A NEW PLAN for Inchicore means that ordinary young people like me can dream about renting at a price I can afford.
I’m 27 years of age. I’m a postgraduate student at University. I’m working with a global engineering company. I have friends and work colleagues from across the globe. I vote. I pay taxes. I have opinions, aims and aspirations. I’m a young, independent adult.
But I am living at home. Going through the same hall door since I was in a school uniform.
The only living choice I have
It’s the only living choice I have right now. And it’s the only choice that thousands more young adults like me have here in Dublin and across the country. Eurostat figures in 2016 tell us that a massive one in four Irish adults over 25 are living at home.
We are a generation trapped in our box rooms, locked out of the extortionate private rental market and unable to get a start on an out of reach housing ladder for ordinary people.
Much and all as I love and appreciate my parents and family, I want to move out. But I have had to shut that dream out of my head, every time I look into the window of the local real estate office, every time I log on to a property website, every time I go through that familiar hall door.
Up to now that is.
A different way to think about housing
Because this week, I can at last begin to dream that there is a better way to do things, that there is a different way to think and plan for housing that ordinary people like me can aspire to and, above all, afford.
For over a year now I have been working with the St Michael’s Regeneration Team in Inchicore – where I grew up. I have met with the team every week, as a volunteer, to develop our plan for the 12 acres of green space that is right in the middle of our community.
What’s really ground-breaking about this proposal and what attracts me most to it is that all of houses on the site would be rented on a long term and secure basis, at a cost that is weighted according to people’s ability to pay. It’s called the cost rental model. It’s new here in Ireland but it is actually the successful rental model that has been in operation in countries across Europe for decades.
A fair rent model
So say, you’re somebody with an income of about €30,000, your rent for a home suitable to you could be no more than €400 a month. Compare that with the €1,600 average it would cost me today to rent a two-bedroom apartment off a private landlord or vulture fund in Inchicore and you can see immediately why I’m excited about this new, fair rent model. At last, it’s a housing model and a rent that I can live with.
What makes most sense is that the Fair Rent Homes model is rooted in keeping public land for public good. You see the land at St Michael’s is owned by the State – owned by me and you.
At the moment, there are a number of other proposals for that site that are based on selling off that land to a private developer who will then build houses or other facilities on it, basically to make a necessary profit.
This is effectively outsourcing our housing emergency to private, profit driven developers to solve. At this time of chronic housing shortage, when over 7,000 people in Dublin South Central alone are on the social housing list, I don’t think that the State should be giving away our publicly owned land to developers.
State would build homes
Instead, what is proposed with the Fair Rent Model plan for Inchicore is that the 12 acres of public land is retained by the State – not given away. The State builds the homes, which the State continues to own, and then rents these homes to a mix of people – families, single people, older people – on a long term and secure basis.
The best bit about this proposal is that not only do people like me get the chance and the choice to live at a rent we can afford but that the State can recoup its initial outlay for building the homes.
So, at St Michael’s Estate, for example, if there were 300 one, two and three-bedroom homes rented out, the State could expect to earn over €2 million every year – meaning that over a 25 or 30 year period the community would pay for itself.
Of course because I want to live in Inchicore – my home community – I am really excited about the proposals for St. Michael’s Estate. But really, this cost rental model could be a solution, not just to our local housing emergency but to the national housing emergency.
Exploitive private rental model
I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that we have to find an alternative to the exploitive private rental model and to the lifelong debt model that we call mortgages and home ownership.
While many people may want to own their own homes, it cannot be the only choice for secure housing. We have to think about rent as something other than just a criminally expensive, and highly insecure, staging post to home ownership debt.
If I had my way, I’d start digging that 12 acre site myself tomorrow. And I’m quite sure I’d get plenty of help from the thousands of people, just like me, who want nothing else than a place to call our own – to get out of box rooms and hotel rooms and to start living.
Nicola Quinn is a lifelong resident of Inchicore and St Michael’s Estate.