Tuesday 6 December 2016

Modern life: Seeking roommate to share double bed

Published 10/11/2016 | 02:30

Pressure: The renting crisis has forced estranged couples to continue co-habitating
Pressure: The renting crisis has forced estranged couples to continue co-habitating

Rental prices in Ireland have soared to an all-time high according to a report by property website Daft.ie. The average rent is now €1,077 - an increase of 11.7pc compared to this time last year.

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We all know the impact of the housing crisis: renters across the country are paying over the odds for substandard accommodation.

Meanwhile, they are minding every penny and living in fear of the moment that their landlord decides to enforce yet another rent increase.

According to Ronan Lyons, economist and author of the report, inflated rents are having a "disastrous effect on social cohesion". In other words, renters are compromised; financially and geographically; interpersonally and emotionally.

The trickle-down effect of the rental crisis is that people are trapped in living situations that they would prefer to leave behind. During the recession, we heard of the many separated couples who were still living under the same roof in order to meet their mortgage repayments.

This phenomenon hasn't gone away. In fact, it could be argued that it's more prevalent than ever in a rental market that has bypassed the Celtic Tiger peak.

These days, only the well-paid or the imprudent can afford to live alone, hence couples are forced to think of themselves as cohabitants first, romantic partners second.

Take a 36-year-old woman who splits a monthly rent of €1,600 with her long-term partner for a two-bedroom apartment in Dublin. What happens when she starts to have doubts about their relationship? There's the emotional strain of the break-up to contemplate, but there's also the small matter of alternative accommodation to consider.

She can't afford to live alone unless she opts for a 'studio' - a living space where the bed headboard is a cooker and the only decorative piece is a fire blanket (and even then it's out of her budget).

She can't move in with her friends because they've all moved on with their lives. Likewise, she doesn't want to move in with strangers because she thought she left the era of housemates and passive-aggressive Post-it notes behind when she turned 30.

This leaves her with two options: go home to her parents', where she can consider her life a complete failure from the comfort of her teenage bedroom, or stay in a relationship that she no longer finds fulfilling, but which comes with all mod-cons.

While some renters are trapped in moribund relationships, others are jumping head-first into relationships that they'll later regret: Tall, non-smoker, GSOH, able to pay half the rent...

The older you get, the greater a predicament it becomes. I've heard of 'predatory' divorced men in their 50s and 60s seeking out affluent widows in the same age bracket so that they can get out of their bedsits and into the relative luxury of an empty nest.

The rental crisis has put people under insurmountable pressure, but some of us are feeling it more than others.

Pyramid sales

We need to talk about the new Toblerone bar. In case you haven't heard the news, the makers of the duty-free tradition have widened the gaps between the peaks to reduce the weight of the bar and keep the price the same.

The bar, once a row of chunky pyramids, now looks more like a strip of traffic spikes.

Mondelez International, the company that makes Toblerone, denied that the decision had anything to do with Brexit.

We've been here before. Mondelez, which also owns Cadbury, stopped using Dairy Milk chocolate for the shell of the Creme Egg in 2015. They insisted that they tested the new version, made with a standard cocoa mix chocolate, with consumers.

The new Creme Egg didn't pass the taste test when it hit the shelves, however, and the company lost more than £6m in sales after changing the recipe.

Also last year, the company drew the ire of customers when they added sultanas to the Fruit & Nut bar recipe.

There is a belief that brands have to keep evolving in order to stay relevant with consumers, but surely heritage brands and classic recipes are exempt from this rule?

Did a focus group really decide that the Toffee Deluxe should be removed from the Quality Street box? Similarly, did a Burger King think-tank really initiate the changeover to those awful thick-cut fries?

If it's not broken, don't fix it.

Irish Independent

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