It is not unusual for angry people to take to social media platforms to express their outrage about how crazy things are getting, whatever those things might be. It is, however, most unusual to see an angry tweet or Instagram post plant a seed that blossoms into a resource and then a community offering hope and inspiration to people, mostly millennials, who badly need help.
In 2018, Dublin schoolteacher Ciarán Mulqueen and his wife Melissa, a fellow teacher, decided that with their 30s looming and their jobs steady, it was time to put down roots.
So they did what so many young people have done before them and began trawling property websites and estate agents’ windows to see what kind of house they might buy in Dublin 8 and how much they might expect to pay.
What followed was a year of increasing frustration as it became all too evident that two young teachers with full-time jobs would struggle to buy in Dublin while adhering to bank lending rules which meant they could only borrow up to 3.5 times their combined salary and at a time when house prices were going through the roof. Again.
In August 2019 after months of knock-backs, Mulqueen spotted a house on daft.ie which particularly enraged him. He decided to set up an Instagram page specifically to give out about it and called the account @crazyhouseprices.
The house had the dubious honour of being known as Ireland’s skinniest home, measuring just 180cm wide. It carried an asking price was €265,000 and was – by every measure – small. Very, very small.
So Mulqueen posted the picture and wrote: “34 square metres is the size of a decent shed, but at least you could lie down sideways in the shed. This gaff is 6 foot wide, it was a laneway! Someone managed to get planning permission and just threw a roof over it. Over a quarter of a million for this bad boy. Has been on the market quite some time. Can’t understand why? Mind your head getting up in the morning”.
His Insta-debut was not an instant hit and that first post was liked just 134 times and attracted 37 comments. But it proved to be a launching pad for Mulqueen. His @crazyhouseprices account on Instagram now has more than 90,000 followers with tens of thousands more following him on Twitter. His posts routinely attract thousands of likes and hundreds of comments.
Mulqueen’s high profile on social media also saw interest from publishers and led to his new book which carries the fairly self-explanatory title How to Buy a Home in Ireland. The book, he says, was almost a collaborative effort between him and his army of home-seekers.
While the account that spawned the book initially lived up to its name, highlighting some of the more insane asking prices, it quickly morphed into something else, a resource from would-be house buyers. It also became a place where he could document his own house-buying adventures which – spoiler alert – ultimately ended in success.
That success did not come fast. He points out that in times past “two teachers could quite comfortably buy a house somewhere you know, not a mansion but you got a decent house in a decent area. Once I started looking, that very quickly became unachievable, unless we got help by being able to live in my in-laws house and then also getting more money from a bank because 3½ times salary wasn’t going to cut it.”
The couple managed to get an exemption from the bank rules and so had 4½ times their joint salary but they still struggled and were repeatedly outbid by people and entities with more cash to spend.
Eventually, Mulqueen decided to try a different approach. “We bid and we looked at so many houses,” he says. “As a person, I generally try to problem-solve so I asked myself what’s the problem here? The problem was the bidding wars. We could not afford them so how could we get around that? Get rid of the other bidders? How do we get rid of the other bidders? By trying to buy a house that not that many people know about. And then the only way to do that is to go direct to people.”
He posted letters through dozens of doors in the Liberties area of Dublin asking if owners were considering selling and if they were, might they consider selling to him.
They don’t really get how outrageous the house prices are until you give them homework
— Ciarán Mulqueen
“We got lucky,” he says. “It was an older woman. The house and the gardens were immaculate and the house was immaculate and the bathroom was immaculate and all that.”
But despite all the immaculateness, once the couple had secured the property at an agreed price, they gutted it. “It just wasn’t to our taste but also they’re old houses, they’re cold and I kind of always wanted to renovate and do a full retrofit.”
So, suddenly, the Instagram page that was about crazy house prices and the trials and tribulations of buying a home in Ireland was also about renovations and retrofitting and his follower base grew further.
He had handy friends – notably an electrician and a builder – who were able to help him out and over more than a year his project came together just as the couple became a family, with their daughter born in the middle of the project.
Mulqueen says the road he has taken, long and winding as it has been, should give hope to others.
There are, he says, “stages to buying a house” with the first one being “when you’re just kind of thinking about it. Then you start to take things seriously. And you’re like, ‘Okay, what can we afford? Where would we like to live?’”
He suggests that people who are not at this stage don’t really understand just how bad things are out there with people who bought in the 1980s and 1990s particularly adrift from the grim reality of the current market.
“They don’t really get how outrageous the house prices are until you give them homework” he says. “I would say to people who didn’t really understand: ‘How much were you earning when you were my age? Multiply that by three and a half. Now go find me a house for that’. And once they do that it doesn’t take long for them to realise, okay, maybe it’s not just complaining.
“I think every generation thinks they’re more hard done by than the previous one, that’s a common theme. But the research and the facts do back the argument that for this generation, it is more difficult to buy a home than it has ever been and it’s not just supply, it’s prices.”
“Look at what percentage of people’s disposable income they spend on housing compared to the 1990s, it’s nearly double. Look at the number of people in their 20s and 30s, who are living at home compared to the 1990s when two-thirds of people by the age of 28, owned their own home…now the average age people are leaving home is 28 just to try to get out of their parents’ box room.”
He accepts that the housing crisis is “a global issue” but does not accept that is “a good enough excuse to just say, ‘S**t happens. It’s happening everywhere’. You get that a lot from people who have their own home.”
Mulqueen is at least optimistic that the divide between the have-houses and the have-no-houses is narrowing and understanding of the scale of the problem is growing. “I do think things are improving in terms of the narrative around housing,” he says. These days there is less “stop eating your avocado and toasts, young people, and work hard and you’ll be able to afford a house just like I did”.
“I think that narrative, thankfully, is going because people are realising: ‘Okay, hold on this is crazy, I was able to buy my home on one income and it cost maybe three times that income. Now, that’s impossible, you’re looking at 10 times one income.”
With the one-income model almost entirely off the table, two people have to work so they often need to pay for childcare “on top of that and then everything else is way more expensive now than it was. So I think it is starting to resonate with people that these millennials aren’t just complaining anymore.”
He says the popularity of his social media accounts is down to “stumbling on a bit of the zeitgeist but it’s also that Irish people are just fascinated by houses, by who paid what and what it looks like, inside. I don’t know whether that’s, you know, a hangover from a few centuries of being colonised, where we had land taken off us.”
Added to the enduring nosiness is the current housing crisis. “It’s so insecure renting at the moment. [People] need to kind of have something secure so that they’re not at risk of being evicted. And because of that, people just were drawn to the page. I don’t think I’m special or anything. It has become a bit of a support network or a support group for people who can feel like somebody is on the other end of it, someone who can understand exactly what they’re going through, who can empathise. And they find like-minded people that are going through the same thing.”
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Mulqueen does not simply use his platform to give out. He also shares good news stories. “Because I do think it’s important to show people that you can get there in the end. It’s not impossible. It’s way more difficult than it should be but it’s not impossible.”
He suggests people concern themselves less with getting on the property ladder, it is “a phrase I really don’t like, because it implies that you need to keep climbing. It’s like a pyramid scheme. And that’s kind of what housing has become in Ireland.”
