The Dublin rent crisis is among some of the top issues that will ultimately decide the upcoming general election. Amanda Cassidy meets those for whom it is unlikely they will ever afford their own homes if they stay in the capital
Dublin's rents are among the highest in the Eurozone according to the most recent rental report by Mercer. The Republic's capital has fallen 11 places to number 43 in an annual cost of living study of the world's cities.
We are just ahead of Milan in Italy (45) and Paris, France (47).
The reason? Ireland's housing crisis.
Related: 'We are angry, we are frustrated, we are stuck'
We know that as the population becomes more urbanised, workers more mobile and mortgage restrictions tighten, homeownership is out of the reach of many. But now renting is also out of reach.
Emma is a physiotherapist based in Dublin. She pays €1000 every month to share a house with two other professionals. But, two years out of college, she says enough is enough. "I just feel squeezed out. I think it is madness to be shelling out this much for a very average house in an average area. It is not worth what I'm paying. I've had enough."
Even getting the house was a battle. Emma describes how she saw at least eight other properties before she managed to nab her current one. "There were queues to see the room in most places. The other housemates knew they had their pick of the best so they were going for those with PhDs (one advertisement even said 'PhD student preferable').
“We would have to try to charm them and the agent and we were practically throwing our deposit at them to secure the room even though it was pretty grim."
Now, after a little self-reflection, Emma is moving to Clara in Offaly with her partner. She has secured a job in a nearby town and she can now save towards owning her own home. "I wouldn't mind renting if there was more security, more facilities, a better system like abroad," she explains. "But in order to feel like you can put down roots, our only option is to buy. I feel like I've been punished by the system. I'm opting out of the Dublin rent rat race. I'd prefer to live a better quality of life farther away.
“I'm actually looking foward to living somewhere I can afford. It is a fresh start where affording my rent each month won't be the biggest worry on my mind anymore."
"I don't like feeling like a mug"
Emma is one of a growing number of those 30-something-year-olds refusing to pay through the nose to live in Dublin. While there is no mass exodus out of the city, there are certainly more people considering it than ever before.
Paul, originally from Leeds, works for Google in Dublin 4. While he admits he is on a decent salary, he says that paying most of his salary every month on accommodation is concerning. "I'd like to feel as if I'm always moving forward but the truth is that nearly everything I earn goes on my rent. I was brought up with a good sense of budget and saving, yet I can't see myself buying anywhere in Dublin anytime soon."
He and two colleagues have decided to move an hour outside of Dublin in order to save cash every month to put towards their future.
"I don't like feeling like a mug," he admits when I press him on his reasons for moving.
"This city is losing its soul"
Although rent pressure zones and other government initiatives have begun to creep in, for many it is simply too little too late. Enda works with a financial accountancy firm in Ranelagh. He believes that housing exclusion and rising inequality will destroy Dublin completely. "I think this city is losing its soul. Everywhere you look there are offices being built, very little green areas, people have no privacy, nowhere to put down roots unless you have half a million euro."
Enda is putting his language degree to good use and plans to move to Spain in the coming months. "The amount I pay for rent doesn't justify the accommodation. I'm confident that my quality of life will be better elsewhere and the cost of accommodation is almost entirely responsible for that decision."
Meanwhile, insurance analyst Sarah (35) and her boyfriend have moved home to their parent's houses in the Dublin suburbs in the short-term in order to save for the long-term. "It is pretty pathetic that I'm 35 and live with my parents. It isn't really that natural. I love them and I'm really grateful I can stay here and save up but it doesn't seem right that this is my only option."
It also means Sarah, and her partner of three years, can't move on with their lives. "All our earnings were spent on rent so we haven't been able to take that next necessary step towards independence, we can't afford to get married yet, have a baby, buy a house. We feel like we are stuck."
Sarah's plan is to live at home for another two years to save up to buy an apartment in Dublin. "If I really let myself think about it I get pretty upset that we are paying the price for bad government policy and investor greed. I work really hard for my salary, yet I still can't afford to live close to the city. There should be a better way."
It is time to decide if housing is a commodity to generate wealth or a fundamental need to live and thrive. This is a defining moment in our property market.
The policies that future housing ministers introduce in the coming years will determine our housing system for decades to come and will shape our capital city for better or worse.
Image via Unsplash.com
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