Lorraine Courtney: 'Housing crisis is wrecking lives and our patience is gone'
At a time when rent prices are making headlines almost every day, you either have to lower your expectations, accept you'll have to settle for the fringes of Dublin or consider leaving Ireland altogether. It now costs an average of 30pc more to rent in Ireland than it did at the peak of the Celtic Tiger and it's clear that the Government's rental cap regime isn't working out.
The average national rent is now more than €1,300 - an increase of 11.3pc this year, according to daft.ie's latest report. The €1,334 average is now €304 per month higher than the 2008 peak and more than €590 higher than the low in late 2011. In Dublin that average advertised rent is up 96pc from its lowest point in 2011. The report makes for scary reading if you're a renter and also shows the Government's rental cap regime across "rent pressure zones" has failed spectacularly. Simon Coveney introduced these rent pressure zones to manage increases in rents back in 2016. Dublin, parts of Meath, Wicklow, Cork, Kildare and Galway were all included. But there were loopholes. Landlords could get around the rental cap by simply doing up a bathroom. Clearly, lots of them are doing just that and getting away with it.
Young people have long given up on buying houses of our own. The message being pushed for the past few years by the Government appears to have been along these lines: give up your dreams of home-owning, ever. Accept your fate of throwing most of your salary away on rent. Live in the moment like they do in Germany and Greece.
But it isn't possible to live in the moment when even a shoebox-sized room in a shabby, shared house sets you back more than half of your monthly wage. Throw in commuting, bills and food and you're not really living at all.
The problem with sky rocketing rents isn't just the financial cost. The housing crisis is equally taking a huge social and emotional toll on us all. We live in permanent anxiety about spiralling living costs. Our passage to adulthood is hampered by living at home with our parents and maybe commuting for too many hours every day. It's damaging our mental health. It's wrecking lives. There's now a real risk if house rents keep rising, then nobody doing an ordinary job will be able to afford to rent or live in Dublin, and those on lower incomes will be pushed out of Dublin, forced to emigrate or pushed into homelessness.
No wonder we feel like we exist in a work-to-live world. Most of our money really is being handed straight over to a landlord. But what can we do? Housing isn't a luxury - it's a basic necessity. I'm beyond tired of working all hours to rent rooms that will never be home. Lots of people are and the idea of leaving is starting to sound appealing. And if we do leave, what will that mean for Dublin?
The Government really needs to ask what will happen when we all get priced out of the rental market. Dublin needs to be a city where people from all different backgrounds, working in all different types of jobs, are able to live and raise a family. That's what a city is. But we now have a capital that is too expensive for ordinary people to live in.
The political will to act seems to be finally - if belatedly - there, although that still leaves the far from small matter of finding the ideas and money to do something serious about it. But maybe more importantly, since there is an election coming and voters will clearly want to punish them if they don't, we might see some action.
The Government knows that it has had its last warning. It won't be forgiven for continuing to do nothing.