Mick Clifford: Tales of ordinary madness from the housing market

Even the cats are getting fleeced now as developers and investment funds make vast profits at the expense of a generation of losers, who have to fork out a completely disproportionate amount of their income in order to rent a home in which they will only have basic rights of tenure
Mick Clifford: Tales of ordinary madness from the housing market

Griffith Wood on Dublin's northside. A caller to Joe Duffy's 'Liveline' said he and his partner were told they would have to pay an extra €75 a month for each of their two cats. File picture: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Even the cats are getting fleeced now. There was a tale of ordinary madness from the country’s rental market during the week. Roy spoke on RTÉ’s Liveline about the cost of renting with a cat. He and his partner Sandra have two cats, which the way things are looking might be classified as an extravagance. Roy told Joe that he and Sandra wanted to move and they saw an advertisement for what looked like a nice place to rent for €2,250 a month.

We are now at the stage where €2,250 is not considered an extortionate monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Dublin. The development was Griffith Wood, on Dublin’s northside. It consists of 377 apartments and eight townhouses. US investment fund Greystar owns 342 units, which it acquired from the builder, Cairn Homes, for €180m. The other 35 apartments were bought by Dublin City Council for social housing.


                            The advertisement had said the development was 'pet-friendly'. It didn’t say that the pet would want to be earning his or her keep. Picture: iStock
The advertisement had said the development was 'pet-friendly'. It didn’t say that the pet would want to be earning his or her keep. Picture: iStock

Roy and Sandra told Liveline that they went along to view the property, where they discovered that the rent was not €2,250 but €2,550. In addition to that, he said they were told each parking space cost €50 a month. And then the clanger. 

“We were asked did we have pets,” Roy said, adding that the agent said the rental cost would be an extra €75 per cat — although Greystar say that sum of €75 is a flat fee, and is not charged per pet.  The advertisement had said the development was “pet-friendly”. It didn’t say that the pet would want to be earning his or her keep. 

So now, the couple’s proposed monthly rent had ballooned to €2,800, Roy told Joe Duffy. That was outside their range so they set their minds on somewhere else which might know the value rather than the price of a cat.

Greystar responded as follows: “While many rental properties do not allow pets or limit them to certain sections, Greystar is pet friendly and allows residents to keep their animals in their homes.

"Monthly fees or deposits are the norm for modern developments which permit pets and we charge a monthly fee for pets such as cats or dogs which roam freely in apartments.

"The total monthly fee of €75, which is for one or more pets, is to cover soiling and additional wear and tear caused by the pets. There is no fee for pets which remain contained such as hamsters, birds etc.”


                             Cairn Homes built the development and then had a handy end to its involvement when nearly all the apartments were sold to one buyer. File picture: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie
Cairn Homes built the development and then had a handy end to its involvement when nearly all the apartments were sold to one buyer. File picture: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

This is the reality faced by renters today, up and down the socio-economic ladder, right across the country. All the usual suspects are getting a slice of the creamy property pie. 

The land, originally owned by the Christian Brothers, was sold in 2014 for an undisclosed fee. Cairn Homes built the development and then had a handy end to its involvement when nearly all the apartments were sold to one buyer. The bank which funded it would most likely have been told this would be the outcome, which provided the bank with more security and less hassle. There would be no messing around with selling homes to first-time buyers and waiting on mortgage approval and all that stuff.

Now Greystar, which did pay a considerable price, has a cash cow into the distant future. At the end of the chain are the people who just want somewhere to live but are having to fork out more, and sometimes far more, than would be required to buy a home. 

Already, young couples are putting off starting a family because of the lack of secure accommodation. Now they have to give second thoughts to owning a pet.

Another tale of ordinary madness concerned another site on Dublin’s Northside, the old Chivers jam factory in Coolock. This week, city councillors claimed they’d had the wool pulled over their eyes when they sprinkled gold on the site for a developer who told them he wanted to house the masses.

The land was bought by Platinum Land, a London-based company owned by Dublin brothers Andrew and Maurice Gillick. The site was valued at €2.55m in 2016. The following year Platinum attempted to get it rezoned for residential use. 

“We chose to buy this site to try to create affordable housing for normal people,” Andrew Gillick wrote to a Dublin city councillor, according to the online newspaper Dublin Inquirer.

“We have been lucky and on hearing about the housing crisis on Joe Duffy, we thought this would be an excellent opportunity to give back,” he wrote. 

He and his brother had decided that “the most beneficial course of action for everyone from the local community, to society, to ourselves would be to have this site rezoned and for a sustainable and quality residential development to take place”.

For many, there is no prospect of ever owning a home. How they will negotiate their retirement in these circumstances will in time be a major political issue.
For many, there is no prospect of ever owning a home. How they will negotiate their retirement in these circumstances will in time be a major political issue.

The pitch had an altruistic feel to it. Here were local boys – from down the road in Glasnevin – coming home to spread a little of their good fortune. The council was presented with a plan to build about 350 homes which would be affordable and built quickly. The land was duly rezoned and Platinum acquired planning permission for 550 homes, of which 30% will be leased to the city council. The site is now on the market for €25m.

The mad rush to build has disappeared. The vision of creating affordable homes for normal people has taken a tumble. Land is the most expensive component in building a home. The land on which these homes will be built is now valued at 10 times what it was prior to rezoning. 

What now for the normal people?

So what now for the normal people? If they don’t qualify under a local authority scheme, they would want to be earning abnormal salaries to buy a home on the site. That is, of course, if homes are even made available to first-time buyers which is unlikely in the current environment. 

When the local lads made good came home to help out, as they characterised it, what exactly did they mean by “creating affordable homes for normal people”? Surely they weren’t thinking of homes to rent out from investment funds at exorbitant rates?

Speaking to the media this week, Andrew Gillick was on a different theme to that which he used to convince councillors of his good intentions four years ago.

“Some councillors seem to be obsessed we are potentially making a profit,” he said. 

“Business always makes a profit or it fails. Councillors also seem to totally underestimate the complexity/cost and timings of designing and getting planning for a scheme.” 

Convincing councillors to rezone the land and getting planning permission yielded a 10-fold increase in investment. This represents a profit margin in property development today?

Such is the background against which people are being housed. The above examples are both on the northside of Dublin, but the issue is acute in all the State’s major conurbations. 

There are a few big winners and a generation of losers, who have to fork out a completely disproportionate amount of their income in order to rent a home in which they will only have basic rights of tenure. 

For many, there is no prospect of ever owning a home. How they will negotiate their retirement in these circumstances will in time be a major political issue.

The prevailing situation is not sustainable. Tinkering with the problem, as has been done by the current and previous governments, will not do. Radical change has been avoided, even in dealing with a basic aspect like land speculation. 

There is no magic wand, but unfortunately it also appears that there is no urgency being applied to this basic function of governance. 

  • This article was amended on Friday, November 12, to reflect the comments from representatives of Greystar. 

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