Rental wreck: The accommodation crisis in Limerick and Clare

James Griffin saw his move home to live with his father last Christmas as a stop-gap measure, securing a rental property in either Limerick or Clare turned out to be just a pipe dream, writes Ann Murphy
Rental wreck: The accommodation crisis in Limerick and Clare

 James Griffin is back living with his dad in McDonagh Avenue, Limerick. Picture Liam Burke/Press 22.

When James Griffin wakes up each morning in his childhood home in Limerick, it is not the life he thought he would be living when he left it to go to college in the UK after school.

Leaving then with just one suitcase, he now has accumulated a lot more possessions but has no home of his own in which to put them. His move home to live with his father last Christmas was a stop-gap measure, or so he thought.

But the reality of Ireland’s current accommodation crisis has shown him that his hopes of securing a rental property in either Limerick or Ennis, where he works, were just a pipe dream.

He says that he had been renting a place in Dublin at €600 a month, which was cheap for the capital. 

He explains: “I was fortunate enough in that I moved to Dublin during the lockdown so there was not that much of a demand in rent as most people were working from home and there were no students in the likes of UCD and Trinity.” However, his landlord no longer wanted to rent out the property and James began looking for a different property late last year.

He recalls: “I quickly realised that I had landed on my feet with the house that I was living in. When things were getting back to normal, there was significant costs. I was looking at €900 to €1,000 for rooms. I had been living in the south of Dublin and I didn’t want to up sticks and I had a nice commute to work so I didn’t want to change that by moving to somewhere where it might have been cheaper to live but I would have had to consider a train journey. I was working just off Stephen’s Green so I was quite central, I was commuting by foot and bike into Dublin city from Dublin 4, so I was looking around Dublin 4, Dublin 6, Dublin 8 kind of area.” While he tried fruitlessly to find somewhere, an opportunity came up for him to return home.

He says: “I am from Limerick and a job came up in Ennis. I thought I could probably go back to Limerick and it would be a lot more affordable.”

 But as with Dublin, the hunt for rental accommodation in either Limerick or Ennis has proven extremely difficult.

He says: “There might be six properties in the whole of Limerick city on Daft at any time. Ennis is pretty much the same.

 I am at a point in my life as well where I was living in England for four years, I came back to Dublin to work there and I was sharing. You just get a bit tired of sharing as you get older. You want your own space and your own place

James’s preference is to live in Limerick city given that it’s where his friends base is. But he is also happy to consider Ennis because of working there but admits that he had a misguided impression that renting there would be cheaper and easier than Limerick.

James Griffin: “There might be six properties in the whole of Limerick city on Daft at any time. Ennis is pretty much the same.'
James Griffin: “There might be six properties in the whole of Limerick city on Daft at any time. Ennis is pretty much the same.'

He continues: “I thought that Limerick and Clare might be a bit more affordable and that I would be able to afford an apartment by myself — a one-bed or maybe even a two-bed but that was completely out of the question. The cost, even if you are sharing, is still prohibitive. I see rooms in Limerick that are in two-bed or three-bed houses — if you split the cost between three people, you are still talking about €600-700. If you are trying to save then for your deposit for your mortgage, the rent is going to eat into it every month so I decided to stay at home. I have that luxury in one sense. So I am driving in and out to Ennis every day, getting the train the odd day.”

Viewings

 He says it is impossible to even get a viewing for a house in either Limerick or Ennis.

He explains: “Just the other day, I saw a property in Ennis, submitted my interest and asked could I view it. I was told that I needed references from previous landlords and a reference from my job, just to view the property. I thought that by the time I got all that sorted, the place would be gone. I inquired about other properties in Ennis and Limerick as well and they go up on a Monday, you see it on Monday evening and by the time you hear back from the property management company, it is gone. They are going up for a couple of days — the demand is that high.” 

He has not even been able to get a viewing since moving home for Christmas.

He explains: “You need to be quick, you need to be serious, you need to have alerts set up when something is added that is in your price range. I am at home, so I am not in dire straits and am not sleeping on friends' sofas or anything. But I go on to Daft every couple of days and the ones that look ideal are gone within a couple of days.”

 He contributes to the running of the house, which he now shares with his father again. And he is also trying to put money aside to help him buy a house “one day”.