The current and deepening housing crisis is never far from his mind. The lifting of the eviction ban prompted two people to message him recently. “I got two messages from mothers with young children who are now being evicted and they’re facing homelessness because anywhere else for them to rent is more than they earn. As a person who spends his day around children, my empathy levels are quite high and it’s devastating to hear things like that.”
Now that he is a homeowner, would he like to see prices climbing again to ensure his “investment”? Not a bit of it.
“I think it’s very easy for people to say I’m Alright Jack but I’m not one of those people. I would love to see house prices come down to an affordable level. I think just because we managed to buy, it’s not okay to try to pull the ladder up after you. There’s nothing worse than seeing people unable to afford security and a roof over their heads.
“I think it’s a fundamental thing we need as humans to exist. I’m not one of those people that hope prices go up. It doesn’t bother me. I don’t care and as I said, I hope to stay here forever. We love the area, it’s close to Melissa’s parents, it’s not far from my mom and we can walk into town, I can walk to work.”
“So we never really want to leave the area. The only thing that might force us to leave is if we ended up having more children, and we didn’t have space, because we don’t really have room to extend or anything. But then my mam was one of 12 kids brought up in a house much smaller than this in Finglas.”
How to Buy a Home in Ireland: A Guide to Navigating the Irish Property Market by Ciarán Mulqueen is published by Hachette Ireland
The housing crisis in Ireland is complicated – whether you’re a tenant, a prospective house buyer, a landlord or a homeowner considering selling. Here, we provide a breakdown of the facts and figures around it.
The most striking figure when discussing housing in the State is the number of people who are homeless. That number reached a new record level in January, after rising for the seventh consecutive month – with 11,754 people living in emergency accommodation at the start of this year, according to the most recent monthly figures from the Department of Housing.
That includes 1,609 families, with 3,431 children in homelessness. Fifty-five per cent of them are single parent families. Nearly two-thirds are Irish, 22 per cent are from the European Economic Area or the UK, with the remaining 17 per cent being from outside the EU.
Housing delivery and targets
The State has too few properties to rent. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar earlier this month put the shortage at 250,000. Houses, apartments and duplexes are being built and the pace of construction is increasing. Under Housing for All, the Government pledged to build 33,000 new homes each year from 2021 to 2030.
That plan and estimate was devised before the influx of refugees and asylum seekers, however, meaning the need could now be significantly higher, particularly in the short to medium term.
In all, 29,851 residential units were completed in 2022, of which 9,148 were built in the final three months of the year, according to figures released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) in January.
Of that, 9,166 were apartments, which is up almost 80 per cent compared with 2021. More than 10,000 were houses in housing estates of one form or another.
While the Government reached the target of new builds last year, it did not reach the target number of social housing.
The Department of Housing also was not able to use the full capital spending budget, carrying over €340 million, out of a total of €4 billion, to this year. The failure was blamed on supply issues and a shortage of builders.
For 2023, the Government’s target is 9,100 social homes, 5,500 affordable and cost-rental homes and 14,400 private ownership or rental homes. In all, that adds up to 29,000 new builds, still shy of the Housing for All target.
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For the last few years a shortage of supply has translated into rapidly rising prices, though there are some signs that the recent rate of property price growth is slowing.
According to the CSO’s most recent property price index, prices in the State fell for the first time in almost three years in January. This has been put down to the impact of higher interest rates and other cost-of-living pressures.
The index found that property prices fell on a monthly basis by 0.6 per cent, while the annual price increase fell to 6.1 per cent in January. This was down from 7.7 per cent in December and from a high of 15.1 per cent in February and March last year.
Year-on-year inflation in Dublin fell to just 4.3 per cent in January while on a monthly basis, prices were down by 1.1 per cent. Prices in the capital have been falling – on a monthly basis – since October.
The latest property data show households in the State paid a median price of €305,000 for a home in the 12 months to January. The Dublin region had the highest median price (€430,000) during that period.
Laws were introduced in a bid to speed up the supply of new housing, particularly to ease planning rules.
In 2017, the Strategic Housing Development (SHD) scheme came into effect, which allowed direct planning applications to go to An Bord Pleanála, the planning appeals authority, rather than through local councils.
The laws were heavily criticised, with many projects having faced judicial review actions in the court – and it did not speed up planning
That SHD system has been stood down, replaced by the Planning and Development (Amendment) (Large-Scale Residential Development) Act 2021.
The Act, subject to a number of transitional arrangements, seeks to remedy the flaws of past legislation for larger housing developments but, fundamentally, it puts the final call back in the hands of local authorities, not any super planning body.
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Supports available for purchasers
The problem remains that there are not enough houses for people to buy.
In light of this, the Government has tried to make it easier for first-time buyers, who are often priced out of the market.
The first is the Help-to-Buy scheme, which offers first-time buyers help with the deposit or help for those who are self-building. Under the scheme, purchasers who are tax compliant and who have a 70 per cent loan-to-value ratio can claim relief of up to a maximum of €30,000.
One of the newest schemes to be introduced is the shared equity scheme, which seeks to bridge the gap between an individual’s deposit and mortgage, and the price of their new home. Critics say it merely increases the cost of homes.
Under it, State and participating banks pay up to 30 per cent of the cost of a new home in return for a stake in the property.
Separately, the Local Authority Home Loan is a Government-backed mortgage for first-time buyers or fresh start applicants and is available nationwide from all local authorities for those on modest or low incomes.
Both new builds and second-hand homes are eligible, though single people must earn less than €70,000 to qualify, while couples must together earn less than €85,000.
Meanwhile, the Local Authority Affordable Purchase Scheme makes local authority-provided homes available at a reduced price for first-time buyers and fresh start applicants, whose combined mortgage and deposit will not cover the market price of the newly built home.
Through the scheme, the local authority will take a percentage equity stake or a share of the ownership in the home, which the purchaser can redeem or buy out, at a time of their choosing.
If the purchaser does not redeem the equity stake while living in the home, the local authority can do so when the property is sold or transferred or after the death of the owner.
Not everybody wants to, or is in a position to, buy a home, however. A large proportion of the Irish population are now reliant on the private rental sector, which has also seen rising prices in recent years.
According to the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) rent index for the third quarter of 2022, the most recent figures available, rents in newly registered tenancies increased by 6.7 per cent when compared with the same period in the previous year.
The standardised average rent in new tenancies for houses stood at €1,468 a month, an annual increase of 6.8 per cent, the RTB said. For apartments, the standardised average rent in new tenancies stood at €1,513 a month, a rise of 6.7 per cent on the same time in 2021.
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Supports available for renters
For many, the increasing costs in the private rental market means that it is simply a challenge to pay rent, food, utilities and live. As a result, there are a number of State schemes available to assist those in that position.
The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is a social housing support for people who have a long-term housing need. It is available in all local authority areas and is administered by the councils, who pay the landlords directly.
Rent supplement is a means-tested payment for certain people living in private rented accommodation who cannot provide for the cost of their accommodation from their own resources.
It is short-term income support for people in the private rented sector, such as an individual affected by domestic violence or someone who has experienced a substantial change in circumstances which occurred after they started renting.
The Government has also recently rolled out a cost-rental scheme, which provides affordable rented accommodation to people on middle incomes.
It is aimed at people who are above the threshold for social housing but have difficulty affording private rented accommodation.
There are laws in place that seek to protect tenants, too. The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) was established in 2004 to regulate the private rental sector.
