My current housing situation is rather pleasant. I live alone in a one bedroomed residence in the city centre of Dublin.
I have a spacious bathroom – which includes a bathtub (this would be a major selling point in Amsterdam where such a thing is considered a luxury – although it’s been about twenty five years since I’ve taken an actual bath, so I have no notion why I am even mentioning this).
I have a large bedroom; and a living room / kitchen which opens onto a balcony where I can sit and inhale mugs of tea during the summer)
I pay €1000 per month for this flat (some people would call it an apartment; Americans might call it a ‘condo’ as the building in which it is located is less than twenty years old. I don’t have notions about myself though, so I will continue to call it my flat).
€1000 per months is quite the sum of money, and it’s an amount that I can afford so long as I don’t live too extravagant a life. I am willing to pay this amount for the sanity of solitary living. Having lived in my very own flat for over ten years in Amsterdam; when I moved to Dublin, I was forced through circumstance to cohabit with a Swedish lunatic named Flatenemy. It was the wakeup call that I needed – house-sharing must be avoided if at all possible for the sake of my mental health.
This is an absolute bargain in the neighbourhood in which I am living. As is customary in Ireland, a little nepotism can go a long way. I sourced my current abode through friends who, after living here for several years bought their own place. They put me in touch with their landlord, vouched for my impeccable moral hygiene, and a deal was struck. I guessed that seeing as the landlord bought the place as a retirement investment so long as the mortgage and his expenses were being met he was happy. And having a reliable tenant is a bonus.
The rules state that, when signing a lease the rent cannot be increased for two years. This means that I get to stay here until the end of 2017 for this princely sum. I am massively grateful for that.
My worry is 2018. Equivalent places in my neighbourhood are going for €1500 a month. I cannot afford that on my own. I am on my own however. A one bedroomed place is not suitable for sharing, unless you are bumping uglies with your cohabitee. A bank will only give me a mortgage for an overpriced flat if I have 20% of the price saved as a deposit. And as I only have a one year employment contract they would automatically refuse me anyway.
I am worrying prematurely I know. I am secure for at least a year. Hopefully by this time next year some actual houses will have been built ease the pressure off the housing situation.
My situation is not by any means a bad one. In fact it is a very good one.
Ireland really is cowboy country when it comes to renting a home. It is a largely, unregulated market. There is a Residential Tenancies Board which claims to look after tenants’ rights. As it run and self-regulated by a gang of landlords, it’s about as useful as a box of hair.
Traditionally people used to only rent temporarily in Ireland – for a few years after college. The national expectation was that you’d buy your own house. I think this is a hangover from the Famine – you can’t be evicted from your own home went the thinking. So buy your own place. As a result there was a far higher percentage of the population who were property owners than would exist in places like France or Italy or the Netherlands, where a lifetime in a rental was perfectly normal and accepted. In those countries the tenants had a strong charter of rights.
With the housing emergency in Ireland, accommodation is rather scarce, house prices and rental prices are skyrocketing; banks are foreclosing on properties left, right and centre. There is a homelessness crisis. Single people have been priced out of house ownership – it’s virtually impossible for a middle income earner to get a mortgage unless they live with Mammy and Daddy until they are thirty five – which means that a huge percentage of the Dublin workforce will never get a mortgage, coming as they do from outside the Pale.
Longterm rentals have become a reality for a large segment of the population – myself included if I stay in Ireland.
But strong tenancy rights – now don’t be silly. Sure landlords ought to be free to use the market to benefit themselves without annoying hindrances like tenants? And the government can’t interfere with the market (a third of them are landlords and about another third are ‘friends’ with building contractors) because the free market is sacred. The government is running an economy and not a society, therefore as long as the figures look good then that’s all that matters.
I am very, very fortunate. But listening to people around me, the housing situation is a pressure cooker. And it’s primed to explode.
Something’s got to give.