The price of a roof over your head
In part one of a five-day series, we look at how - and where - an out-of-control rental sector is causing havoc with people's lives
Less than a decade ago, in 2006, just under 10pc of all Irish households lived in private rented accommodation. By the time the 2011 Census was complete, it had risen to 18.5pc.
In that five-year period alone, the State's population grew by more than 341,000 to almost 4.6 million residents as the economy grew and Ireland became an attractive destination for immigrants and the returning diaspora.
And while home ownership remained high, there was an increasing move among a mobile and skilled population to rent their homes instead of being locked into a 30-year mortgage.
The population rise between the two census periods equated to an increase of 187,000 in the number of households. In the same period, the number of renting households rose by 160,000.
Unsurprisingly, demand was highest in the urban areas. In Dublin, 32pc of the population lived in rented accommodation. In Galway, it stood at 37.5pc.
It's these statistics which help tell the story of how the Irish are increasingly becoming a nation of renters. Even more people rent today, but the figures don't tell the full tale.
They don't tell you about people like Aidan Phelan and his partner Amelie, stuck living in rented accommodation because they cannot secure a mortgage to buy their own home, despite being more than capable of servicing one.
They are not alone. One in three renters falls into this category.
Nor do they speak of the accidental landlords, those who bought at the top of the market but who have been forced to rent their properties because they are no longer suitable for their needs.
Many are struggling, with some 40,000 buy-to-let mortgages in serious arrears. They want out. This cohort includes 'ordinary' people who saw property as an attractive investment or as a pension, much to their detriment.
The figures also don't reveal the hundreds of families living in hotel accommodation because there aren't enough homes for rent by local authorities to provide shelter, the most basic of human rights.
But what they do show is that in the last decade, more and more people are reliant on the rented sector to provide their housing needs.
Many are perfectly happy with this arrangement, and are quite willing to pay for the convenience of living close to work and within easy reach of pubs, restaurants, nightclubs and all other amenities offered by a modern city centre.
But they are paying dearly for the privilege if they live in an urban area.
The Irish Independent Rent Report today reveals is that if you live in the cities of Dublin, Cork or Galway, your housing costs have risen since 2010, but outside these urban areas they are less than before.
For an 'average' home, the cheapest county in which to rent is Longford, at €406.95 per month. Pockets of the country are even cheaper, including the Inner Ring Road in Waterford, where a property costs just €290.14 per month.
Contrast that with the most expensive county, Dublin, at €1,142.50 on average. Of the 445 locations covered by the Rent Report, the top 90 are all in the capital.
What is noteworthy about this Rent Report is that it is based on real data. By law, all tenancies must be registered with the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB). Among the details it records is the monthly rent - meaning the data is based on actual amounts paid, and not the asking price.
This information, collated on behalf of the PRTB by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), has been used to compile 'The Rent Report'.
The analysis shows that the most commonly rented property across the country is a three-bedroom semi-detached house, but only in Dublin, Cork and Galway have rents increased.
In the capital, they're up 3pc, with 'average' rent for a starter home now at €1,148 per month. That rises to €2,110 in Dublin 4, which is up 20pc over the five years examined.
In Cork city, the average rise is 2pc to €851 per month. Rochestown rents have increased by 10pc between 2010 and 2015, up to €1,009.
In Galway city, they're up 4pc to €802 per month. The sharpest rise is in Knocknacarra, up 6pc to €837. Galway county has also increased, up 3pc to €748 per month, with many of the county locations serving the city.
But the differences between prices in areas of high demand and the regions are stark.
The most expensive place in the country in which to live is Grand Canal Square in Dublin 2. The Docklands is home to employees of IT firms including Google as well as blue-chip firms in the legal and financial services sectors, with many employees choosing to live close to work.
The average rent across all property types here runs to more than €23,000 a year. Given that 'average' housing costs are put at 20pc of income, these rents suggest that people living in these properties are commanding annual salaries in excess of €120,000 a year.
But it's not as if the Docklands offers an amazing living experience. As our correspondent Nicola Anderson points out here, "there's a feeling that the party is happening elsewhere". But residents insist it's a vibrant place to live.
However, as we learn, many of the 'luxuries' on offer consist of nothing more than a concierge service, balconies and a view.
Compare this situation with a home on Waterford's Inner Ring Road, the cheapest in the country, which can be rented for just €290.14 per month, or under €3,500 per year.
Despite a shortage of available homes, people are unwilling to pay above the odds for a property. As Graham Clifford reports here, some couples are involved in bidding wars of "fivers and tenners" to secure a home. This is in part due to a reluctance to pay Dublin or Cork prices.
The cheapest places in which to rent also tell a story of how the regions are suffering from the two-speed economic recovery suggested by many.
Waterford, Sligo, Roscommon, Longford, Cavan, Donegal and Leitrim all feature - many of which are suffering from a legacy of ghost estates and over-building, coupled with a flight of youth to the cities and abroad in search of opportunities.
But even when prices are high, it doesn't mean that properties on offer are fit for purpose. There's not a lot of bang for your buck at the lower end of the market, where despite commanding high rents, rusty cookers, sticky floors and outdoor laundry facilities are de rigueur.
But this doesn't matter, as properties in a rising rental market are quickly snapped up.
The success of the IT sector is also fuelling hikes in other places, and the most expensive rents outside of Dublin are in Leixlip, Co Kildare, home to Intel and Hewlett-Packard, and where an 'average' home costs €1,041.69.
Of the top 10 outside the capital, five are in the Greater Dublin Area. The remainder are in Sligo, Galway and Cork.
As well as focusing on the most popular type of accommodation, the three-bed semi-detached, the Rent Report also compares average rents paid on the next most popular housing choice, the two-bed apartment. In the cities of Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford it also records the third most common property types in each area.
But it also examines where the sharpest falls and rises are being experienced.
In Ulster, the sharpest drop is in Letterkenny in Donegal, down 17pc for a three-bed semi-detached. In Munster, rents have plummeted by 65pc on Waterford's Inner Ring Road.
In Connacht, the sharpest drop is seen in Ballaghaderreen in Roscommon, down 29pc, while Leinster has seen a fall of 18pc in Edgeworthstown, Co Longford. On Dublin's South Circular Road, rents are down 33pc for a two-bed apartment, despite its proximity to the city centre.
At the peak of the rental market in 2008, the 'average' national rent stood at €883, rising to €1,189 in Dublin, €924 in Galway and €1,045 in Cork. Today, that stands at €787, a drop of €13, or just over 1.5pc, except for in Dublin and Cork.
While the Rent Report examines the long-term trends, it also shows that rents are rising year-on-year, albeit not in all places. Of 366 locations for which data is available, rents have increased in 338 between the end of 2013 and December 2014, the most recent data available.
They continue to fall in 28 locations in Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Cork and Donegal, and even in Dublin where rents have dropped in two locations - Clonliffe, and the North Circular Road.
What's the real cost of renting in your area?