Friday 20 April 2018

Opinion: Minister who said there are 'plenty of cheaper places to rent' should let us know where they are

Junior Finance Minister Michael D’Arcy said: "I know everybody always quotes the high cost areas but there are other places that are available for rent for a fraction of what’s being quoted in the headline figures"

Minister of State Michael D'Arcy TD at Kilanerin GAA Club, Kilanerin, Co. Wexford. Picture: Patrick Browne
Minister of State Michael D'Arcy TD at Kilanerin GAA Club, Kilanerin, Co. Wexford. Picture: Patrick Browne
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Junior Finance Minister Michael D’Arcy appears to have information about a stash of cheap housing available for rent.

Speaking yesterday, he said: "I know everybody always quotes the high cost areas but there are other places that are available for rent for a fraction of what’s being quoted in the headline figures.

“There’s also different areas where rental isn’t as expensive as it is a couple of streets towards the river and the other side of the river.”

He should tell the Department of the Taoiseach, which has said the ongoing shortage of housing represents a strategic risk to the State, and let the responsible minister Eoghan Murphy know so he can declare that the crisis is over.

But is he right in saying that homes are available to rent for a “fraction” of the headline rental costs quoted by media? If by ‘fraction’, he means ‘a bit cheaper’... then yes, he is.

While not all rental properties are listed on Daft.ie, the website which highlighted how rents are continuing their upward rise, it’s fair to say a proportion are. A search yesterday showed that, indeed, some properties for under the national ‘average’ of €1,227 were available.

In all, 3,144 properties were listed. Almost half were below the average. But if seeking a bargain, say half the average rent, there’s just 491 – which is hardly an embarrassment of riches.

That broad view doesn’t really tell us anything. It’s better to look at the cost of renting a specific type of property, for example, a three-bedroom home in Cork.

There are just nine three-bed homes available in the city. The average rent paid for this property type is €1,203, according to Daft. The cheapest available is €1,250 on Gardiners Hill, which is above the average.

But perhaps taking up Mr D’Arcy’s suggestion and looking farther afield into one of the “different areas” where rental costs aren’t as expensive might yield a different result. Erm, no.

There’s one house in Passage West for under the average, at €1,150, and three in Cork commuter towns. The cheapest is €900 in Mallow, some 36km from Cork’s City Hall. Travel costs alone would eat up the difference.

So his theory doesn’t hold true in Cork, but what about Galway? Not much luck there.

Looking at a one-bedroom home, Daft.ie says the average cost is €815 and 13 are listed in total. There’s one for under the average, at €650. The cheapest home available in a Galway commuter town is €550 at Newcastle, more than 5km outside Athenry. Athenry is itself 25km outside of Galway City. If people enjoy a 30km commute to work in the morning, it’s ideal.

And then to Dublin city, looking for a two-bedroom house which ranges in price from €1,304 in north Co Dublin to €2,124 in Dublin 4.

In north Co Dublin, there are seven properties listed for under the average with the cheapest in Skerries at €1,250, and the most expensive at €2,950 in Malahide. Not many at a ‘fraction’ of the headline price.

Looking at Dublin 4, but Dublin 2 and 6 as well because, as the minster says, we should compromise on location, there are only seven properties listed for under €2,150. There’s just one for less than €1,700.

So where are the homes, minister? And if so many are available, why is everyone from the Department of the Taoiseach to homeless groups blathering on about a need to address the housing shortage, not to mention the 90,000-plus low-income households on council waiting lists?

The National Risk Assessment 2017, which sets out threats to the State ranging from climate change to terrorism, includes housing. In a post-Brexit world, the Government would no doubt love to remove one of those risks. If Mr D’Arcy has the answers, now is probably a good time to let his colleagues know.

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