Its main functions are to maintain a register of private residential tenancies, tenancies of approved housing bodies and student-specific accommodation tenancies, as well as provide a dispute resolution service for tenants and landlords.
There are also rent pressure zones (RPZs), which are designated areas in which annual rent increases are capped in line with the rate of general inflation or 2 per cent a year, whichever is lower.
Research published last year from the Economic and Social Research Institute , however, found that more than a third of landlords applied rent hikes over the allowable limit in RPZs while the legislation was in effect.
During the Covid-19 pandemic and again during the recent winter period, the Government introduced a temporary moratorium on evictions.
Under this, a landlord is unable to evict its tenants, so long as they are continuing to pay their rent owed.
The ban will expire at the end of March, which has sparked significant controversy among advocacy groups, Opposition politicians and even some Government TDs.
Ministers this week agreed to put in added protections once the ban lifts, such as an extended tenant-in-situ scheme, which is where a council can buy the property from the landlord to allow the tenant to remain in residence.
Government said there would be concerns around the constitutionality of a permanent ban, while extending the ban would see more small to medium landlords leaving the sector.
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A large proportion of recent eviction notices are because a landlord said they have an intention to sell the property, according to the RTB.
Research published by the board at the end of last year found a quarter of small landlords are likely or very likely to sell their rental properties in the next five years.
Small and medium landlords have been leaving the sector in recent years, with the RTB attributing this shift to accidental landlords, who were in negative equity after the financial crash, returning to a financial situation in which selling was an option.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are institutional landlords or private rented sector funds.
Described by a variety of names, including vulture funds or cuckoo funds, they are typically a hedge fund with institutional investors that buy up an entire block of apartments directly from the developer before they ever hit the open market.
According to the CSO, these vulture funds, local authorities and State-backed housing charities bought 13,500 homes last year, meaning one in five purchases of all residential properties is accounted for by these non-household entities.
Ires Reit, one of Ireland’s biggest private landlords, has a property portfolio of 3,938 units as of December 31st, at a value of €1.5 billion.
According to Ires Reit’s preliminary report for 2022, total revenue grew by 6.5 per cent to €84.9 million for the year. Occupancy rates also rose to 99.4 per cent.
Kennedy Wilson, meanwhile, has 2,530 units, though it has a 50 per cent stake in each scheme, as part of a joint venture with Axa.
House prices and rents are expected to continue increasing with demand exceeding supply in the medium term, the Oireachtas Committee on Budgetary Oversight has heard.
Dr Kieran McQuinn of the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) outlined economic data indicating a more positive general outlook than had been anticipated last year.
Among record levels of employment and a now favourable domestic macroeconomic outlook for 2024, the country’s housing crisis continues to cast a shadow, however.
At the Oireachtas committee on Wednesday, addressing the Pre-Stability Programme Update, Dr McQuinn highlighted the housing market as one area in which the economy is likely to face continued pressure.
Despite an upward underlying trend in home build completions, he said, new population estimates due later this year mean demand is likely to be revised upward.
“This means that the demand for housing is likely to exceed the supply over the medium term,” he said.
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“As a result, house price inflation and along with increases in rents are likely to continue, albeit, in the case of house prices, at a slower pace than was the case in 2022.”
Dr McQuinn told the committee that between 26,000 and 28,000 housing units are expected this year, a level rising to in excess of 30,000 in 2024.
An impending supply-demand imbalance is based on estimates, although Dr McQuinn said demand was likely to reach in excess of 35,000 to 40,000 units, or possibly higher.
“You are going to see an imbalance I would say, a continuing imbalance over the next two to three years I would say at least.”
Asked by Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty how this might affect homelessness, Dr McQuinn said this has not been explicitly forecast by the ESRI but “certainly as long as rents continue to increase and as long as you have that imbalance you are going to see continued pressures as far as homelessness is concerned”.
Indeed recent activity levels have been somewhat stronger than we would have expected going into the winter months
— Vasileios Madouros
According to the ESRI, the pace of growth across most western economies in the first quarter of 2023 has been stronger than expected and a modest decline in inflationary pressures has relaxed fears of international recession.
Further improvements in the public finances are also expected, Dr McQuinn said, with a significant surplus and a further reduction in debt to GDP. International and domestic inflation rates are set to be “notably lower” than had been expected. The ESRI favours a site-value tax, rather than concentrating tax on labour.
On the medium-term fiscal outlook, Vasileios Madouros, deputy governor of the Central Bank of Ireland, said that while macroeconomic conditions were still challenging due to inflation, the economy had proven resilient.
“Indeed recent activity levels have been somewhat stronger than we would have expected going into the winter months,” he said.
LEWES, Del. – A public workshop on March 21st is discussing potential solutions for the lack of affordable housing in Lewes.
The city says the the issue has been around for decades, and something needs to change.
The city says its hard to hire healthcare workers or first responders because of high rent and house prices.
“The property values have increased significantly,” said city manager Ann Marie Townshend. “Countywide, property values are increasing and everything that we are seeing countywide is even more so on this side of the county.”
Townshend says the city is considering changing code to allow for more accessory dwelling units. That way, property owners could build tiny houses or transform garages into cheaper and more centrally-located living options.
Some locals like Madison Wiggins, who works at the Mayumi Flower Shop on Second Street, says since she came home from college, she simply can’t afford to live anywhere on her own.
“Me and my friends, a lot of us are still living with our parents because that’s all we can afford, you know?” she said. “You want to get started on your life and feel grown up, and like you’re doing something, and it just feels like a total setback to still be with your parents.”
Discussions on affordable housing will continue with City Council members.
Why has the Government opted not to extend its moratorium on evictions? The decision has not so far proven popular, except among the relatively small and wealthy population group who are themselves private landlords. In the context of a housing emergency, in which many of those evicted will face the prospect of immediate and possibly prolonged homelessness, the resumption of evictions will not only be personally catastrophic for those affected: it will trigger an unprecedented escalation of a national crisis. Many people in the State, including many children, will be left with nowhere to live, through no fault of their own, as a direct result of this decision.
The wave of evictions expected to begin from the end of this month is not merely theoretical: we already know that during the period of the ban, tenants in the State sought advice on roughly 1,500 new eviction notices. In a few weeks’ time, if the Government does not reverse course, these evictions will be eligible to proceed. Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has even publicly accepted that homelessness will “very possibly” increase when the moratorium comes to an end.
Why would any government approve a decision that is by its own admission likely to force additional people into homelessness? In the Dáil last Tuesday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar tried to explain that despite the short-term “respite” offered by the eviction moratorium, “it actually would have made things much worse in the medium to long term”. If the moratorium had been extended, he claimed, “it would have discouraged new landlords from coming into the market, who we need. We have lost 40,000 in the past five years and it may have caused, once extended, more and more landlords to leave”.
Not coincidentally, “supply” has also been the watchword of the Irish Property Owners’ Association (IPOA), a lobby group on behalf of landlords. In its statement welcoming the end of the eviction ban, the IPOA exhorts the Government to focus on “protecting the existing private rental supply that we have in place and [that] is housing hundreds of thousands of people”. The Government and its cheerleaders would like us to believe, then, that the eviction ban is forcing landlords out of the market, reducing the number of rental units available, and thereby causing long-term dysfunction in the housing system. If this really is the rationale underlying the decision to resume evictions during a housing crisis, it deserves very serious consideration.
