Saturday 1 November 2014

I've had it with shoebox bedrooms and Dublin landlords

Lorraine Courtney

Published 31/07/2014 | 02:30

Stay-at-home parents suffer in our tax system.

I was sitting in my rented flat as I listened to the rented dishwasher wash my rented dishes when my phone pinged with an email. It was my landlord announcing a rent hike: "The lease on the property is due to expire, should you wish to renew there will be a rental increase of €200 per month. This is due to large increases in the rental market over the past 12 months. We still believe it is below market value. Please let me know what your intentions are as normally we require 30 days notice should you be vacating."

I'm a good tenant. I've lived in the flat for five and a half years and I've always paid my rent on time. I don't have many late night parties and I've only broken one mug. But all of that doesn't matter now that I'm hit with a rent increase of 20pc in one concise email. I'd been expecting some kind of rise but now I've no option but to move out and find somewhere else to call home.

I will probably never be able to own my own property. When I die, my only assets will be a wardrobe full of Zara tops, and the wardrobe won't even be mine. Yet it can be difficult to complain about rents, house prices and mortgages without being accused of being a middle-class whinger? Well, I might be just that.

Almost one in three people are renting in Ireland right now. And while rents decreased at the beginning of the recession, by 2012 they were creeping up ever so gradually. Property prices in Dublin are racing way ahead of the rest of the country. The average rent nationwide is now nine pc higher than it was at the same stage last year according to the latest quarterly Rental Report by Daft.ie. The average rent nationwide is now €888. In Dublin, it is €1,289, that's a whoppingly crazy 14pc rise.

Ronan Lyons, Daft.ie's in-house economist says: "It is now agreed by almost all commentators that what characterises the housing market in Ireland's urban areas - in particular Dublin - is a supply shortage, rather than a bubble. That is not to say a bubble, whose two characteristics are unrealistic expectations and loose credit, should not worry policy-makers. The easiest way to walk into another bubble is to ignore a price spike caused by supply shortages, creating momentum in house prices that feeds into both expectations and credit. This is the lesson Ireland learned the hard way after the supply shortages of the period 1995-2001."

So what can we do about it? In some parts of Europe, controlled rents and long leases in areas where people would actually choose to live are the norm. Just look at the German rental market with its protections against eviction, longer term tenancies and regulated rent increases. Rent controls could ensure that an individual landlord's greed isn't the only thing determining what we should pay for our home. But more than anything I think the future should be high rise. Vertical living isn't always done right and has many critics. But land in Dublin is scarce and we need to make the maximum possible use of it. Let's start a national conversation about high rise living before the bubble grows too big.

Priced out of my flat, I get on with the tedious job of finding a new room to rent. But since Dublin rental prices all seem to defy gravity (€850 for a single room in a Christchurch flat share), it means that I find myself priced out of the city completely and forced to become a commuter. I love Dublin. I love urban living and I thought I could live in this city forever. But I've had it with shoebox bedrooms and limply surrendering more than half my monthly wage to landlords.

I still have many moves to go before I settle down for good but if home is where the heart is, mine is moving to Kildare. In the meantime I'm getting used to taking the Arrow rather than the Dart.

Irish Independent

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