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Dublin: 4°C Wednesday 19 January 2022

Almost €1000 a month for a room where the bed is next to the oven: Trying to find a place to live in Dublin

With rental prices high and supply low, renting in Dublin is truly a seller’s market.

WE ALL STAND in the upstairs room of a converted house in Fairview, north Dublin.

A young couple talk quietly by the window, standing between the bed and the oven.

A man inspects the bathroom while I manoeuvre around the bed to try to open the wardrobe behind a table and chairs. The chairs block the doors from opening wider than a couple of inches.

Along one wall are a fridge, an oven and hob cooker, a washing machine, sink, some cupboards and a counter top with a microwave and a kettle.

IMG_20170823_173920 A bed and small kitchen in a studio apartment in Fairview. Source: Cormac Fitzgerald/TheJournal.ie

About three feet away is the queen-sized bed. There is a television mounted on the wall near the foot of the bed.

Next to this is the door to the bathroom. Then there are two chairs and a small table beside the wardrobe, which can’t be opened without first moving the chairs.

People come and go. It’s a scheduled open viewing for a new property that just came on the market.

Some consider it for a while. Others take one look and immediately leave.

At one point a few of us catch each other’s eyes and smile in an almost embarrassed way.

“€925 for this,” says one man, and we all laugh a little.

“Welcome to Dublin,” says another.

Trying to find somewhere to live

The latest Daft quarterly rental report released on Tuesday found a record low number of available properties to rent across the country.

daft Source: TheJournal.ie

Ireland is going through an unprecedented housing crisis, with demand for properties far outstripping supply.

The problem is at its most acute in Dublin, where rents have skyrocketed in recent years.

Following on from the report this week, I decide to take a look at what is available on Daft and to go to a few viewings to see what was being offered to people looking to rent in the city.

On Wednesday morning there are 1,216 properties to rent across the Dublin area.

I login to my account, and start making phone calls and sending emails:

Dear xx. I am a young professional looking for a place to live in Dublin with my girlfriend. We are searching for somewhere close to the city centre and not entirely out of our price range. Would it be possible to view the apartment this week at all? I am available most evenings and afternoons. Cheers. Look forward to hearing from you. Cormac

The emails I send are all some variation on this. For the purpose of the article I am either a young professional looking for a place alone, or looking for place with my partner.

What’s most disheartening about trawling through the Daft listings is the number of people who just don’t respond to my initial request.

I send a total of 27 emails and make about 15 phone calls enquiring about places to rent over the course of my research.

Of these, I receive a total of six responses. One seems very dodgy – with the landlord requesting full payment and a copy of my passport before I’m allowed to even see the apartment.

scam Source: Screengrab

Another – from an established letting agent – requests photo ID, landlord references, work references and a copy of my most recent payslip before viewing is allowed.

references up front Source: Screengrab

But, mostly, people just don’t respond. Emails go unanswered, phones aren’t picked up and mailboxes are all full.

Eventually, after hours of dead ends and unanswered calls, I manage to get three viewings lined up for Wednesday evening.

The first viewing

The first place I go to see is a top floor studio apartment on the North Circular Road between Phibsboro and Cabra.

The apartment is one of about eight in one of those large old three-storey buildings that line either side of the North Circular Road.

ncr North Circular Road where the apartment is located. Source: Google Maps

I meet the landlord outside and he brings me to the top floor.

The apartment consists of one room and a small bathroom. A bed takes up most of the space, with a fridge-freezer right beside its head. There is a microwave and some makeshift storage shelves at the foot of the bed.

IMG_20170823_162708 The bed in the apartment on the North Circular Road. Source: Cormac Fitzgerald/TheJournal.ie

About four feet away from the bed are an old cooker and a small sink as well as a wardrobe. The apartment isn’t dirty, but the carpets are dusty and the wall paint seems old.

IMG_20170823_162718 The cooker, sink and fridge about four feet from the bed. Source: Cormac Fitzgerald/TheJournal.ie

The landlord is quiet, but courteous, as I look around the place.

“How much, again?” I ask.

“€850 a month,” he says.

I tell him I’ll think about it.

A seller’s market

Trying to find somewhere to live in Dublin is truly a seller’s market.

With a huge swelling in the number of people looking for a home, the ball is firmly in the landlord’s court.

It doesn’t really matter if the apartment is tiny and expensive, someone is going to take it eventually at the asking price as they don’t have many options.

original Average asking prices and year-on-year change in Dublin. Source: Daft.ie

Six years ago a friend of mine rented a similar apartment on the North Circular Road but one which was significantly bigger. The kitchen was slightly separate and the bed was situated on a makeshift loft above the room.

This left space for an actual living area in the centre of the room. In 2011 this apartment cost €500 a month.

Rents have been steadily rising since this point, reaching record highs in the last Daft report. And there is no sign of the upward trajectory slowing down anytime soon.