There is some evidence to suggest that a higher than usual proportion of landlords have been exiting the rental market in recent years. A survey by the Real Estate Alliance indicated that 35 per cent of properties for sale in 2021 belonged to landlords; the average figure in previous decades was about 20 per cent. Statistics like these – suggesting an “exodus” of rental properties from the market – are reported to have influenced the Cabinet in its decision to lift the moratorium. But this data is easily explained without any reference to State intervention. Considering that property prices have reached extraordinary highs since the pandemic, and given that rental properties represent financial commodities rather than homes for the people who own them, it should not be at all surprising that landlords are choosing this moment to cash out.
Not only have successive Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments done nothing to break this cycle, they have on the contrary lavishly subsidised it, pouring ever greater sums of State money into the coffers of private landlords
It is a basic principle of finance that asset owners should sell when they judge that the price of an asset has reached its peak. Many investors may believe that property prices right now are as high as they’re going to get. Owner-occupiers – the other relevant participants in the housing market – typically have more personal reasons for selling up: they need to move for work, for instance, or they want to downsize, or they’re planning for a bigger family. These concerns are largely unrelated to shifts in the property market. Therefore, in periods of extremely high house prices, especially if there are broader signs of volatility in global commodity markets, we could rationally expect to see a higher proportion of sales from landlords than from owner-occupiers. This makes basic financial sense. There is no need to invoke State regulations to explain why landlords might be eager to realise the cash value of their presently very lucrative assets.
But a prolonged eviction ban with no definite end date may well discourage new private investors from entering the rental market: in which case, we need to figure out how this affects people who are in need of homes. Invoking the sale of 40,000 rental properties in recent years, the IPOA gives what appears to be a stern warning: “This stock is lost to the rental market. Private rented properties that are sold did not return to the rental market and instead are typically sold to owner-occupiers.”
This is a significant point. For all the talk of supply, the fact is that landlords do not and cannot increase the levels of available housing in the State. A given property that goes up for sale on the private market may be purchased by an owner-occupier, or it may end up in the hands of an investor who intends to let the property to tenants. In either case, however, the same edifice continues to exist, and will be used to house a person or group of people in need of a home, be they owners or renters.
Unless property is left vacant – a problem the Government can and should address urgently by means of targeted policies – the overall housing supply therefore cannot be affected by landlords entering or exiting the market. All that can change is the fraction of Ireland’s private housing stock held by owner-occupiers and the fraction owned by investors. Those two percentages will add up by definition to 100 per cent. Since the Government has expressed such “deep concern” around the exit of landlords from the market, perhaps it should provide us with a guideline of what exactly it thinks the ratio ought to be. How much of our housing stock should ideally be concentrated in the hands of private landlords?
Let me put the same question another way. Would you, the person reading this article right now, rather be a tenant or a homeowner in Ireland today? For almost everyone, the answer is simple. In order to access their own homes, tenants of private landlords have to pay a recurring sum of rent every month, in perpetuity; and each rental payment consists of money that the tenant will never see again. Rent is simply the price of continuing to live in a given property, just as groceries and electricity have a price. Many homeowners also have to pay a recurring monthly sum, of course, in the form of a mortgage repayment. But unlike rent, mortgages are eventually paid off; and a homeowner can confidently expect to see some of that money again, if and when they choose to sell or refinance their property.
The differences are obvious. Very few people actually want their money to disappear every month instead of being added to a fund they can draw down at a later date. It stands to reason that the median net worth of a household of renters in Ireland is just €5,300, while the figure for homeowners is almost 60 times higher at €303,900.
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Even aside from the financial toll of renting, consider the psychological hardship of trying to make a life for yourself and your family in what is ultimately someone else’s spare house. Your home – your place in the world, your refuge, the stage for all the private dramas of your intimate life – can be taken away from you at any time, through no fault of your own, for the financial benefit of someone wealthier than you are. This is obviously not the life most of us would choose for ourselves.
So, if most tenants in Ireland would rather be homeowners, why don’t they just buy houses? Because they can’t afford to. House prices in Ireland are of course extremely high, and mortgages are difficult to secure, but that’s only one part of the picture. Between 2010 and 2021, property prices in Ireland increased roughly in line with the EU average. But during the same period, average rent payments in Ireland increased by almost 70 per cent, compared with an increase of only 16 per cent across the EU. What makes our housing market so dysfunctional is partly that our tenants are paying such excruciatingly high rents to private landlords every month. Average rents in Ireland have in fact become higher than average mortgage repayments – in other words, tenants are forced to pay a premium for the reduced rights and privileges they endure.
This is a self-perpetuating form of exploitation: the higher the rental payment, the harder it becomes to save up for a deposit, and the more time tenants have to spend paying extortionate rents as a result. This in turn feeds the cycle of escalating house prices, as investors with deep pockets are incentivised to buy up lucrative rental properties, pushing would-be homeowners out of the housing market and back into the rental system. Not only have successive Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments done nothing to break this cycle, they have, on the contrary, lavishly subsidised it, pouring ever greater sums of State money into the coffers of private landlords. More than half of our renters are now in receipt of State assistance, largely in the form of payments such as HAP (Housing Assistance Payment), which goes directly into the pockets of property owners without improving the living conditions of tenants whatsoever. The nice thing about being a landlord in Ireland today, as the late Margaret Thatcher might observe, is that you never seem to run out of other people’s money.
This patently absurd situation is the outcome of global changes in the property market, but also of our specific national history. Throughout the 20th century, as a result of concerted State policies, overall rates of home ownership in Ireland skyrocketed, passing 80 per cent of households in 2004. The figure among young people aged 25-34 was 60 per cent. Partly because of this emphasis on mass property ownership, and a relatedly small and short-term private rental sector, protections for tenants in the State have historically been weak. Private tenancy was perceived as – and to some extent was – a temporary arrangement for mobile population groups like college students, and legal protections for tenants reflected this dynamic.
[ Ireland’s housing crisis: why doesn’t the State step in and build? ]
But since the 2008 financial crisis, home ownership rates in Ireland have fallen sharply, and are now at their lowest point in 50 years. Today, only 27 per cent of people aged between 25-34 own their own homes. Private investors have in the meantime been empowered to buy up vast swathes of our housing stock and let it back to us at exorbitantly high rents. The light-touch tenancy regulations developed in the era of mass home ownership have proven completely inadequate for our present housing system, in which renting has become a long-term reality for a generation of people and families chronically shut out of the property market. The eviction moratorium was, in this context, a welcome step toward a long-overdue rebalancing of rights between tenants and landlords. But the Government now intends to strip renters of even this temporary protection and leave them once again at the mercy of the propertied class.
Is it merely a coincidence that crisis conditions in our housing system have emerged during the very same period that private investors have come to own an ever higher proportion of our housing stock? Of course not. The entrenchment of property in the hands of a small number of landlords is not a solution to, but in fact a source of, our present housing emergency. Landlords have no incentive to improve conditions in the housing market: their only incentive is to see rents and property prices increase. This is not because they are individually bad people, but because of the economic role they play as investors in the commodity market that is the Irish housing system. The more power landlords accumulate in that system, the worse we can expect conditions to get.
