, naturally. There are too few bins in Dublin 8. No bins equals litter. Bins also need to be collected on time and if there are spillages they need to be cleared.

Dog litter is a real nuisance as well as being a danger to public health. I’d like to see us replicate a successful community experiment where dispensers with free doggy bags were erected at entrances to parks, resulting in a significant reduction in the problem. We also need 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 to anyone who litters.

I would like to see the streets washed regularly. The footpaths are dirty and there is litter. I would like to see deep cleaning of streets particularly after large events like parades, community events etc.

What would you do to help tackle vacancy and dereliction?

The council needs to be quicker and more proactive about using some of the powers it already has, including around Compulsory Purchase Orders to bring vacant and derelict buildings back into use.

I would also work to ensure DCC draws down as much money as possible from national schemes like the Buy and Renew Scheme (that allows local authorities to purchase and renovate housing units in need of repair, before making them available for social housing), and the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund, which assists with compact and sustainable development, and facilitates a greater proportion of residential development within the existing built-up areas.

Vacancy and dereliction represent a blight on our community and a slap in the face to the thousands of people desperately searching for a place to live. At a national level, my party is working to bring in a Vacancy Tax with real teeth.

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

Policing in our community could work so much better if there was greater co-operation and consultation with communities and local Councillors.

The Joint Policing Committees (JPCs) and especially Community Safety/Policing Forums around the country are good models. They bring together Gardaí, senior Council officials and communities to discuss crime and anti-social activity in the local area. They have been a good way of exchanging information on local issues.

However, far too few people know about them. Their effectiveness depends far too much on how active individual residents, Gardaí and Council staff are in the given area. I would look to reform the JPCs so they have a more formal role in setting local policing plans. All elected Councillors should be able to pose a limited number of questions at their local JPC and Community Safety/Policing Forum.

Gardaí should be required to provide information well in advance of meetings to allow for the smooth operation of JPCs. Contact details for the public and minutes of meetings should be clearly available on each local authority’s website and in public libraries. We will also seek to further improve co-operation between JPCs and drugs task forces.

Separate from JPCs, we will seek to ensure that all public parks and public places are well lit and safe for all users.

At a national level, Social Democrats public reps are seeking the restoration of community Gardaí staffing levels.

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

Buses are the work horse of the city’s transport system and for good reason.

They can be ordered, bought and put into action faster. Their routes can change as needed, and they play a much better role than anything else in reducing traffic.

Expanding services so no one is waiting longer than 15 minutes for each bus would be important, as would new routes so that not everyone has to come through the city. 

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

I cycle to work in Ballymun from Dublin 8 every week. My children cycle to school and my husband also cycles to work. I would like to see more safe routes throughout the city for cyclists. I see near misses most weeks on the roads, whether that is cyclists or pedestrians.

I want to see a continuation of schemes to widen footpaths and increase the amount of proper segregation for safer cycling and improved infrastructure around this.

This should of course be done in consultation with the communities in which the work is being carried out.

I would like to see the already existing cycle paths maintained to a higher standard than they currently are.

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

There is always a need to discuss how to ensure that people are treated fairly and equitably. There is definitely a need to engage people who feel disenfranchised and who do not feel listened to, discussion and open communication is central to creating safe and inclusive communities.

I have worked in education and youth work all my adult life. I would like Dublin to be an inclusive and welcoming place for everyone who lives and visits here.

When our society is fully resourced and functioning there is less animosity. There is less need to fight for a scarcity of housing, places to enjoy ourselves, childcare, school places and healthcare facilities. But when communities are starved of such facilities and they feel they are not listened to there is a rise in animosity.

There should be no place in our community for hatred, violence or intimidation. I feel strongly that people should live their lives without fear of being who they are and reaching their full potential. There is no place for discrimination on the basis of where someone comes from, who they love, their ability or their gender.