However, he notes: “At the minute, it is a risky business as well — you don’t know what is going to happen with the housing market and people are reluctant at the minute to buy as well.” 

James says he has a great relationship with his father, making it easier for them in their new dynamic.

However, he adds: “I came back with a lot more stuff so I am trying to shove everything in the attic! I have always been looking since I decided I was relocating from Dublin to this part of the world. At this stage of my life, I don’t really want to share. There is an uncertainty as well about sharing. 

'No security in renting'

"A lot of houses, I know from experience of myself and from friends, that there is no guarantee that you will have the same house this time next year. People are selling houses. In my own case, my last house was taken back by the landlord. You have no security in renting.” 

James Griffin: 'I go on to Daft every couple of days and the ones that look ideal are gone within a couple of days.'
James Griffin: 'I go on to Daft every couple of days and the ones that look ideal are gone within a couple of days.'

He adds that as a 31-year-old man, he wants his own space, and says: “You don’t want to be fighting over washing machines and the cooker, everyone coming in from work at the same time in the evening and suddenly there is a queue to get something on the hob to get a bite to eat.” James also feels it is time to try to get on the property ladder, but he knows it will be a number of years before that happens.

He says: “Realistically I am probably looking at another maybe five years before I see myself getting on the ladder of ownership.

 I would love to rent but the way that rent prices are going, are you a fool to go out and pay €600 or €800 a month that could be going towards a mortgage deposit. It is a bit of a Catch 22 situation

As a single man, he is also conscious of the need for him to work hard at saving, compared with a couple with two incomes. He is in reflective mode: “As time goes on, if I look back maybe five years ago, maybe I could have afforded a house whereas now, it is out of reach. As things go and it gets ever more expensive, you get a bit more worried about how long this could go on. “ 

In the most recent Daft sales report, published in June, the average price of a home in Limerick city was €250,000. According to the report, prices in the second quarter of this year were up 11% compared to last year.

The average house price in Clare was €241,000 — up by 14%, according to the same report.

James compares the current demand for rental properties with the images from Celtic Tiger days, when people were queuing up to buy houses.

This time though, the queues are for rental properties.

He says: “Everyone is being pushed. It is like the Hunger Games out there. Everyone is trying to get somewhere.” -

Ennis workers commuting up to three hours a day for lack of accommodation

People working in Ennis are driving up to three hours a day because they cannot get accommodation there, according to a local auctioneer.

With just six properties available for rent in the town and surrounding areas, the pressure on the market is high.

 Ennis, Co Clare.  With just six properties available for rent in the town and surrounding areas, the pressure on the market is high.
 Ennis, Co Clare.  With just six properties available for rent in the town and surrounding areas, the pressure on the market is high.

Auctioneer Brian McMahon said: “In the past few weeks, we have had enquiries from people who are driving 1 ½ hours to and from Ennis each day as they can’t find accommodation. Crazy stuff and it’s not getting any easier out there for tenants.

The rental scene is complete chaos in Ennis and indeed throughout Clare at the moment

"We have literally dozens, if not hundreds, of people looking for every property we list and it has gotten to the stage where we hate even advertising properties online as the level of enquiries just can’t be dealt with.” He said there is almost zero supply in the area, resulting in “a whole generation of young people who want to branch out on their own having no chance at the minute of securing accommodation”.

He believes the current situation could have been avoided to some degree, however.

He said there has been a laissez faire attitude to development in Ireland as well as an over-regulation of small, private landlords. He said these have combined to create a perfect storm.

He explained: “In towns like Ennis the small landlord was the backbone of the industry and they are now bailing out in their hundreds. The main reason is fear of getting get stuck with a bad tenant.” 

Protection for landlords

He believes that there should be some protection for landlords in situations where there are problems with tenants.

He suggested: “Maybe there is a case to be made for having a register of tenants just as we have a register of landlords. The good reliable tenants who don’t cause any problem will have nothing to fear.” 

“At the very least a landlord could find out if there was an issue with the tenant or a claim against them for damage, rent arrears etc. The institutional landlords don’t care about this kind of stuff as they can handle it in-house but the small investor with one or two properties is really at the mercy of tenants.” Acknowledging that there are problematic landlords, he said that good landlord need protection as well as the tenant.