Obviously, there are too few homes in Ireland to meet demand, and any comprehensive housing strategy must deal with the lack of habitable dwelling-places available. But landlords have no role in solving this problem either. They merely act as middlemen between existing homes and the people who want to live in them, a process that serves to inflate property prices, shut first-time buyers out of the market and exploit vulnerable tenants at the same time. The public has received no explanation from the Government as to how further expansion of this process can improve rather than worsen the crisis. Absurdly, Varadkar himself professed just last month to be “alarmed” by the continuing drop-off in home ownership rates in Ireland: the same Varadkar who is now emphasising so firmly the need for “new landlords” to enter the housing market. Does the Taoiseach understand that the entrance of new landlords into the market can only mean a further decrease in home ownership rates? Every landlord who purchases a property quite literally leaves one fewer available for owner-occupiers. Are those in power really so confused as to what a housing market actually is?
If we are serious about ending the housing crisis, then we must all be prepared to stand in solidarity with tenants – and of course with our homeless population – in the struggle for justice
Our Government’s rationale for lifting the moratorium on evictions appears in the final analysis to be as follows: in the short term, evictions are necessary, because in the longer term, we need to get more of our housing stock into the hands of private landlords. I am suggesting precisely the opposite. In the short term, evictions must be stopped. Tenants have already been exploited for unreasonable rents, prevented from accumulating any protective savings, and given no alternative accommodation options, all to protect the profit margins of private investors. To resume no-fault evictions during a housing emergency and cost-of-living crisis would be an unforgiveable assault on human dignity. The moratorium must be reinstated until the Government is certain that it can offer tenants reasonable and safe alternative accommodation in the event of eviction. This may admittedly take a while – but if new landlords are discouraged from buying up habitable properties as a result, this is a development to be welcomed.
In the longer term, the State needs to start moving our rental stock out of the hands of private investors, and into the hands of State housing bodies. The Government presently spends half a billion a year on HAP alone, money that flows straight to landlords. That significant sum would be better spent buying, building and maintaining an expanded stock of social housing. Unlike the private rental market, State-owned housing can offer tenants fixity of tenure, fair rents and peace of mind. It also gives us some democratic input into a fundamentally necessary part of our shared national life. The Government’s plan to cede even more of our already scarce housing stock to capricious private investors will escalate the crisis gravely in both the short and long term.
But the flimsiness of the Government’s stated reasoning – its apparent ignorance of basic economic principles and realities – inevitably raises the question of sincerity. The sight of investors fleeing the property market may well be a source of anxiety for Cabinet Ministers, but probably not for the reasons they have provided. If State interventions like a prolonged eviction ban discourage profit-seeking investors from buying up more Irish property, house prices will likely fall as a result. A downturn in property values would have no ill effects on tenants or homeless people, and would improve the lot of aspiring first-time buyers, but it would also damage the net worth of current homeowners and investors.
Curiously, these latter demographics happen to make up the key voter base for the governing parties. Among voters who do not own their own homes, only 9 per cent support Fine Gael, and only 6 per cent Fianna Fáil, according to a recent poll. Perhaps the Coalition has given up hope of attracting this slice of the electorate, and is instead appeasing the ownership class by trying to pump house prices continually higher and higher. This may offer a more convincing explanation for the otherwise perplexing decision to let the eviction ban elapse. But homeowners in the State are not automatons, mechanically voting in favour of higher house prices no matter what. They may soon judge the devastating human cost of our housing crisis to be more important than the on-paper cash value of their homes.
In any case, if those in power are sincerely committed to allowing hundreds or thousands of people to be evicted into homelessness in the coming months, collective community action will be needed. Tenants’ unions such as CATU (Community Action Tenants Union) will no doubt have an important role to play, not only in the fight against unjust and inhumane evictions, but in the longer battle to organise renters and confront the disproportionate power of landlords in the State. If we are serious about ending the housing crisis, then we must all be prepared to stand in solidarity with tenants – and of course with our homeless population – in the struggle for justice. We in Ireland have a proud national history of fighting evictions: our National Land League was founded in 1879 for the very purpose of organising resistance to evictions and forcing reductions in rent. Almost 150 years later, the fight must go on. If the Government won’t stop evictions, we can.
Copyright ©2023 Sally Rooney Sally Rooney is a novelist
The departure of private landlords from the rental market in Ireland has become a controversial central point in the housing debate. But what can we tell from the data about how many landlords are selling up, who they are and why they are leaving? And what does this all mean for the stock of properties for people to rent?
1. Landlords leaving – a drift away accelerating
The departure of private landlords from the rental market is not new, though it is speeding up. Figures produced by Sherry FitzGerald, the State’s largest estate agent, drawn from their own house sales factored up for the market as a whole, estimate that since 2013 there has been a net outflow of more than 80,600 properties from the private rental market, made up of almost 156,000 sales of such properties and just less than 75,400 purchases of investment properties.
The net outflow in 2021 and 2022 alone is estimated at around 24,800 as seller numbers, in particular, escalated.
This data is interesting as it gives a sense of the balance between buyers and sellers in the private rental market. Other figures back-up the decline in the overall number of tenancies and landlords.
Data from the Rental Tenancies Board (RTB) points in the same direction, though is calculated from a slightly different perspective. It shows a decline of almost 43,400 in total tenancies from 2017 to the end of 2021 (if we assume the same pace of departure in 2022 as 2021, this would bring the total to around 56,000).
Figures for the third quarter of last year suggest that the 2022 figure could, in fact, be substantially higher. They showed that the RTB had been informed of 47,400 notices of termination landlords in 28,450 of these the stated reason was an intention to sell the property. The RTB data would also be affected by registration of build-to-rent tenancies, so the drop off of private investors would be greater.
Finally a different series from the Central Statistics Office, using RTB and other data, estimates a loss of 64,000 rental tenancies offered by private landlords between 2017 and 2021 – this is different from the RTB data as it counts just private individuals and not companies offering new build-to-rent apartments. It shows that, in the same period, around 13,500 landlords left the market (among these were obviously some selling multiple properties).
Meanwhile companies – including BTR landlords and a few other big players – grew their tenancy holdings to around 25,000 by 2020.
So, while some of the figures are slightly out-of-date, a clear picture is emerging. Private landlords are exiting at an accelerating rate. Build-to-rent (BTR) players have filled some of this gap. But total private tenancies and landlord number are falling and this trend looks to have accelerated last year.
It looks like private tenancies fell by around 14 per cent between 2016/2017 and 2021 and the decline accelerated further last year. Might the drop now be approaching 20 per cent? And this has been through a period when the workforce and the population has expanded, pushing up demand for rental property.
2. The impact on rental supply
Landlords could sell to a range of buyers – owner occupiers, local authorities, approved housing bodies or other landlords. All have a different impact on the market – a sale to owner occupiers increases the stock of supply in the second hand home market but cuts rental supply.
Local authorities can add it to their rental stock. Landlords can rent it out again, maintaining rental stock.
In a market so starved of supply – in the rental and second-hand home sector – who existing landlords sell to obviously matters. There are no precise figures on this, but the RTB data on the number of tenancies indicates that most of the properties being sold are not staying in the rental market.
The historically low level of availability of rental properties in the Daft surveys points firmly in the same direction – just 1,100 properties were listed on Daft in February, 22 per cent down on a year earlier and way below historical norms.
