By Colm Boohig
Work and lifestyle attract the masses to the capital – accommodation sends you packing.
January 5th, 2018. An email arrived from our trusted landlady saying that our apartment, located in south Dublin, was being sold. Happy New Year. My partner and I wanted desperately to stay and so we, with an overdue attempt at finally planting our feet on the property ladder, made an offer to become owners.
This bid transpired to be laughable when compared to the prospective buyer’s tangible interest.
The apartment was eventually purchased in cash – our offer completely trumped. The buyer never viewed the apartment and we never stood a chance.
We, like countless others living in Dublin for greater opportunity, were back on the wrong side of the rental market and at its mercy. It was bad in August 2016, the last time we needed a new home, but the start of 2018 brought with it an alarming reality. Supply, it seemed, had never been so subservient to demand. We gulped and opened the Daft.ie app to start searching. Oh. Sweet. Lord.
Eighteen months of tenancy entitled us to forty-two days of urgency. We needed all of our allocated viewing time.
When demand for property outweighs supply you are never alone but those you confide in at times like these are often your foes. Young professionals are always searching for that most elusive combination in Ireland’s capital; affordable accommodation.
This is what it's like to try get a house in Dublin today.
21 people sitting in the lashing rain in Clonsilla - most here since yesterday. Houses go on sale on Friday at noon. pic.twitter.com/lkQKe4LmoO— Garreth MacNamee (@garmacnamee) April 10, 2018
Our journey for new shelter took us throughout Dublin city and its surrounding suburbs. The search garnered sympathy from the settled but a gratefulness on their part that they were no longer involved. Along the way we heard countless stories of similar frustration, sometimes anguish, from the same demographic of renters, many of whom simply want to be buyers.
With Irish house prices set to increase by at least ten percent this year, homeownership has been relegated to a pipe dream for a vast number of our citizens these days.
Yes, consumer spending and job growth are at its highest since the dying days of the Celtic Tiger but severe national undersupply means that the traditional obsession with property and land ownership needs to be reassessed.
It all made me wonder; how many people around the country are in the same boat, all moving to Dublin or another city (Dubin is not the only problem place) to kickstart, solidify or further their careers? And what does it mean for our future?
I asked a collection of men and women from various sectors, each impacted by this grim reality, about their take on our nation’s property crisis.
Their assessments were brutally frank, forthright, and downright damning. Here is what the people of Ireland said:
Location & rent: Ranelagh. €675 per month.
Do you get bang for your buck? Absolutely not. One would get a much better quality accommodation outside of Dublin for the same price.
What’s the problem? Caps on rent increases have not worked. Landlords have increased prices on rooms if anything. Renters rights should be promoted more as some landlords often do not co-operate and can be very slow to fix damages, etc.
Location & rent: City centre. €600 per month in a shared house with six people. Bills are an extra €80 or so.
Why did you move to Dublin? For work (like every single respondent bar one).
Do you think you get paid enough? No, I’m 30 and can’t afford to rent an apartment myself.
Tough to find a place? I already knew the tenants and I think that’s your best option. Unless you know someone, you’ll be searching for weeks.
Your take on the situation? It’s mental. Dublin is more expensive than London and I can’t believe I am saying that. The rental market is run by greedy landlords.
Would you ever buy in Dublin? I would, but won’t be able to afford to.
What needs to change? Build more homes. Stop selling to foreign firms. Salaries and cost of living don’t add up.
Location & rent: Grand Canal Dock. €1,500 per month.
If you didn’t have to, would you stay in Dublin? Probably not, to be honest. I’m from Mayo and I really love the west. If my job was in Galway I would be down there in a heartbeat. But, sadly, that’s not the case.
How was your search for accommodation? It was hard to find any place. I was living on couches for four weeks, which was the pits. I went to six viewings. In total, I sent 73 emails.
What’s your view on it all? It’s insane and creating a situation where rent is so high that nobody can save for a mortgage to get their own place.
What would help? I think a savings scheme to help people gather deposits for their own place.
A word on Dublin-based students: When I was in UCD, my rent was between €425 and €500 a month for a standard room. I worked three-to-four jobs to survive. These days, many students are paying double that amount. This situation makes it extremely challenging for students not from Dublin to come here and the whole country loses out because of it.
Enda’s concern about saving for a mortgage was a continuous theme throughout this study. John, a 29-year-old business analyst from Cork living in Grand Canal Dock, agreed, saying: “The amount of money needed for a deposit is a massive barrier for any young person trying to enter the property market. A single person, like myself, trying to buy a house would need to save €20,000 – €30,000. To do this while paying €1,040 a month on rent (plus bills) is almost impossible.”
