Wednesday 12 December 2018

Number of renters doubles as sky-high charges force families into homelessness

Return of rent relief for tenants on cards as crisis grows

Homehunter Conor McCrave. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM
Homehunter Conor McCrave. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM

Laura Larkin and Paul Melia

Pressure is mounting on the Government to reintroduce tax relief for renters as the housing crisis grows.

The Irish Independent understands that the return of rent relief for tenants has been raised during Budget negotiations between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. Meanwhile, a tax incentive for landlords who provide longer leases has been tabled by Fianna Fáil and Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy. It comes as this newspaper can reveal the number of tenancies has increased dramatically nationwide.

As rocketing rents force people to rent outside cities and towns, housing charity Threshold warned:

:: Rent pressure legislation is not working;

:: Increases of up to 50pc in rents are forcing low and middle-income families into homelessness;

:: Accidental landlords are leaving the market and being replaced by institutional landlords charging at the top end of the market;

:: The Government's over-reliance on the rental market in lieu of social housing is adding to the crisis.

A rent relief for tenants was phased out last year and reintroducing it is seen as an expensive move.

However head of Threshold, Senator Aideen Hayden, said this Budget must address the rental crisis and look at ways to fix a sector that is not fit for purpose.

“Steps have to be taken to ensure there is affordable rental properties available for low and middle-income families,” Ms Hayden said.

Despite legislation limiting rent increases to 4pc in so-called pressure zones, people are reporting increases of up to 50pc in places, she said.

The rental sector as it stands is not suitable for families she warned, noting that families currently do not have security which means they cannot put down roots in communities.

A spokesperson for Mr Murphy would not be drawn on Budget measures being examined for renters.

Previously the minister said Ireland needs to develop a mature rental sector and is bringing forward stricter enforcement and strengthened tenancy rights. Cost rental schemes are also included in the Government’s long-term plan.

It comes as the Irish Independent has found that every town in Ireland has seen a dramatic rise in the number of people renting their homes as the housing crisis deepens.

An in-depth analysis of census data shows that families are being squeezed out of buying in our cities, towns and villages, with the number renting from private landlords increasing by 32.94pc in Templemore, Co Tipperary, and to a staggering 550pc in Stamullen, Co Meath.

The data also shows that home-ownership rates have fallen. While more people own their homes outright, this is largely due to our ageing population.

Read more: While anger over housing boils over, the plight of many tenants continues to be ignored

But fewer people own their home with a mortgage or loan, with the numbers dropping from almost 570,000 in 2006 to 535,675 in 2016 as the lack of new homes coming onto the market means demand is not being met.

The findings, based on an analysis of census data from 2006 and 2016, come as rents reach record highs and house prices continue to soar.

Official statistics reveal that while local authorities and voluntary bodies supply around 160,000 units, the vast bulk of rental homes are sourced from private landlords who are increasingly snapping up properties in and around major urban areas.

The data shows that in 2006, just over one in five households were rented, or 20.6pc.

By the time of the 2016 Census, it had risen by 168,365 to almost 470,000, representing 27.7pc of all households.

But the rise in the number renting from private landlords is even more stark.

In 2006, just under 10pc of homes were rented from private landlords, or 145,317. By 2016, it had more than doubled to 309,728.

This represents 18.2pc of all households.

The highest proportion of people renting their homes is found in Edgeworthstown, Co Longford, at 39.89pc. The highest rate in our cities is in Galway at 35.14pc.

Of 205 towns for which data is available, private rental rates are above the national average of 18.2pc in 148.

The numbers renting from private landlords has risen in all 195 towns for which data is available.

The lowest rate of increase was in Templemore, and the highest in Stamullen. The numbers increased by 100pc or more in 159 towns.

The highest proportion of those renting from a local authority was in Mountrath, Co Laois, at 25pc. More than 20pc of people rent from a council in 10 towns.

But the data also highlights how difficult it is for people to buy a home. The number owning with a mortgage has dropped, with almost 47pc fewer households falling into this category in Bantry, Co Cork, the sharpest drop.

Case Study

A shrinking rental market and inflated prices means accommodation is nothing but a dream for many young people.

I know this because I’ve spent the best part of the past two months trawling through advertisements online in an attempt to rent a room in our capital, with no success. I’m just one of the thousands out there, all in the same boat.

We know this isn’t specific to Dublin, as rents have climbed to record highs across the country. Landlords I speak to say they receive hundreds, some even say close to a thousand, enquiries from prospective tenants within hours of listing their ads online.

Many of them say they have to take them down almost immediately because of the volume of interest. In fact, the whole process has become very close to applying for a job.

They ask for a ‘short bio’ indicating why you would be a good candidate, an opportunity to impress upon the landlord that you are the right fit for their often damp and overcrowded home.

If you fit their ‘criteria’ you are invited for a viewing which feels more like an interview. Bear in mind another 40 other ideal candidates have also been invited.

That’s where you sell yourself to them, all the while knowing there is someone else outside to come in after you to do the same.

And this is against the backdrop of paying huge rents if you are the successful candidate. A double bedroom in a four-bed house is going for up to a €1,000 a month in suburban Dublin.

The alternative is to share a room with another person you’ve never met before, for around €500 a month.

When people ask me why I don’t look for a job outside of Dublin, I have to remind them that this is happening everywhere in the country.

Apart from that, the reality is that working in the media means more than 90pc of jobs are in the Greater Dublin Area. I’m not alone in that either.

The technology sector is another area in which Dublin has locked down a massive proportion of those jobs.

The good news is that I have a four-hour round trip every day to refine my sales pitch for future viewings.

Conor McCrave

Irish Independent

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