A number of estate agents say that landlord sales typically go to owner occupiers. One reason why landlords have been slow to expand their portfolio by buying from other landlords is that the rental pressure zone (RPZ) rules means that they generally will not be able to increase the rent.
The RPZs have created a two-tier market. Daft figures show that over the past decade rents for sitting tenants have increased by 2.9 per cent per annum, compared to 7.1 per cent for those looking for new tenancies. Rents for sitting tenants – depending on how long they have been in situ – can easily be €500 to €600 per month below new rental levels.
So it appears that most of the landlord properties sold have gone to increase the housing stock in the owner occupier market and decrease it in the rental market. In either case someone has a roof over their head, of course. Despite this, the second hand housing market is also chronically short of supply.
The final piece in the equation is the shortage of new housing supply in all areas of the market. And combined with the RPZ rules, there is a huge incentive for renters to stay put rather than move to another tenancy, where they may face much higher rent.
3. Why are landlords leaving?
There has been much coverage around the purported reasons why landlords are leaving. Landlords complain about the regulatory burden and the limitation of the RPZs and eviction bans. Others argue that landlord sales are to cash in on current high property prices.
What does the data tell us? The CSO’s release on landlords in 2021 showed that out of 157,000 landlords, 135,000 owned one or two properties. These small landlords account for well over half of all tenancies, so they are vital players.
While the income figures in this release related to 2019, it showed private landlords had average (median) income of €50,000 and average rental income of €15,000. Only one in five relied on rent as their main source of income. Not surprisingly, incomes exceeded €200,000 on average for a small group of private landlords (around 400) who owned over 20 properties.
“We have a fundamental misunderstanding of our housing need.”
So there are a large number of small landlords who work either in the PAYE sector or are self-employed, or retired. And a small number of large landlords who have significant holdings. One finding of RTB research is a lack of ambition among a group of medium-sized players to professionalise and move into the large landlord category.
The RTB research, published in 2021 and based on survey data, gives some insight into the smaller landlords. Unlike the larger players, smaller landlords are more likely to be “accidental” – in other words they originally bought the property as somewhere to live. More than half smaller landlords and 70 per cent of younger ones fall into this category.
Meanwhile, as close to six out of ten of the smaller landlords surveyed bought property in the 2000 to 2010 period, it is likely that many ended up in negative equity. Rather than selling as they moved on – for many presumably after meeting a partner – they rented out the property.
There was also an older group of investor landlords in this category who had bought with a buy-to-let property. Many of these were attracted into the market by generous government tax incentives during the Celtic Tiger years – some of which created useful supply but much of which led to development which was ill-planned.
At the time one-in-four said they would consider selling an investment property over the next five years. Most reported that they were happy with tenants and a survey of those who had sold suggested that dissatisfaction with the financial return compared to the effort involved was a key driver.
We might speculate that the increase in landlords selling since then reflects the accidental landlords now being out of negative equity and the older group of smaller landlords retiring.
Both will have been influenced on one side by higher regulation and constraints on rents and evictions and on the other by a strong rental market. The RTB research shows that, pre -2021 – many sold because they don’t want to be a landlord any more, rather than a specific reason relating to financial return or regulation. This may have changed in the meantime. But whatever the precise reason, the impact is a reduction in rental properties.
4. The policy implications
The obvious policy point is the requirement for new supply in the market – whether from new builds, vacant property being redone, redeveloping commercial property or whatever.
The Government is also reportedly considering how to incentivise private landlords to stay in the market – targeting an intervention to make a difference is not clear-cut. And there is talk of restrictions on the sale of rental property, with first refusal to the tenant or a local housing body.
This may all be worth looking at, but what policymakers also need to consider is how they would affect the decisions of current and potential landlords.
Rental policy has also led to unintended consequences – above all the Government needs to decide what kind of rental market it wants and central to this is a call on what role smaller private landlords will play in it.
Surge in house prices pushes more people into inheritance tax net, new figures show – The Irish Times
Rising house prices over the past decade have pushed a growing number of people into the inheritance tax net, according to new figures from Revenue.
Dublin residents are by far the biggest contributors to the tax intake, with Galway/Roscommon reporting the greatest increase in taxpayers in the 10 years to 2021.
Some 12,530 people paid the tax in 2021, up by almost 30 per cent on 2011 and by 10 per cent on 2021, as inheritance tax receipts reached a record high of €481 million. This represents an uptick of 125 per cent on 2011 and 12 per cent on 2020. It means that the average inheritance tax bill in 2021 was €38,387, indicating average taxable inheritances of €127,959.
Current thresholds mean that children can inherit up to €335,000 tax free from their parents, with capital acquisitions tax (CAT) at a rate of 30 per cent applying thereafter. Back in 2011, when the tax free threshold stood at €332,084, just €50 million was raised from parent-to-child transfers. In 2021, however, rising asset prices sent this soaring to €175 million, an increase of some 250 per cent.
A Central Bank report from earlier this year showed that property was the second most common asset type, behind money, left in an inheritance, while the vast majority of those leaving inheritances were parents transferring assets to their children.
The biggest earner for the exchequer however comes from so-called Group B receipts, which reached €234 million in 2021, up from €124 million in 2011. The tax free threshold for this group, which covers transfers between grandparents/grandchildren and siblings, stood at €32,500 in 2021 compared with €33,208 in 2011.
When looked at geographically, Galway/Roscommon emerges as the region with the biggest increase in numbers caught in the CAT net. Back in 2011, for example, 227 people paid some €5 million in inheritance tax, or about €22,000 each, on average. By 2021 however, this had soared to 600 taxpayers paying €23.3 million in tax, or about €38,800 each, on average.
Kildare also reported a sharp rise during the period, with the numbers paying the tax rising from 240 in 2011 to 386 in 2021. Dublin, Carlow, Kilkenny/Laois/Meath also reported sharp increases.
[ Three ways to minimise inheritance tax ]
When it comes to the county that contributes the most to returns, it’s no surprise that Dublin, with the highest house prices in the country, also has the highest inheritance tax receipts.
In 2021 for example, the amount of inheritance tax paid by the capital came to €267.32 million, accounting for 55.5 per cent of total receipts. Some 6,574 Dublin resident taxpayers, or 52 per cent of the total, paid the tax in 2021. Other big contributors include Cork, Galway/Roscommon, Kildare and Carlow/Kilkenny/Laois.
[ Inherited wealth in Ireland nears €100bn ]
On the other side are the counties which pay the least amount of inheritance tax. In 2021, Clare topped this list, contributing 1.1 per cent of overall receipts with €5.3 million. The Banner County is also one of the few places where the number of taxpayers declined in the period, with 225 inheritance tax payers in 2021, compared with 256 in 2011. In terms of overall contribution, it is followed by Louth, with 187 taxpayers paying €5.8 million, or just 1.2 per cent of overall receipts, and Cavan/Monaghan, with 1.3 per cent of overall receipts at €6.3 million.
A shortage in the supply of new homes has been an issue in Ireland over the past number of years and, according to industry experts, issues with the planning system are one of the main contributing factors.
“In the building industry, there is continued frustration with the severe blockages in the planning system as this adds to the lack of stock currently under construction,” according to Gemma Lanigan, partner at DNG New Homes. “We have a number of clients patiently waiting on planning decisions on their development sites over excessive periods of time, while, in the meantime, rising construction costs eat into the viability of projects,” she says.
