Dublin: the case for green space
The housing crisis will not be solved by undermining natural capital assets
The scandalous homelessness caused by our persistent housing crisis should undoubtedly be a priority for policy-makers. So the willingness of Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan to think outside the box on housing questions should be welcomed.
He is right to point out, as he did while speaking in a private capacity last week, that property speculation by individual home-owners, as well as by developers, is a key problem. His call to reverse our preference for owner occupancy in favour of renting has merit.
But the public good would not be served by his proposal to release parklands, currently zoned as amenity/open space, for building.
The solution to substandard green spaces is not to pave them over but to upgrade them, including for biodiversity and climate-proofing
It is certainly true that, despite excellent recent work by Dublin city’s parks department, there are still too many substandard green spaces in the city. But the answer here, in almost all cases, is not to pave them over, but to upgrade them, and not just for conventional amenities but also for biodiversity and climate-proofing.
The city urgently needs to extend and deepen its green infrastructure plan. The creation of spatially insignificant ecological corridors, to enable plants and animals to move between them, would greatly assist in this. Residents would benefit from improvements in physical and mental health, and reductions in crime and vandalism. Critical climate-proofing benefits include carbon sequestration and, especially, flood mitigation. Urban green infrastructure can also play a role in averting the collapse of pollinator populations, a growing threat to our agriculture. All these measures bring significant savings for the taxpayer.
The housing crisis will not be solved by undermining natural capital assets, whose vital social and economic importance we are only starting to appreciate. If this were an either/or issue, we would face a nightmare choice. But it is not: alternative solutions can be found through maximum use of industrial waste land, institutional land, and the empty buildings still retained by speculators.