We need more, and nicer, apartments to rent

With 29% of people renting, why do we still treat it like one of life’s stopgaps?

There is a vast swathe of young-ish, well-off-ish people out there who just want somewhere nice to live

There is a vast swathe of young-ish, well-off-ish people out there who just want somewhere nice to live

 

Property porn, much like the real thing, is likely to make users feel a little empty inside after a brief thrill. Certain pleasure centres of the brain light up like Christmas: lingering shots of parquet flooring, wet rooms and Belfast sinks offer quite a thrill. The adjoining price tag, not so much.

And while the most tempting imagery has traditionally been found in the For Sale bracket, rental properties are now being gussied up to appeal to high-earners too.

We already know that Ireland is sorely lacking in high-density rental schemes. Those that do come to fruition appear to have only the well-heeled in their crosshairs.

Unless you’re a high-flying tech exec or professional with coffers to burn, the rental options for people over 35 remain somewhat limited.

Last year Clancy Quay, an upscale rental at the refurbished Clancy Barracks in Dublin, hit the market, and, begad, is it ever fancy. There’s a concierge in the lobby for a start. A “suite of rooms” are available for tenants’ use, complete with a pool table, Playstation and games room. Social events in the complex will include a book club, speed-friending nights and wine and cheese evenings, while the properties themselves feature the wares of on-site shop The Yard. This is dictionary-definition property porn.

Certainly Clancy Quay is a cut above several of the make-a-buck developments thrown up during the boom, but this high life comes at a price. At the time of opening last summer the advised rentals on the 1-bedrooms were up to €1,900; 2-beds were thought to yield rent of around €2,400. That’s €1,200 a room. (On Daft.ie last week a 1-bed in Clancy Quay was renting at €1,750 a month.)

You can be a renter and also want to nest and make a home
You can be a renter and also want to nest and make a home

More recently, one of the most expensive room rentals in the city, near the Facebook and Google buildings in Mount Street Crescent, was revealed to be in the region of €1,300 a month. It has been let since appearing on Daft.ie a fortnight ago. I repeat, A ROOM.

But, really, in which reality can someone plonk down this kind of cash with nary a thought and think, “grand, no bother – bring on the wine and cheese nights?” Rental options limited for many I did a wholly unscientific poll of my friends, and found that their take-home pay, on average, was in the region of €2,500-€3,000 a month. €1300, or €1,750, signifies a big chunk from their cheque. No games room in the land will assuage them from the fact that half of their earnings could be snuffed out by paying for digs. Of course, other rentals – ones without wine nights or speed-friending, or even an en-suite - are fast catching up to these prices, too.

Unless you’re a high-flying tech exec or professional with coffers to burn, the rental options for people over 35 remain somewhat limited.

If you’re happy to live in a freezing cold Rathmines studio and pay €1,200 for the privilege, that can feasibly be arranged.

Certainly, there are many others in Ireland – families in hostels and those hovering above the poverty line in real risk of facing homelessness – that developers really should be prioritising.

And given the overall housing crisis, a 30- or 40-something with a mid-range salary wanting a comfortable and affordable place to call home has a faint whiff of “my diamond shoes are too tight” about it.

Yet I know of doctors, barristers and dentists – who would have been considered the professional elite a few decades ago – living in houseshares in the outer suburbs. Nothing wrong with the areas they are living in at all, but young-ish, single-ish people want to be close to the action, or at least a quick and cheap taxi ride away from it. Expectations have had to be adjusted by the in-betweeners.

If you’re happy to live in a freezing cold Rathmines studio and pay €1,200 for the privilege, that can feasibly be arranged. But if you want something with a spare bedroom, a decent-sized kitchen, or – really pushing the boat out now – a back garden, be prepared to share it with at least a few others.

It’s strange that, given that 29 per cent of people rent their property in Ireland, we still treat renting like one of life’s stopgaps. Something that the young and those yet to shimmy up the career ladder have to endure before they reach their more “comfortable” 30s. Even after the vagaries of the property market in the past decade, we are still of the mindset that the best place to put your coffers is in bricks and mortar. The sentiment still endures that if you’re still renting at a certain age, you’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere in life, and that your living space must come down fairly low on your list of priorities.

This is precisely why the mid-range rental market is how it is. Renters appear to assume that students or 20-somethings are the only ones in the market. They’re not taking any chances, and the furniture is heavy-duty enough to withstand the vagaries of youthful folly. It would certainly help explain why there are so many dirt-cheap divan beds, antiquated kitchen appliances and wipe clean “leather” sofas knocking about.

There is a vast swathe of young-ish, well-off-ish people out there who just want somewhere nice to live.

Very few landlords in Ireland have considered, or maybe don’t care, that older professionals, or even families may want to make their rental property their home in the long term, might also want to rent.

You don’t need to have forked out for a mortgage to be house-proud. You can be a renter and also want to nest and make a home. But the way most leases are these days, you can forget sticking a picture hook in the wall, never mind painting a room the colour that’s not magnolia. People just want to put roots down, and not have to move when every 12-month lease expires.

Some interesting research done last year by John McCartney at Savills Ireland, threw up some interesting information, about how a lack of 20-somethings in Ireland is having an impact on the mix of housing required.

The number of those in their 20s in Ireland has fallen by almost a quarter since 2009. McCartney argues that housing developers need to recognise that new builds should be weighted towards families; not Google higher uppers who want a Playstation room.

There is a vast swathe of young-ish, well-off-ish people out there who just want somewhere nice to live. They don’t want to be treated as though they are going to trash the joint into oblivion. They’d like a few decent fixtures and fittings without siphoning their entire pay-cheque towards a landlord’s account.

And what of the swelling ranks of Irish downsizers: those that hanker for life’s next big adventure, and have decided to sell the family home and look for something smaller to live in?

Many of them will buy, but a few may well decide to rent for a time before they make their next move. Yet after decades of homely comfort, Ireland’s property market, in its current incarnation, is no place for them. A Playstation room is not near the top of their list of priorities, but they, too, will want somewhere comfortable to call home. And once they get over the culture shock of trying to find a decent, affordable place in Ireland, they’ll need it.