As a possible solution to the backlog in planning applications, Ivan Gaine, director of Sherry FitzGerald New Homes, cites the draft Planning and Development Bill, the aim of which is to reform the planning system and reduce the number of judicial reviews. “The devil will be in the detail [regarding the Bill],” he says, adding that proposed reforms include longer 10-year development plans and mandatory timelines for decision-making.
He also hopes to see the National Planning Framework reviewed following the latest census “to reflect our changing demographics”.
The number of new homes built rose to almost 30,000 units nationwide in 2022, according to the Central Statistics Office. However, only a small amount of those units were available to individual homebuyers. “This [figure] is well short of the estimated annual need according to the Housing Commission, which believes there is a baseline housing requirement ranging between 42,000 to 62,000 new homes per year between now and 2050,” says Ray Palmer-Smith, director of new homes at Knight Frank.
“Worryingly, instead of moving closer to this range in 2023, completions are likely to contract,” he says, due to planning delays as well as a shortage of zoned and serviced development land, expensive finance and rapid build-cost inflation.
[ Number of planning permissions for new homes drops sharply ]
[ Development plans doomed to fail due to flawed data ]
[ Cliff Taylor: Interest rates are likely to go a lot higher than we had expected ]
Despite high inflation and rising mortgage rates, Palmer-Smith cites the observation of banking lobby group the Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI), which said mortgage approvals – “a crucial barometer of future demand,” he says – continued to demonstrate resilience in the market.
“Notwithstanding the continuing challenges posed by higher inflation and interest rates, we believe that a combination of resilient demand, contracting supply and continued desire to live in more energy-efficient homes will prevent any significant fall-off in price growth this year,” he says.
Lower-rate green mortgages are also supporting the high demand for new energy-efficient homes, says Judy Sorohan, associate director at Hooke & MacDonald, as well as the energy savings they offer a buyer against the backdrop of rising energy costs.
“Another component enticing people to buy new is the cost-of-living crisis,” says Will Coonan, director of Coonan Property. “This, coupled with rising building costs, have made people stop and think.
“Plenty of purchasers who would have chosen a renovation project or a second-hand home that needed extending have opted to go with a new-build. Some purchasers want the hard work done for them instead of putting money into an older home,” he says.
Experts note that Government schemes such as the Help-to-Buy (HTB) scheme, the tax-refund incentive to help first-time buyers reach the 10 per cent deposit required to buy a new build, and the shared-equity First Home Scheme (FHS), where the Government takes a stake in your home in return for a percentage of the price of the property, are contributing to the demand in new developments.
“[Purchasers] now have the opportunity to bridge the gap between deposit saved, mortgage, and purchase price with these schemes, both of which are available on new homes only,” says Coonan. “With house prices on the rise, these are much-needed initiatives.”
“As rents continue to hit record highs, the Help-to-Buy scheme coupled with the First Home Scheme, will provide much-needed affordability to both single purchasers, and couples on lower incomes,” according to David Browne, head of new homes at Savills.
“We are seeing an increase in enquiries for apartments, for example, as in the majority of cases, most people will be better off financially by purchasing their home rather than renting it. This should have a positive impact on the viability of higher density apartment and duplex schemes,” he says.
The change in Central Bank lending rules to allow first-time buyers to borrow four times their income and second-time/subsequent buyers to borrow up to 90 per cent of the property value is already having an impact on the new-homes market, says Browne. “[There is] a high volume of brand new entrants to the market, and those trading up can now borrow more to move on, freeing up second-hand stock,” he says.
Estate agents note the effect rising mortgage interest rates are having on the market. According to Lanigan, rising rates have had “a welcome steadying effect on all levels of the market”.
“In the main, buyers of new homes are opting to fix their mortgage interest rate and buyers are shopping around to ensure that they are securing the best fixed rate available to them in the mortgage market at the time of closing,” she says. “Due to our very strong economy, keen fixed rates are available to buyers.”
Palmer-Smith also has an optimistic view: “According to the Banking & Payments Federation Ireland, mortgage approvals, a crucial barometer of future demand, continue to demonstrate resilience despite the spectre of higher inflation and interest rates.”
“We anticipate that continued strong employment growth, high levels of household savings, Government incentives as well as changes to the Central Bank’s mortgage rules, whereby buyers can now borrow up to four times their gross income, will continue to support demand this year in the face of challenges,” he says.
Browne expects rising interest rates “to have a dampening effect on demand, while soaring build costs will unfortunately continue to push affordability further out of reach for some.”
“However,” he says, “the critical imbalance between supply and demand will inevitability ensure prices remain strong.”
All the industry experts who spoke to The Irish Times provided a positive outlook for the new homes market for the year ahead.
Lanigan anticipates strong demand and sales “as supply continues to lag demand”.
Browne predicts a positive year for the market. “However,” he says, “much more progress could be made if the thorny issue of supply is finally grasped.”
“We estimate there is currently a shortfall of 72,000 residential units in Dublin, so despite a reduction in demand, supply issues look likely to continue for the foreseeable future,” he says.
Coonan also fears a stock deficit. “Indicators are showing that the influx of new developments may be starting to dry up,” he says, “and housing starts have already slowed.”
Regarding the housing system as a whole, Gaine concludes: “Industry, society and Government need to continue to collaborate and show ambition and bravery to improve the system and not let ‘perfect’ get in the way of ‘better’.”
Renters have cited fears of homelessness in calling on the Government to extend the ban on evictions in advance of its expiration at the end of this month.
In response to an Irish Times reader call-out on experiences of the winter stay on evictions, several Dublin tenants spoke of there being “nowhere to go” if they lose their current accommodation.
Landlords meanwhile feel they are being made to pay for the State’s dysfunctional housing market, with one owner expressing the view that “extending the ban is a doomsday scenario”.
Introduced in October, the six-month ban is the subject of significant political debate as the deadline to decide on whether to extend or lift it draws near. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said last month the ban on evictions “didn’t work” after the number of homeless in the State rose to a new record high of 11,754. Opposition parties have called for it be extended, however, saying it is necessary to avoid a further spike in homelessness.
This is what Irish Times readers have had to say:
‘The eviction ban saved me and my three young sons from being homeless for Christmas 2022′
“[The] eviction ban needs to be extended. I was due out of the apartment I have rented [for] over nine years in December after being given my notice of termination by my landlord in April 2022. The eviction ban saved me and my three young sons from being homeless for Christmas 2022. It was a huge relief to me. I’m praying the ban is extended as I have nowhere to go come April 1st when the ban is over. I am being told there is no emergency accommodation. I am looking for a new home constantly with no success.
