Friday 24 January 2020

Why millennials are now the 'Yes in My Backyard' generation

Dublin's young are facing the biggest housing crisis yet in this crowded city and Eoghan Murphy needs to find a solution, writes Niamh Horan

Where is the single millennial on a billboard fist-pumping under the words
Where is the single millennial on a billboard fist-pumping under the words "I did it!"? We probably haven't seen them because they don't exist. Stock photo
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

What's with the bank adverts pushing mortgages? Young couples kissing, smiling pensioners in their partner's arms, they ignore a blatant truth: seven out of ten new homes will be occupied by single-person households by 2026.

Where is the single millennial on a billboard fist-pumping under the words: "I did it!"? We probably haven't see them because they don't exist.

Welcome to an Ireland finally emerging from 'the lost decade' - a deep recession that Goodbody assures us is over, and a time where 20-30-year-olds are banging their heads off the brick wall of a house-they will never be able to afford.

Last week, I sat in on a viewing at a friend's apartment. A steady stream came through the door. Their eyes darted around the room. Questions about availability came thick and fast, their panic and desperation palpable. When asked about their search to date, many spoke of a 'nightmare' scenario, some simply shook their heads in disbelief.

In traditional terms, these renters are by no means scraping by. They are the top 1pc of our workforce: young professionals, lawyers, accountants and techies. And yet they are part of a generation who, for the first time in Ireland's history, are asset poor compared to their parents.

Forget dreams of landscaped gardens, decking and room for a second car - they just want a roof. But they are trapped between Scylla and Charybdis, at the mercy of exorbitant rent prices yet trying to scrape together what's left in their account to save for a home.

Those who attempt it wave goodbye to any semblance of enjoyment for three to four years, which is tough but doable.

In recent times, Australian millionaire and real estate mogul Tim Gurner came under fire for advising millennials struggling to purchase a home to stop buying avocado on toast - a reference to the overpriced brunch of choice for that generation.

He made a valid point.

Young people can't afford to buy property while wasting money on fancy toast and overpriced coffee. But what he didn't factor in is that, even if you say no to life's little pleasures (and God knows we need them from time to time), with Dublin's property market, it's still not enough.

Millennials are facing the modern day version of Laelaps and the Teumessian fox - the mythical hunter set on the trail of an animal that could never be caught.

Property prices are running away. The bottom line is a new generation of home owners need help from the Government.

I made a point of asking each person who came to the viewing if they knew of anything being done to alleviate the property crisis - if they thought there was any end in sight. Every single person said no.

So, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, it's over to you.

So frustrated are young people they have started an anti-NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) movement on social media. According to the Dublin Inquirer, the 'Yes In My Backyard' (YIMBY) group was kicked off by Dubliner Matthew Johnston in response to the glacial pace of city development.

Rather than seeing developers as the enemy set to destroy our city, YIMBYs see them as people to be worked with, not against.

It's a brilliant riposte to the white noise coming from critics of those trying to create a future for Dublin.

From making the decision to cap buildings below optimal height to citing the importance in saving the city's "historic core" - they are so far removed from the reality on the ground that they are not balancing their ideologies with the needs of Dublin's young.

In fact you'd have to ask: how good can an ideology even be if it doesn't consider the needs of those on its doorstep?

The property crisis has descended into pure madness.

From a Portakabin in a Dublin car park [described as "a fine one-bedroom apartment"] advertised for €1,300 a month on a property website to a Temple Bar building rented out to 45 people who are sharing one shower with up to 10 in a room. And then there's the countless sex-for-rent offers online - including a "gentleman" in his 30s offering to "share a bed" with an open minded girl near a Dublin university. He posts the rent at €1.

That's the extreme, now the everyday reality: rents are rising at their fastest ever rate.

In the final quarter of 2016 the rate of rent inflation across Ireland was 13.5pc, while the average age that people buy their first home has rocketed to 35.

In the midst of these depressing reports, however, it is somewhat reassuring that the new Housing Minister is a young man himself. Surely he can connect to what a generation of 20s to 30s really want?

There is no point in telling us - as I have heard from many home owners from older generations - that "you'll just have to move out to somewhere off the beaten track where you can afford it".

Dublin isn't New York.

Thanks to years of atrocious planning and a complete lack of foresight we have a poor transport system - no underground or any semblance of a widespread web of tram tracks, let alone regular buses.

And if we move to the outer limits there are no solid amenities or community for us there.

We work in Dublin city centre, we don't want the three-hour daily commute. We want to be close to our offices and social lives, without emerging crippled at the end of each month.

Enough from the naysayers who will never face the future we are now being forced to confront. Our needs and desires are changing.

We will trade car park spaces for more apartments, we will sacrifice more floor space for affordable mortgages and we are more than happy to look out on taller buildings once they are built in the right area, if they give us more homes and offices and, most importantly of all, hope for the future.

Because right now that is what we are lacking most. It's reached the stage of the 'f*ck it' mentality - where people are asking what's the point? You wonder why you see so many young people drinking and dining out at the weekends and living in the moment?

They need some relief from chasing an elusive dream that is continuing to get further from their grasp. When you think about it: something must be radically broken in the housing market when Ireland's youth begin to abandon it in favour of avocado and toast.

Sunday Independent

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