John Lyons

Independent candidate for Artane-Whitehall

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

I will continue to campaign and call for all suitable publicly owned land, including council-owned land, to be activated to provide much needed new social and affordable homes for individuals, couples, and families. The provision of these new homes should be delivered directly by the City Council as well as a new national Sustainable Home Building Agency. No public land suitable for residential development should be privatised.

For far too long and into the present, a neoliberal public-private partnership (PPP) model has been favoured by the City Council executive, which has been fully backed and supported by national government. When I look at how the City Council’s Oscar Traynor Road and O’Devaney Garden sites developed, that model is not fit for the challenges we face, and the struggles people experience as part of the housing crisis: the process is too long and too expensive.

The Housing Land Initiative, of which Oscar Traynor & O’Devaney Gardens were a part, was first proposed by council officials in 2015 yet it took until the end of 2023 before construction commenced on both sites. Eight years! Eight years in which the housing crisis worsened with each passing month, year after year, as more and more families, couples, and individuals struggled to secure an affordable place to call home. This approach is completely unacceptable and must not be used into the future.

In addition to this, however, I believe that before any residential development commences, on a particular site, a serious audit of community, health, education, sports, arts and social facilities and services needs to be conducted to ensure that we are not just providing new homes but creating new communities. The planning system currently does not give enough weight and consideration to the needs of the wider, existing community when appraising planning applications. This needs to end.

We cannot continue to build and build new apartments and houses without ensuring that the necessary infrastructure and facilities are in place to ensure that we are building inclusive, sustainable, friendly, supportive communities.

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

I believe that tenants have rights and should receive timely and satisfactory responses to their maintenance requests. Far too often, social housing tenants are left frustrated as their maintenance request is not addressed in a timely manner by their landlord, the City Council, which forces people to contact their local councillor. This should not happen: a tenant should receive by right a timely response to their issues. This should be addressed by establishing an independent complaints body which would be responsible for receiving complaints from social housing tenants and engaging with the City Council as a landlord to ensure issues are resolved in a timely and satisfactory manner.

The rents paid by social housing tenants should be fully spent on the maintenance of social housing and the City Council should move to a more proactive maintenance system rather than the current reactive system that sees requests arise as problems emerge and time wasted as tenants wait to see if their issues will be addressed.

The City Council needs to rapidly recruit more experienced trades people as well as providing more apprenticeships. We need to build up institutional skills, experience, and rely less on the contracting out of maintenance work to private operators.

To improve conditions in the private rental sector, the City Council needs to be fully resourced so it can conduct inspections of at least 25% of the private rental properties in its area on an annual basis and the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) needs to be appropriately staffed and resourced so it can deal with each dispute brought to its attention in a timely manner and both bodies need to ensure that they are using all the powers available to them to maintain standards in the sector. Landlords need to know that their properties will be inspected and if any maintenance issues are left unaddressed, that they will face the full regulatory force of the RTB and the City Council.

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

There is a real sense since the Covid-19 pandemic that the city, and particularly the city centre, has become a dirtier place. The city’s citizens need to see action being taken on a range of issues that feed into the sense that Dublin is dirty:

For one, we need more public toilets in the city. Our city streets and laneways are being used as loos in the absence of publicly provided toilet facilities. Surely a modern, 21st Century city such as Dublin can manage to provide public toilets for the people of the city and the tourists who visit. To date, this has not happened on a sufficient scale so I will continue to make the call.

Two, every area of the city needs enough of both belly bins and dog poo bins. There are too many areas that currently do not have an appropriate number of such bins, and this often results in overflowing grey bins and dog poo bags being left beside the regular bin.

The street cleaning teams need to be scheduled to clean the streets of the suburbs on a much more regular basis. In the city centre, the City Council needs to maintain the recently increased levels of street cleaning and look to further increase the levels of cleaning into the future.

Rubbish blackspots need to be tackled as quickly as they emerge. Once an area becomes known as a place where people can dump their rubbish, it becomes much more difficult to tackle. The use of CCTV can help but I would like to see attempts made by the City Council to try and understand why some people dump their rubbish illegally and address the problem in a more holistic manner.

I will continue to support the work of the City Council’s Remunicipalisation of Waste Services as I believe the privatisation of waste services in Dublin has been a disaster.

More widely across the city, I would call for the recruitment of more litter and dog wardens across the city who would have the power to impose and enforce on-the-spots fines for people caught casually littering and allowing their dogs to foul the streets.

What would you do to help tackle vacancy and dereliction?

To think that in the midst of the worst housing crisis in the state’s history, we have over 188,000 vacant and derelict homes at present in a damning indictment of the political ideology of those who govern.

