THE word “crisis” can often be overused, particularly in the political world. There can be little doubt, however, that we are rapidly reaching crisis level in terms of housing in this country. With the supply of houses nowhere near where it needs to be, house prices are soaring. The average price of a three-bed semi in Wexford has risen by nearly 15% to €195,000 and this growth shows no sign of subsiding.
An indirect consequence of all of this is that, now faced with their properties being worth a lot more on the open market, landlords across the county are deciding that the time is right to sell-up, leaving a whole raft of renters high and dry with nowhere to go. Owing to the scarcity of rental properties, average rents for residential properties in Ireland rose by 5.6% nationally between April and June.
Bringing things down to a local level, there are currently just 7 properties listed to rent on Daft.ie in Wexford town. Of these, the cheapest is €825 per month for a two-bed two-bath apartment in Clonard Village. A two-bed, three-bath house in Lus Mor on Whiterock Hill will set you back €875, while a two-bed, two-bath townhouse at The Pillar on King Street is listed at €900 per month.
A two-bed, two-bath apartment in Páirc Cluain will set you back €230 per week (or €900 per month), while a substantial €1,100 per month is being sought for a two-bed, two-bath apartment in The Maltings, The Faythe.
Finally the only viable options for larger families are a three-bed, two-bath house in McClure Meadows is listed on Daft for €1,150, while a four-bed, three-bath property in the new Chestnut Hill Estate at Killeens would set you back an eye-watering €1,800 per month.
The Residential Tenancies Board Rent Index shows the standardised average rent for Co Wexford to be €889.40 for Q2 of 2021.
A charity working with those who are homeless and at risk of becoming homeless, Wexford People Helping People (WPHP) say that we’ve long gone beyond crisis point.
"We’ve had instances where two families with a couple of kids each have come to us looking to share one house,” said WPHP founder Claire Malone. “Families cannot get houses. We have 52 cases on our books looking for rental properties – they are families, single people, couples, everything. There are some properties in the likes of New Ross and Enniscorthy, but for families in particular that may not be an option as it would mean uprooting their children from school etc.”
Claire says that WPHP has been a lot busier since the moratorium on evictions put in place for the duration of the pandemic was lifted.
"Once we came out of the moratorium, we had over 100 requests for help from people whose landlords were selling up," she said. “Currently we have 37 families who are awaiting eviction. That number will be forty-something as soon as the final protections for renters are lifted on January 12. We’re getting messages daily from people asking us to post to our social media pages about looking for property to rent.”
The huge concern for Claire and her team of volunteers is that the people they are currently trying to help secure rented accommodation, will tomorrow become the same people they are dropping tents and sleeping bags to.
"We're in a crazy situation," she said. “There's no emergency accommodation. The few places we have are at capacity and there’s a waiting list. More and more people are sofa-surfing too and they’re not even included in the homeless figures.
"Another huge problem now is that rent prices are out of control. People are expected to pay Dublin rents on Wexford HAP (Housing Assistance Payment) rates and with Wexford income rates. It's just not sustainable.”