Michael Connolly

Fianna Fáil candidate for Kimmage-Rathmines

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

In general Housing for All is helping people get access to housing. In February 2024 alone 3,699 new homes were started with Revenue citing 46,101 Help to Buy claims nationally (9,551 alone in Dublin). This is a successful initiative in terms of supporting first time buyers get a new home and must be retained. It may now be time to explore whether this tax break should be extended beyond just new builds.

In terms of expanding the supply social and social affordable housing across Dublin City key practices must be adhered to:

  • Part V planning conditions since 2021 requiring 20% of developments to provide for social & social affordable housing must be strictly adhered to. Ideally the delivery of social & social affordable housing should be front loaded in multistage projects ensuring the City Council has access to housing supply as early as possible.
  • Increased direct development by the City Council and the Land Development Agency. This seems to be increasing with large projects such as Bluebell Waterways, Donore project and Cherry Orchard. In addition, the LDA has €978 of a €5.1 billion overall housing budget to source the strategic sites to progress direct state building.

If elected I intend to support all social and social affordable projects provided, they are well planned taking account for the wider needs of sustainable community development. These developments are not just housing but new or regenerating communities. They need all the inputs for successful community development including education, sports facilities, and core public services.

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

Standard of Rental Housing Stock: In terms of improving our housing stock I think that retrofitting is essential to maintain all properties both in the private and social rental sector. Census 2022 states there are 513,704 occupied rental properties nationwide divided:

  • 333,632 Private Landlord
  • 153,192 Local Authority
  • Housing Body 29,880

I intend to promote all local authority retrofitted programs to maintain and improve the standard of all social rental stock. 

Availability of Social Rental: Driving supply of social housing is covered in earlier questions but the advent of the Cost Rental model which limits rents to 25% below market levels for qualifying participants is something that I intend to strongly support if elected. This is a new style of housing solution in Ireland and could be very effective in protecting families who are in vulnerable private rental situations. 

Availability of Private Rental: Private rental accommodation is vitally important in the cities housing mix. Increasing the supply of well-regulated good quality rental accommodation is essential for the city. While this is a multi-faceted challenge involving tenancy rights, rent pressure zones, incentives for new landlords and the type of accommodation permitted by planning permission I think that a practical medium-term policy for the City Council is to intensively address vacancy using the grant regime already in place via the Department of Housing.

There is a variety of rental accommodation in the City Council area that has up to €70k in vacancy and dereliction grants available to it. In addition, there are Sustainable Energy Ireland retrofitting grants available. If elected I want to ensure that the City Council has the most proactive and dynamic approach to using and distributing these funds in the country. This is with the aim of increasing supply and improving quality of rental accommodation.

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

Post pandemic there are several parts of the city that are showing ‘wear and tear’ plus dog litter while not a national issue is certainly prevalent is many public spaces.

While the general presentability of the city centre is probably tied toward a need for revitalisation post pandemic, the dog litter issue does have legislation that if enforced creates a financial disincentive for dog owners that do not deal with their own pet’s litter. On the assumption that a very high proportion of dog owners are conscious in dealing with litter, more enforcement of the Litter Pollution Act will address the issue with owners who are not as compliant.

What would you do to help tackle vacancy and dereliction?

Housing for All provides for this issue at a very high level. The Vacant Homes Tax has been increased to five times local property tax and grant support for revitalising a vacant or derelict property extends to €70k. This has generated 5,500 grant applications with 2,700 approvals. 

If elected I want to ensure that the City Council has the most proactive and dynamic approach to using and distributing these funds in the country.

In terms of wider urban regeneration in the city, if elected I intend to advocate for individual plans for the approximately 60 hectares of brownfield or dilapidated lands within the canal ring. Even if tangible projects do not emerge in the short term the effect of a clearer focus on the issue may at least stimulate action and incremental progress. 

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

Public safety is top of mind in Dublin City for obvious reasons. Regardless of specific policing policy or programs the starting point to develop a safer city is Garda numbers. While Garda recruitment has significantly improved in the Garda Training Colleges most recent intake (Up to 5,000 from 1,000 to 6,300) every effort needs to be made to sustain this. Initiatives should include:

  • Finding alternative routes for potential recruits to join the force. By this I mean initiatives similar to raising to Garda entry age from 35 to 50 years.
  • Ensuring that the Garda recruit allowances are sufficient for a new recruit to complete training. This may be particularly prevalent if an older trainee has dependents and family financial commitments.
  • Initiatives around cost of living and accommodation that allow younger members of the force sustain a career in Dublin.

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

There are some aspects of Dublin’s public transport network that have improved in recent times. At the time of writing, I have successfully, conveniently, and very affordability used the new S2 Bus Service to attend a number of Republic of Ireland matches in the Aviva stadium. However, Dublin needs an overhaul to have a fully ‘fit for purpose’ transport network for the 21st century. While not in the remit of a city councilor I think it should include:

  • A definitive decision on the Metrolink with provision for a Southwest corridor prioritized before the revamping of the existing Luas links to Cherrywood.
  • Offsetting some of the adverse effects of recent bus routes changes by setting up micro services that meet the needs of residents who now have difficulty accessing centers such as Crumlin Village for essential services.
  • Finding improved multimedia methods to communicate proposed public transport changes. One of the issues with proposed bus route changes is that even the most engaged people find them difficult to decipher. This limits constructive feedback and in turn community ‘buy in’.
  • Developing public transport is a very long-term process. I think considering the scale of new house building on the outskirts of the city and surrounding counties it very important to scale for this now.

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

I think that the City Council needs to continue to advance its aim to have 310 km Active Travel Network citywide. During the new City Council term that is due to increase to approximately 140km. I think from a City Council perspective there will be situations where it will require innovative solutions to cater for active travel that is in close proximity to necessary car and freight transport.  

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

In other countries across the EU this issue has been visible for longer than in Ireland. It has followed a path where a number of issues that seem unconnected at first become conflated together. For example, anti-immigrant and anti LGBTQ sentiment are separate issues. 

In my opinion it is vital that the state can stimulate well informed balanced debate around these issues so that criminality and misinformation can be isolated. I would be confident that much of the ‘othering’ that drives the ‘anti’ sentiments described in the question would be discredited.

Every public representative at every level has a duty to ensure that there is balanced debate whilst also protecting the rights of groups that suffer from discrimination.