The best homes are those already built, so we need to tackle vacancy and dereliction with a level of seriousness that to date has been lacking. There are currently too many loopholes which allow owners of vacant and derelict homes and sites to evade their responsibility to bring them back into use quickly. This has to end. The latest of a long line of levies and taxes introduced to encourage vacant and derelict properties and sites back into use, the Residential Land Zone Tax, isn’t fit for purpose and will ensure that vacancy and dereliction continue to blight our society.

The City Council’s Active Land Management Unit needs to be resources and empowered to take action on properties on the Vacant Sites Register and the Derelict Sites Register.

So, the Department of Housing needs to sustain funding to the City Council so it can continue to identify and acquire long term vacant and derelict properties under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF).

The use of Compulsory Rental Orders, Compulsory Sales Orders and Compulsory Purchase Orders should all be used. Every measure and lever we have needs to be activated to ensure that the artificial housing scarcity created by property owners leaving their assets vacant and derelict ends.

To ensure that the City Council is taking action on its own vacant units, known as voids, of which there are approximately 500 at present, the Department of Housing needs to stop messing around and guarantee the appropriate level of funding each year to allow the council to bring the voids back into use as many homes as quickly as possible as a month by month basis.

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

I believe that Dublin is a grossly unequal city in terms of income, wealth, power and influence and all that flows from that like housing, education, employment, community investment and infrastructure. The Spirit Level research on inequality shows that for many health and social problems - physical health, mental health, drug abuse, education, imprisonment, social mobility, trust and community life, violence, and child well-being - outcomes are significantly worse in more unequal rich countries.

Ireland is a rich, unequal country with poor public services and outcomes. If, as a society, we tackled the underlying causes of inequality, I feel that we would have a much happier, safer city.

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

We need to prioritise public transport over private car usage. This major modal shift requires major investment in public transport to ensure it is affordable and dependable.

This means providing more road space for buses, less for cars. We need to implement and enforce 24-hour bus lanes and reduce the availability of car parking spaces for private vehicles. However, in order for people to leave their car at home and choose public transport instead, the capacity, frequency, reliability and quality of public transport has to increase. For example, for people living in suburban areas, far too often they are left waiting at a bus stop as their bus to work, college, an appointment etc, disappears off the Real Time Passenger Information screen. This erodes trust in public transport.

So we need to ensure that Dublin Bus, which carried nearly half of all public transport journeys in 2023 - 145 million passenger journeys - is appropriately resourced and staffed as it will play a leading role in the transformative shift required which sees public transport becoming the dominant mode of transport in the city.

Quick wins: introduce a contactless payment system as soon as possible. Stop the privatisation of bus routes.

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

If we see a much-improved public transport system, there will be an inevitable decrease in the number of cars on the road. Not only will this have a massive benefit in terms of space on the road, but it will result in the reduction of carbon emissions and crucially noise pollution.

Walking, wheeling, and cycling through the city can feel like a hostile activity a lot of the time so in conjunction with an improved public transport system, with less private cars taking up so much space, the opportunity to provide new active travel infrastructure presents itself. The Active Travel Network has done excellent work to date and I would continue to support its work, as it aims to connect all people through the delivery of a walk-wheel-cycle network which will be achieved by improving connectivity and sustainable mobility with the objective of expanding the existing 10km network to a connected network of 310km across the city.

As this active travel network is expanding and spreading to every part of the city, the city needs and people really want to see more public benches, water fountains and public toilets. For people with restricted mobility, the widening and decluttering of footpaths is crucial, and any additional requirements needed by people with disabilities should be provided after proper consultation with those directly impacted.

Alongside these basic facilities, the City Council needs to encourage more tree planting and biodiversity. There is a stark inequality in the distribution of canopy cover in the city and sometimes walking through parts of the city on a sunny day is tough when you are surrounded by nothing but concrete. More greenery, a place to sit and rest, somewhere to refill your water bottle and somewhere to pee will encourage more walking around the city.

The increase in dog and litter wardens mentioned above in the answer to Question 3 will also help.

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 would continue my involvement with grassroots community groups that work to ensure people seeking safety in the city feel welcome and supported, groups which challenge the misinformation and disinformation spread by the far right online by engaging with family, friends and the wider community.

These community groups are filled with the same people who week in, week out are fighting for more social and affordable housing in the city, more investment in community and sports facilities, who are involved in campaigns for new schools, more school places, additional supports for children with extra needs. I have never seen any far right head campaign on any of these issues yet they wave a flag and talk about standing up for Ireland.

What they’re really doing is standing up for the wealthy, powerful elite in Ireland who benefit from the housing and health crises we endure. The vicious politics of the far right seeks to divide people, to point the finger of blame for society’s problems at minority groups.

So I will continue to stand with the working class of Dublin, the LGBTQ+ community, with those people fleeing war, oppression and hardship in other parts of the world who arrive on this island seeking safety and a better life. In the words of Martin Luther King Junior, “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture of their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.”

Divided by hate and fear, we fall. United, we can build a better world.