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Saturday 19 October 2019

Housing Crisis: Mission impossible - finding rental accommodation in Dublin in 48 hours

INN Journalist Gabija Gataveckaite. Photo: David Conachy.
INN Journalist Gabija Gataveckaite. Photo: David Conachy.

Gabija Gataveckaite

Bunk beds, dozens of people at viewings and meeting special conditions set out by landlords are just some of the obstacles facing would-be tenants in Dublin.

Most people for accommodation in the Greater Dublin Area now have to spend weeks, if not months, researching, hoping to get selected for viewings and interviews, and hoping against hope they will find somewhere.

Last week, more than 100 people queued up for a house viewing in Drumcondra, a suburb in the north of the city, in the hope of snagging a bed.

Daniel Flanagan, a 19-year-old student from Wexford, explained how "disheartening" it was to see a swarm of people outside of the house he went to view.

“We waited 15-20 minutes and left because the line wasn’t moving. We knew we had no chance,” he said.

In his opinion, the low price attracted dozens of people to the property. He said the three-bed house was on the rental market for a little over €2,000 a month.

“The price was very low, it wasn’t cheap, but it was one of the cheapest on the market,” he said.

“The house seemed in presentable condition, it wasn’t falling apart. Most houses which are on a budget rent are deteriorating.”

Daniel explained that the majority of the viewers were all students, desperate to find accommodation for the incoming academic year.

“I can’t see myself living in Ireland. There’s barely any jobs and there’s nowhere to live,” he said.

In Dublin’s south city centre, we were among 15 people scheduled to view a bunk bed in a two bedroom apartment. Each bedroom has a set of bunk beds and a single bed.

The bunk bed is currently being rented by a non-national tenant who is moving out of the apartment. She’s been in the country for three months. The person who will be selected out of those viewing the bunk bed will pay €450 a month. If each of the three people sharing the room this amount, it is at least €1,350 a month. The same amount of money will be made from the second bedroom - which means this two bed apartment is pulling in €2,700 every month.

“There’s been a lot of interest, it’s Dublin,” she says. She explains how she has viewings arranged with each hopeful over the coming days.

The apartment is newly furnished, and a Brazilian tenant explains that he has been in Ireland for a month. A faint smell of cigarette smoke lingers. The tenants have the use of the washing machine, but only allowed a single load of washing a week.

In north Dublin, some 6km away from the city centre,  a single room in a house share is up for grabs. There are two double rooms, and three single rooms which mean that a total of seven people can occupy the house. The single room clocks in at just under €500 a month.

The house is in need of renovation and a deep clean, but the landlord says that the current tenants will clean up before leaving.

“Irish students are the worst,” he says.

Inside the front door of the house hangs a list of ‘special conditions’. Some of these state that tenants ‘are not to keep guests overnight without the landlord’s permission’ and ‘draw back curtains and open windows for air before leaving in the morning’.

There is also a laminated newspaper clipping beside said conditions, of an article detailing a female student died in a house fire two years ago. The words ‘cause of fire, with a phone charger’ are underlined in red biro.

As mostly students occupy the house, interest increases each year as students come and go. “I do feel sorry for them,” the landlord says.

Letting agents in property management companies are feeling the pressure also. A staff member in a letting agency in Dublin, who asked his name not to be disclosed, said that over 50 applications are received daily.

“Fifty a day, and that’s continuous, there will be 50 more tomorrow, it’s an extremely difficult role for all,” he said.

“What you have to do, to keep your sanity, [is] go through the emails, find the best 20 or 30, set another 10 to 15 to organise viewings,” he explained.

“You couldn’t possibly have open viewings because you can’t speak to people, there’s too many.”

However, as desperate tenants shell out for staggering rents, the number of available properties is steadily dropping.

“Two or three years ago we would turnover 130 properties per annum,” the staff worker says.

“Now, we would be lucky to turn over 65 or 70.”

High demand sees tenants spending months searching for somewhere to live, finally finding a place, and staying there.

“Anybody who is in rental accommodation isn’t leaving it as they know that anywhere else is dearer,” he adds. Buying a house is a mere pipe-dream as rents cost as much - in some instances it will cost more - than mortgages, leaving less tenants with the ability to buy.

“It’s a crisis,” he says. A faint radio noise can be heard over the telephone as he speaks.

“I hear [Housing Minister] Eoghan Murphy on Pat Kenny now in the background. He goes around in circles.”

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