0005-cranes-at-grand-canal_90514610 Grand Canal Dock in Dublin. Source: RollingNews.ie

As rents rise, there is a downward push on the type of accommodation people can afford.

Five years ago, you could rent a double room in a house share not too far from the city centre for about €350-€400 a month.

Today, for that price you would likely be sharing a room with one or two other people. Daft is full of listings of people sharing rooms in order to cut costs and live close to the city.

Studio apartments like the one on North Circular Road used to be within the reach of lower-income single people or couples or those on a social welfare rent supplement. Now, they are likely being snapped up by people working who can’t afford a one-bedroom place.

Further out into the suburbs of the city it gets a bit cheaper but not significantly so.

This downward push leads to people and families who can’t afford anywhere getting priced out of the Dublin market entirely, which is contributing to the ever-growing number of homeless people in the city.

File Photo THERE WERE OVER 2,700 homeless children staying in emergency accommodation on a single week last month, a new record high File photo Source: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

The next viewing 

The next place I view is located on the Phibsboro Road not too far away from the North Circular Road.

It is a one-bedroom ground floor apartment in a building of three. The landlord says that he recently refurbished and modernised the whole place.

The apartment is mostly unfurnished, but the landlord promises to put a bed and a kitchen table and chairs in once he knows that a tenant doesn’t want to bring their own furniture.

It is relatively spacious, with wood flooring and a sitting/dining area situated next to a small kitchen. A short hallway brings me to a well-lit bedroom that looks out onto the Phibsboro Road.

IMG_20170823_170053 The bedroom of the apartment in Phibsboro. Source: Cormac Fitzgerald/TheJournal.ie

There is a condensation build up on one of the windows but the landlord says he’ll get it changed.

The bathroom is clean and has nice tiling. The apartment would be ideal for a couple. Not high-end, but comfortable and close to the city.

IMG_20170823_170122 The living area of the apartment in Phibsboro Source: Cormac Fitzgerald/TheJournal.ie

The asking price? €1650 per month. For a single person on around €30,000 a year, this would comprise the vast majority of their monthly salary. For a couple on the same, it would be just less than half.

And that’s before the bills. The landlord tells me he has other people interested and would like an answer quickly. Again, I tell him I’ll think about it, before leaving.

The final viewing

My final viewing is the open call for the studio apartment in Fairview.

It’s been a long day. I hop in a taxi to get from Phibsboro to the house in time for the viewing.

I tell the driver that I’m looking for a place to live and he sympathises with me.

“Make sure the toilet is not in same room as the bed,” he says, joking.

A woman with a clipboard waits outside to house and points me upstairs. From the outside, you would think the building is a modest family home.

It’s only when I enter that I see each door for what might be the front and back room are sealed off as their own apartments.

IMG_20170823_174015 The stairway to the apartment in Fairview Source: Cormac Fitzgerald/TheJournal.ie

The apartment is listed by a letting agency and the description states that it “suits a single or couple”.

There is only one large room, with no private or separate area except the bathroom.

IMG_20170823_173928 The bed overlooking the kitchen. Source: Cormac Fitzgerald/TheJournal.ie

Nowhere to go 

The experience of a young professional single person or couple looking for somewhere to live is just one of many as different demographics try to navigate Dublin’s (and Ireland’s) troubled rental market.

The country is littered with stories of desperate students facing scams; of landlords evicting tenants to raise rents; of homeless mothers sleeping in tents with their children; of pregnant mothers facing eviction.

The number of homeless people is higher now than it has been in decades and continuing to rise every month. In June, there were almost 3,000 children living in state-funded emergency accommodation across the country.

download-788-2 File photo of a homeless person in Dublin. Source: Leon Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Finding a suitable place to live is difficult for everyone except the highest of earners. But it is especially difficult for lower income households.

A key part of the government’s housing strategy has to do with meeting people’s social housing needs through the private rental market, but time and time and time again this has proven not to work when the market is as dysfunctional as it now is.

The government has come in for strong criticism from housing experts and homelessness charities, but still the problem continues to worsen.

There have been multiple calls for government to change its approach and to start building more houses as a matter of urgency. But while demand is high and supply is low – trying to find a place to live is going to continue to get harder for the foreseeable future.

Back in Fairview, and the young couple in the apartment have been conversing quietly with each other in the corner of the room. They seem to be deliberating about whether to put their names forward for the place.

After a lot of back and forth and looking around the room, they head back downstairs to talk to the woman with the clipboard.

Having trouble finding a place to live or dealing with housing issues or homelessness? Get in touch cormac@thejournal.ie if you want to tell your story

Note: TheJournal.ie publisher Journal Media Ltd has some shareholders in common with Daft.ie

Read: Laws trying to combat rising rents are being ‘flouted by landlords’

Read: The number of rental properties in Ireland is at its lowest in recorded history

About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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