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Rent crisis: ‘€1,550 a month for a one-bed: Who do we think we are?’

Renters describe moving to Dublin as a ‘nightmare’ and for foreign visitors, our welcoming reputation rings hollow

Crowd scenes of people queuing outside apartments for viewings have become more frequent. File photograph: The Irish Times

“It’s been an absolute nightmare, honestly,” says a young German woman about trying to find a place to rent in Ireland.

Amelie Schneider (20) from Dusseldorf is studying Business Administration at Griffith College, Dublin, as part of her International Hospitality Management course. After months of searching, she and two of her colleagues secured an apartment in Phibsborough, until December, but at a hefty cost — €1,800 per month per person. “At least we won’t be homeless — for now,” she says.

Together with vague last-minute couch-surfing offers, the whole experience has been a very stressful beginning to what should be a thoroughly enjoyable adventure.

“It gave me so much anxiety thinking about coming to Dublin. I felt really pressured and like I’m not wanted here,” says Schneider. Referring to the scenes on social media of “hundreds of people queuing outside apartments to view them”, she adds “it’s crazy, to be honest. The thought of it scared me.”

German student Amelie Schneider: Accommodation is 'a lot cheaper' in Germany than Ireland.

She and her friends are paying almost €2,000 a month above what the three had together budgeted for. “I sent over 250 requests, I applied to all student accommodations in Dublin and the outskirts as well,” she says. “I used contacts from my parents, from my professors at university, business partners, but no one seemed to know anybody who could take me in.”

Despite offering to pay rent for the entire year in advance and having “great references” and even bank statements for herself and her parents, showing that she could afford the rent for the year, “still no replies”.

Accommodation is “a lot cheaper” in Germany than Ireland, says Schneider, “depending on the city you are living in”. She cites a two-bed apartment in Dusseldorf with a living room and large kitchen “and even a balcony” for €1,500 per month.

It’s been bad for my relationship with my parents, and their relationship with me, kind of being at home so much

—  Lauren Bailey

The severe shortage of properties to rent also caused a newly qualified secondary school teacher to tell her prospective principal she had secured accommodation in advance of signing the contract for her new teaching job on Dublin’s south side last July when this was not the case. Thankfully, before taking up the job, and after a four-week struggle, Lauren Bailey (26), from a rural area just outside Waterford city, found a double ensuite bedroom in a house share with three others, also on the south side, for just under €850 per month.

As a Masters in Education student, and latterly as a newly qualified teacher, she has spent her last two summers at home with her parents, on the dole, which has brought its own strains. “It’s been bad for my relationship with my parents, and their relationship with me, kind of being at home so much,” she says. “Yeah, like, it’s not natural and I think it’s just bad for everyone’s mental health and relationships at that stage.”

Lauren and her boyfriend, a software developer, had their names on a waiting list to rent an apartment in a development in Cabra, which is expected to be completed in the summer of 2023. Lauren’s boyfriend was informed via email they would have to bring €2,000 to the site as a deposit to secure their place on the waiting list.

In her previous accommodation near Phibsborough, her landlord was renting to seven people and would ask that the monthly rent for all the tenants combined, which Lauren calculates amounted to more than €5,000 in cash, be left in a drawer in the property overnight ready for collection the following day. She herself had to make four different ATM withdrawals over two days to make up her rent which made her feel “really unsafe” walking around the city carrying such a large amount of cash.

Last year, for the first four weeks of her teaching placement in Glasnevin, she was forced to stay in a B&B as she was unable to get rental accommodation.

“Almost all of my friends from Waterford have emigrated due, in part, to the lack of housing and rents being too high,” she says. Saving a deposit to buy a house will be difficult, she adds. “It’s just so depressing when you know you’re paying someone else’s mortgage every month.”

She feels there needs to be better employment options for young people in rural areas and hedge funds should be prevented from acquiring too much property. “Not everyone in rural Ireland wants to work in Dublin, it’s just there’s no other jobs”, she says. “They just need to build more.”

A young woman, from Punjab, India, who is living in owner-occupied accommodation in Dublin says she has been the subject of derogatory remarks from her landlady.

“‘You might be a spoilt girl in India, but that won’t do here in Ireland, you will have to wash my utensils’ is what she said to me, even though I am a vegetarian person, and she eats non-veg,” says the woman, who The Irish Times is not identifying for legal reasons. “I told her because of religious reasons I won’t touch non-vegetarian utensils, but she expected me to touch those.”

A master’s student and part-time retail worker who arrived in Ireland in April, she was previously living in Smithfield, which was also a sublet, but having no official contract had to move from there abruptly. She has been looking for new accommodation near the city centre since the beginning of July.

The woman moved to her current lodgings, a small room, in August, and pays €550 per month in cash which includes gas and electricity bills. However, relations with her landlady have deteriorated recently, particularly when her sibling came to stay for a two-week period, for which she paid extra. Unhappy with the increased amount of time she and her sibling were spending in the kitchen, her landlady told her she would have to leave the kitchen after 15 or 20 minutes. “That was not possible,” she says as “generally Indian dishes, they take time, 30 or 50 minutes.”

Landlords think they are very powerful but they do not realise that they are living on immigrants’ money

—  Indian national

Her landlady then told her she would have to leave the house and would not get her deposit back.

“Landlords think they are very powerful but they do not realise that they are living on immigrants’ money,” she says, and relates how one or two weeks after she pays her rent her landlady asks for “€30 or €40 for her grocery shopping”.

She adds “My budget is around €600 but the places in the city are out of my budget, even for sharing. It’s very hard to get non-owner occupied accommodation.”

Friends of hers have experienced similar issues. One is a girl from Mexico attending an English school, which also provided her with accommodation and her daily meals. However, each of these consists only of milk, cornflakes and scrambled eggs and she is not allowed to cook for herself, she said.

At the beginning of August, Karo Egbamuno (22), a marketing executive with the Fitzsimons Hotel, Temple Bar and part-time student, moved into a double room ensuite, in a six-person house-share in Rathcoole, for €800 per month, after a “hectic” two-month search involving “countless” emails. She admits she has “big regrets” about coming to Dublin. “I still have no security, no stability,” she says.

Karo Egbamuno has 'big regrets' about coming to Dublin.

Rose-Mary (known as Rosie) McCann is an administrator of the Rent in Dublin Facebook page which has more than 97,000 members. She has been renting since returning from London.

“We’ve all these students coming from overseas, and we can see it in the requests, they’re looking for a room and they rightly put down €500 for a room,” she says. “And you have to keep going in and saying sorry. It’s almost embarrassing as an Irish person that I’m having to say a one-bed is €1,550.”

She adds in exasperation: “Who do we think we are?”

She notes the critical lack of residential properties to rent is a nationwide issue. ‘Galway, Limerick, Cork every single other city is in crisis’

The stories of hardship she has encountered have had a lasting effect on her.

“We have been contacted by people who are desperately, desperately looking and I am asked nearly every single day, ‘can you help, can you help?’ And no I can’t, unfortunately. And it puts me in a tight spot because I want to help,” she says.

“As a citizen, I think it’s disgusting the way we are treating everyone and it’s not just one category of person that is affected. It’s everyone in the same boat. I’ve got PM [private message on Facebook] after PM begging me to help them.”

She notes the critical lack of residential properties to rent is a nationwide issue. “Galway, Limerick, Cork every single other city is in crisis.”

McCann wonders what will it take for the Government to “wake up” to the situation, given the growing number of people affected. “It’s not just the ones that are living at home with mummy and daddy, it’s not just the nurses on sh**e pay, sorry; it’s at all levels.”