You may not recognise Sofia Delgado's face or even her name. But you will recognise her voice (at least her digital one). Delgado runs the Instagrammers Dublin page (@igersdublin), an online community that showcases the very best of Dublin city and its creative inhabitants to its 36,000 followers. Delgado also liaises with brands and collaborators to connect them with the city's creatives, while posting tips for aspiring Instagrammers, how-tos on everything from filters to cameras, and organising events. In short, she's running an entire online community, while also working full time.
Delgado is someone who loves this city, even though she wasn't born here. A true honourary Dubliner. But even she has been swallowed up by the expense of Dublin. She has recently become homeless and is couch surfing until she finds a place that she can afford. So often, millennials are told that we're the 'entitled generation'. The ones who want everything handed to them on a silver platter, without working for any of it. But this feels far from the truth, especially when searching for a place to live. Young people in large cities all over the world are being priced out of the market, resorting to bedsits, room shares or, for many, moving back home.
Delgado came to Ireland in 2010 for a month's holiday, which turned into an eight-year residency. She's originally from Venezuela, which has recently seen a mass exodus of refugees due to hyperinflation, hunger and a worsening political crisis. For seven years of her time in Ireland, she was living in her apartment in Newmarket Square in Dublin city centre, in a comfortable two bedroom apartment. This all changed in November of last year. "The landlord told me that they would not be renewing the contract because they would be renovating the apartment," Delgado said. "Newmarket is in one of the zones where they cannot increase the rent by more than 4% a year [what is called a Rent Pressure Zone], so I'm not a very valuable tenant to them. When I saw my apartment back on the market again after 'renovation', it was being offered for 1000 euro a month more than I had been paying. The only renovations did was replacing a window and door."
Delgado told me she doesn't blame her landlords, as her previous experience with them had been positive, but also she doesn't believe their intentions were genuine at the end of her tenancy. "I understand that property is a business, but the fact that they were telling me they're going to 'renovate it' is not good enough. I know others who have been living in their apartments for years being told the same thing and it's just not true. If they had approached me and asked to increase the rent I would have complied because I knew how difficult situations are for people who lose their homes."
Delgado has been viewing places to rent in the city but says that the situation is dire. "If you don't care about how you live, you'll find something. There are people renting couches for 500 euro a month, people sharing beds for 400 a month, sleeping beside a stranger."
"If you wanted to live in a property with 22 others and share a room with 4 people, then yes, you will find something. If I ever find anything that's suitable, it's just out of my price range."
The argument over the causes of the housing crisis has been raging for years. Both in the Dáil and in the pub on the corner, no one seems to agree on what exactly is to blame for the worst homeless crisis ever to face our country. Delgado said that she is trying to stand up for what's right, but it can be difficult. "I can't pay 2000 euro for an apartment because I can't afford it, but also because that's not what it's worth. They make you pay so much money for the property that it loses value, but people are desperate and will just pay it."
For someone like Delgado, who runs an account that follows our city, living near to the centre is important. But unfortunately, everyone else has the same idea. "I see a lot of construction of offices in the city and I don't think the constructors think about where the 500 people who are going to work there are going to live. The government is not concentrating on areas outside of Dublin city that can be developed. Put more companies in those areas and in turn put more housing in those areas. People will begin to move out of the city. You have all these top tech companies around the Grand Canal, but if you want to live there, you're looking at paying 1000 euro a week for an apartment."
"I am not the only one going through this", she said. "I speak about it, but there are thousands more exactly like me".
The experience of becoming homeless has had serious effects on Delgado. "I fell into a bad depression for about 4 months last year, because it was just so heavy," she said. "At least I had igersdublin that helped me not to fall further because it kept my mind busy. I promote the city, I try to capture the best of it and I sometimes feel frustrated that I love the city so much and I can't find somewhere to live here."
She continues: "Sometimes I wonder if this is a sign that I should leave Dublin. I don't want depression to return the way it did before, but I'm so drained. I leave in the morning at 6:30 am and am not back until 11 pm. I'm not getting the rest I need, especially as I'm staying on a friends couch. Even though I'm paying her, it doesn't feel right."
As we finish Delgado asks me if I live at home with my parents, which, fortunately, I do. "You're so lucky," she said. "Don't ever leave your family."
Image via Instagram