He said that while rents are high, landlords have to pay income tax as well direct money from rent to mortgages, management, letting fees, repairs and insurance.

He added: “That is also a major factor in the decision of many landlords to get out. It just isn’t worth the hassle.” 

He commended the work of Clare County Council which, he says, has around 200 new social houses at “various stages of completion in Ennis”.

However, he believes that while some private rental stock will be freed up as a result, it will not be enough to meet the demand in the area.

 Maybe we need to look at building specs again and try and design cheaper homes. I know it’s all about energy efficiency and insulation now, but we don’t live in Siberia and there is a case to be made for building a cheaper, simpler home

He added: “We need to be able to build affordable homes and whilst this isn’t a problem in Dublin and other major cities where values stack up against costs, in rural Ireland the profit margin to build homes just isn’t there. That is why we have no new private housing for sale in our rural towns. Really the only ones who can afford to build them are the local authorities.

“The powers-that-be need to rethink all this and see what their priority is - is it having ultra-energy efficient homes for the few or reasonably priced good quality homes for the many. There is no doubt that the housing crisis is stymieing development and if you were thinking of setting up a factory in Shannon today you would probably decide against it as there would be no accommodation for your workers.”

Areas in demand

Tony Wallace, auctioneer in Limerick with Rooneys, said that three key areas of Limerick city are in high demand — the city centre, Raheen and Dooradoyle, and Castletroy.

He explained: “They are right next to the multinational companies, the heartbeat of the job market in Limerick city.” Mr Wallace said that the rental accommodation in short supply in Limerick at the moment include those from 80 to 100 sq metres, as well as three-bed semis, two-bedroom apartments and one-bedroom apartments.

He continued: “Limerick has a funny dynamic where the city centre has a lot of multinationals setting up and they are attracting a lot of graduates so that demand for that kind of accommodation is only going to increase over time. The accommodation is not there so it is going to hinder the workforce which is then going to hinder job creation within Limerick city centre.” He believes the government needs to pay attention to the type of rental properties that are popular and tackle the shortage of supply in those areas.

“The attempt to resolve the housing crisis is very much generalised – build houses. That is not going to fix the problem because it is much more complex than that. What needs to happen is that the Department of Housing needs to pay attention to what kind of accommodation is in demand and build those. That is what is needed to solve the crisis within the city centre in Limerick for example.” 

He said the rental market works at a very quick pace with renters jumping quickly on properties.

In relation to current rates in the city, he said: “You could treat yourself to a three-bed semi detached house for between €1,600 and €1,800 a month.” 

Sinn Fein’s Deputy Maurice Quinlivan said the hike in rents “is a phenomenal increase on the already overpriced rental properties and is a massive additional cost for workers and families to bear, on top of rapid increases in household bills.”

 

He pointed to the most recent report on rents from Daft.ie which showed that rental rates in Munster are 12% higher than they were a year ago – “the highest ever annual increase recorded for the province since the start of 2006”.

He added: “Limerick City rents have more than doubled in the last decade with a 132% increase since 2011.” Deputy Quinlivan said there needs to be a ban on rent increases on all existing and new tenancies, as well as a refundable tax credit worth a month’s rent for tenants.

Ennis in numbers

There are currently six properties for rent in Ennis and surrounding area, listed on Daft.ie.

They range from €750 for a studio apartment in Clarecastle, to €3,000 for a five-bed, two-bathroom detached property, also in Clarecastle.

In Clare, the current HAP rates are:

1 adult in shared accommodation €220
Couple in shared accommodation €240
One adult €360
Couple €400
Couple or 1 adult with 1 child €480
Couple or 1 adult with 2 children €515
Couple or 1 adult with 3 children €550 

Limerick in numbers    

There are currently eight properties for rent in Limerick city listed on Daft.ie.

They range from €1,000 per month for a two-bedroom apartment at Clontarf Place, to a four-bedroom house in Dooradoyle for €2,100.

In Limerick city and county, the current HAP rates are:

1 adult in shared accommodation €270
Couple in shared accommodation €300
One adult €420
Couple €450
Couple or 1 adult with 1 child €650
Couple or 1 adult with 2 children €700
Couple or 1 adult with 3 children €750

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