A 30-year-old female scientist living in Rathfarnham, Dublin 16, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “The thought of a Dublin mortgage seems insurmountable.” The woman, who’s from Waterford and lives with her partner, commented on the current market: “I think it is incredibly unfair and unbalanced. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer in Dublin. People of my age came out of college when the recession hit.’
‘We always seem to be working harder and losing out.”
Are you in your 20s or 30s (or even 40s) and stuck living with your parents? This Crowded House presented by Brendan Courtney is set to return to @RTE2 and is looking for participants. More: https://t.co/TdTNooypSX pic.twitter.com/zEKKO72aHT— RTÉ (@rte) April 12, 2018
It is little wonder that another season of Brendan Courtney’s This Crowded House has been commissioned. At this rate, the reality show could eventually rival Big Brother for longevity.
Location & rent: Rathmines. €875 per month, not including bills.
And what’s your take on it all? In a word, daunting. My rent is nearly three times what I was paying in Cork. Dublin is a nice city but I don’t know if it can justify such high accommodation costs when compared to the lifestyle in a big city like London. If I’m honest, I doubt I would have moved to Dublin but the industry I work in is Dublin-centric. I had to make that move to further my own career.
What’s the problem? I think one of the major issues is that the majority of industries within Ireland are centred around Dublin which is great for Dublin culture and business but exacerbates the infrastructure problems exponentially as Dublin, while improving incrementally, just doesn’t seem capable of handling that much influx.
Location & rent: Dublin 1. €600 per month plus estimated €50 in bills. The rent recently increased by four percent and the justification was ‘market value’. i.e. ‘we’ll charge you more because other people are charging more.’
Is the whole thing fair? No. I feel pay in Dublin no longer reflects the cost of living here and I’m only looking after myself. I couldn’t imagine getting by if I had to look after anyone else.
Problem factors? A lot of people have no sense of security in their living situations. It’s so damaging. The property manager I deal with regularly talks about how they could definitely charge more for my apartment because of my city centre location.
What is the solution? Build more and build smarter. We have to accept that we need high rise buildings. Dublin’s population is only going to get bigger so we need to modernise. There just aren’t the places to live because our space isn’t being used cleverly.
The participants’ requests for developers to build up rather than out was repeated throughout. There may be a glimmer of light here if the Department of Housing’s recent recommendation to gradually deconstruct building height restrictions comes to fruition. The Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy is also targeting a minimum of 500,000 new homes to be built over the next twenty years while acknowledging years of undersupply.
For now, though, this remains rhetoric to understandably suspicious citizens.
It is a point not lost on another respondent, finance manager Andy from Waterford. When speaking to the Baggot Street resident, the 28-year-old suggested the need to, “Decrease regulations so that builders and developers can build more skyscrapers for apartments and not have so many rules regarding apartment blocks.”
He elaborated, “The government should forcibly buy unused property, especially in the city centre, and tender it to developers for building apartments. Unless the renting situation changes then this city won’t grow as fast as it should to remain competitive in the international market.”
Cian, a 26-year-old software developer born and bred in Dublin, feels an additional issue in the market is lack of access, saying: “It’s great if you can afford a four-bedroom house in a commuter county (because you won’t be able to in Dublin), but if I have to take a three-hour commute to and from work every day, is it really worth it?”
It is a feeling echoed by 28-year-old senior derivatives analyst Brian who thinks that Dublin will start losing talent if people are forced to live a significant distance from the city in order to save. His solution? Introduce taller city dwellings. “It’s a young, vibrant city. People will live in apartments.”
These interviewees represented a sample of the majority feeling the strain. There was no anti-Dublin bias displayed. Rather, a frustrated acceptance that, for so many, the capital holds unrivalled Irish opportunity in one hand and their finances in the other. That latter grip will not be loosened, no matter the struggle.
A deep-lying resilience exists in this generation but confidence in a better tomorrow can dwindle. For so many young professionals in Ireland, there are two choices; stay in Dublin and pay the price or leave Dublin and pay the price.
People want security in their lives. People want to stop looking over their shoulders every month. They want an alternative option and they want to plan for a future in Ireland like their parents could. This group of people just want a little fairness from its Government. People simply want a hand. It is not too much to ask.
And yet, all of this without even touching on the true contemporary tragedy in this country – the homelessness crisis. Take five minutes to stroll through the city and the sight you’ll see will make most of the above seem trivial. Venture capitalists, the struggling, and the unsheltered share the streets of Dublin as the capital swipes right on capitalism.
We are thriving on paper but look closer and we are terrified to look at what the future holds. It is an odd time in Ireland.