Friday 24 November 2017

'I know of people who've had to move out because of rent hikes...'

Rent spiral: Aidan Phelan and partner Amelie, pictured with Aidan's daughter Lily, are resigned to never getting a mortgage. Photo: Andrew Downes
Rent spiral: Aidan Phelan and partner Amelie, pictured with Aidan's daughter Lily, are resigned to never getting a mortgage. Photo: Andrew Downes
Kim Bielenberg

Kim Bielenberg

To most families, it once seemed like a simple ideal - to own their own home with a garden. But, increasingly, as we recover from the property crash and prices increase, this middle-class dream is becoming beyond reach in Dublin and other cities.

A survey published by Aviva Home Insurance this week showed that 69pc of Irish adults believe the expectation of owning a home is now unrealistic in Ireland.

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Aidan Phelan and his partner Amelie, who run their own entertainment business Réalta, would love to own their home with a garden. But the Galway-based couple in their mid-30s are resigned to the fact that they will never get a mortgage.

Aidan, whose daughter, Lily, is in primary school, says he is "burning money" with his €850 in rent in Rahoon in Galway.

"We live in a three-bed townhouse. We do have an upstairs, and there is a balcony, but we don't have a garden. Fortunately there is a green space nearby."

Irish families might have found it possible to adjust to the new reality of not owning a home if renting in Ireland was reasonable in price and they could feel secure. But many find themselves on an upwards rent spiral, and this has left their tenancy insecure.

"Rents have gone up by hundreds of euro in Galway," says Aidan Phelan. "A lot people in Galway have seen their rents increase from €700 to €1,100. I know people who have had to move out of their homes, because of the increases.

"If I had a mortgage of €500 per month, I could be saving the €350 extra that I am just burning in rent.

"The only people I know who are getting mortgages are those who get lump sums from their parents or inherit money."

The number of households now renting in our cities has increased - in Dublin to 34pc; in Cork to 29pc; and in Galway to 40pc.

The Aviva survey shows that the younger age group has a much lower expectation of owning a home. Three-quarters of people in this cohort believe Ireland will become a nation of renters.

In the Celtic Tiger era, planners and social commentators tended to put forward the idea that families should live in apartments. The semi-detached home in a housing estate has long been the target of a certain snobbery, but there is still a huge demand for these properties.

Karl Deeter of the Irish Mortgage Corporation says: "The anointed ones said that families should live in apartments, but they are not really willing to live that way themselves. People should have a choice. They have a preference for certain types of housing for very good reasons."

The cost of renting for families and the perceived insecurity are not the only reasons why apartment living is not considered by many to be a viable alternative.

Bob Jordan, director of the housing charity Threshold, says: "An awful lot of families will end up living in apartments, but the problem is that in the past they were not designed for family living.

"They tend to lack storage space for bikes, buggies and prams. There is less space for kids to do their homework and play. They need to be designed with families in mind."

In the Celtic Tiger period, families moved from the city to commuter towns to find a cheaper home to buy. Jordan says the same is now happening with rental properties.

"Dublin is now saturated and families are now looking outside the capital to find rented ­accommodation.

"People are having to look further and further away to find a place they can afford to rent, because the supply in Dublin is just not there."

Indo Review

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