“The prices for renting are crazy. I have always paid my rent on time, I’ve been an excellent tenant, it’s horrible to now be in the situation I’m in through no fault of my own. [I] wouldn’t wish this stress on anyone, I can barely eat or sleep from the worry. [The] Government needs to extend this ban as there is nowhere for us to go come April 1st.” – Lisa Brady, Dublin
‘My salary just matches my rent’
“I’ve been renting privately for over seven years. Single dad, with kids staying 50 per cent of time. No position to buy at the moment. Landlord decides to sell as ‘too much legislation’. Renting in a rent pressure zone [RPZ], yet the landlord keeps increasing rent above the RPZ amount – no option but to agree with increases as otherwise landlord ‘will sell’…
“Have now been given notice that the house is going for sale. [I] cannot get anywhere under €2,300 a month rent and there is zero availability even if I could afford that. So now my salary just matches my rent. [I] have zero options. No support. [I] cannot get a mortgage anywhere near purchase amount, yet I pay rent that would cover a mortgage. I’m happy paying a little more in rent because there are no other options.” – Jack*, Cork
‘We feel ashamed if our children grow up homeless’
“I am living in Ireland for the last 22 years. I am an Irish citizen and I am married… I am employed since we arrived in Ireland. We have been on the RAS [Rental Accommodation Scheme] for the last 17 years in Athlone. Our landlord gave us a letter of termination in June 2022 and we don’t know what to do. There are no houses to rent in Athlone and when we tried to contact the county council we get always the same answer – ‘we have no houses for you’ – or they don’t answer at all.
“We applied for a home authority loan and explained how we are facing homelessness in April but we are waiting for a decision from the county council and there is no news after 16 weeks… We should get a decision from 6-8 weeks as is stated… We don’t sleep because of stress, we never missed one payment of rent in 17 years or never [have] been involved in antisocial behaviour. We raise our children to be a good people but this crisis is changing our life and we feel very ashamed if our children end up homeless.” – Dirk*, Westmeath
‘Nowhere to go’
“I have already been issued an eviction notice which takes effect in late March. Myself and my son have nowhere to go, so an extension would really save us from being homeless.” – Anne*, Co Offaly
“Just found out myself, my father (70s) and my mother are facing eviction due to our landlord selling. I’m worried sick at the thoughts of not being able to afford rent in this current climate, with the average rent for a 2 bed house coming in at €2,500 each month. I’m the only one working at home, my Dad’s pension pays our current rent and I pay the rest. Of course this eviction ban should be extended, it’s the least our excuse of a Government can do after they have always prioritised the landlord over the tenant.” – Brid*, Co Dublin
‘We can’t find anywhere’
“I am a 65-year-old unemployed woman with stage 4 cancer. My husband works in a seasonal job. We are due to be evicted from our home on April 1st, where we have been good tenants for almost 10 years. We have modest savings – too little to buy a place but puts us beyond any social supports. We can’t find anywhere to rent or buy and have nowhere to go. Every day while they dither about the eviction ban is a living hell.” – Marian*
‘Our landlord is selling’
“Our… building was issued notice right before the latest ban was put in place as our landlord is selling. We make too much for social housing, too little for a mortgage, can’t live out of commuting distance from South Dublin but can’t find another place on the open market. Every apartment complex built in north Wicklow over the last three years has either sold to investment firms or been rented by the council. Our family of three, with a one-year-old child, will be homeless June 5th if nothing changes through no fault of our own.” – Niamh*, Wicklow
‘Eviction ban creates homelessness’
“My family lost a mortgage after seven months of waiting. The seller was unable to vacate the property since the tenants don’t want to move out. Tenants had 200+ days notice and complete winter eviction ban term to move on. Now since property prices went up significantly and we have a failed mortgage on the record, I’m afraid we just can’t afford to buy family home. Bloody eviction ban creates homelessness.” – Joe*, Co Dublin
‘My vulture fund will repossess the property’
I have been a landlord for 30 years and have always tried to take HAP [Housing Assistance Payment] tenancies… A HAP tenant is vetted and approved by the HAP agency, and agrees terms about paying a contribution to that HAP tenancy payment. Yet if the tenant stops paying their weekly contribution to HAP, the landlord’s HAP payment is suspended. When the landlord contacts HAP for an explanation he is told that, under the Data Protection Act, the matter cannot be discussed with him. I have at times wanted to pay the arrears for the tenant so that my HAP payment is resumed, yet cannot. I then have to deal with the tenant who was selected by HAP as a suitable candidate for HAP payments…
“If the Government extends the eviction ban further (normal evictions never take less than six/eight months, at no rental income by the way), my vulture fund will repossess the property through my inability to pay the mortgage, because my HAP tenants have broken their agreement with HAP. Yes, I want to sell up, if possible, and discontinue being a landlord.” – Francis, Dublin
‘I can’t wait to sell up’
“I’m a private landlord and I’ve done this in lieu of a pension. I look after my tenant well. The rent sounds good – €2,400 per month. However, my mortgage is now €1,400, on top of that is property tax, apartment service charges, wear and tear, agent fees… leaving me with around €300 per month. I’m terrified that my tenant could stop paying rent and I’m left hanging – can you imagine what my mortgage company would say if I simply stopped paying them? I can’t wait to sell up. It’s simply not worth the risk any more.” – David*, Dublin
‘We don’t have an eviction ban if we don’t pay our mortgage on our own house’
“We bought our house investment at the height of the boom around 2005 and it fell into negative equity with the crash and is still not back at the price we bought it for. We hope at least… to get the life savings back by selling it now and have given notice. We have the rent way below market rates, ie around €880, which is very low so no one will want to buy it with sitting tenants. We have two kids going to college living away from home in Dublin and need the money to pay for college.
“We both as a couple work in tech and our company has announced job cuts recently so we are worried while waiting to hear more details. We just want access to sell our house to a needful family but with sitting tenants we fear we won’t be able to sell. If we do it will be a loss with such low-rent tenants. We feel that is unfairly penalising us as a hard-working couple all our lives.
“Also, as it is we have to pay so much in tax and maintenance works… for the house. We just want the eviction ban to go, it’s not fair on us. We don’t have an eviction ban if we didn’t pay our mortgage on our own house. I hope sense will prevail and solutions to the housing issue will not be punishing us.” – Aisling*, Westmeath
‘He hasn’t paid a cent back’
“Sick and tired of bad tenants treating my property badly. Every single time. Soul-destroying to see the state that tenants leave a property. Last tenant abandoned property owing €13,000 rent. We won our case against him in RTB [Residential Tenancies Board], he hasn’t paid a cent back.” – Lucy*, Meath
‘Extending the ban is a doomsday scenario for me’
I rented out my parents’ home and the present tenants have wrecked it so I decided last August to issue a termination notice to sell last year to stop further damage… The tenants have now decided to stop paying rent… I have now problems with my bank with the mortgage and it could take months via the RTB to resolve it. Extending the ban is a doomsday scenario for me.” – James*, Co Dublin
‘Waiting to regain access to my only home’
“I am waiting for the end of the ban to allow me to regain access to my only home. I am homeless while I wait for this to happen.” – Jennifer*
‘We bought house and have no rights to live there’
We bought a house last July. And we can’t move in… because the tenants refuse to move due to the eviction ban. We bought the house and we have no rights to live in there. It’s really disappointing. – Pat* Dublin
‘I should not be forced to be homeless to give a tenant more rights’
“I moved overseas a few years ago and my hope is to return to Ireland in 5-10 years. However, plans and circumstances can change for unforeseen reasons and I would have nowhere else to live in Ireland if I was unable to return to my own home. I would never dream of giving short notice, only what is required as per the lease signed with the tenant. If it is my only property I should not be forced to be homeless to give a tenant more rights than the lease they agreed to.” – Joan*, Luxembourg
* Names have been changed to protect identity