Where the heart is: The forever rental with friends in Dublin 8
Ed Davitt has given up on the idea of having his own place and is happy to rent long term and live with people he likes
Ed Davitt pictured on the balcony of his Kilmainham apartment. Photograph: Dave Meehan
When Ed Davitt was making plans around moving back to his native Dublin to take up a job as a parliamentary assistant in Leinster House, he was taken aback when he made enquiries about rent prices. Having worked in Brussels for the previous five years, the young professional was used to lower rents.
“I was a bit spoilt in Brussels. I was paying €450 a month, all bills included. I lived in a really nice apartment, it was extremely large and comfortable in a very good area. Here I’m paying €725, plus bills.”
It’s two and a half years now since Davitt moved in to the three bed apartment he shares with three other men: one couple – Dónal Mulligan and Gary O’Sullivan – and another singleton, Eoin Wilson.
“The apartment is in the Telford Building in the Heuston South Quarter in Kilmainham. It was being shared by friends. Somebody was moving out. I managed to nab the room.”
If Davitt was initially shocked at the rental prices, he has since grown to believe he’s lucky to have found quality accommodation in an up and coming neighbourhood.
“I love the area. We’re right next to Kilmainham Hospital. The grounds there are stunning, with gardens that are open to the public as a thoroughfare to get to Kilmainham Gaol. We’re on the Liffey. We have a beautiful view of the Phoenix Park and Wellington Monument.”
The apartments at the building Ed lives in are quite large, with just two per floor over five storeys. There are 10 buildings in the entire development. Some house more apartments than others, but there’s a variety of apartment types, with some providing social access housing.
“The mix is ideal, there’s a very nice vibe. It has its own supermarket as well and services like a launderette and a creche. So if you wanted to, you wouldn’t have to leave for months. We’ve also got excellent public transport links nearby. It’s kind of the ideal development.”
There’s a large green area in the middle of the complex with trees planted and raised grass beds.
“In nice weather you can lie out there and it’s a lovely spot to get the late sun in the evenings. At the right time of the year you could sit out and read a book. There’s a playground for the kids. It’s a relaxed and nice place to live.”
The complex is inhabited by a wide cross section of people – young and old, couples and individuals, families, people sharing apartments.
“I don’t know why, but it has a high gay population as well, which is nice for us. It’s quite cool too. The only thing lacking is that there aren’t enough restaurants. There’s the population to support them, but they haven’t really come into the area yet. There are some lovely pubs around though. The Royal Oak is nice. I was very active in the referendum campaign recently and a lot of us would go back there for drinks after canvassing. It was great.”
The apartment, he says, is big by Dublin standards.
“My room is the biggest, so I’m paying more money for it. The apartment itself is L-shaped – long and narrow, with rooms off the central corridor. It has a large shared living room which is bright and sunny and has a balcony.”
Having grown up off Palmerstown Road near Rathmines, does Davitt miss the atmosphere and sense of community of being in a long established residential neighbourhood?
“I think that sense is coming along here. The key thing is that we’re so close to town. We’re on the Luas line and I cycle everywhere so it’s easy to get around. I can get into town in six minutes on my bike if the lights go my way, but realistically it’s closer to 15 mins. I always obey the lights!
“When new businesses come in to the area they get a warm welcome. It needs to keep happening though. There’s a lot of dereliction around Kilmainham, buildings sitting empty for a long time. They need to be put into use and rezoned – some as commercial, some as residential, whatever.
“It is a great area though. Inchicore is down the road and that’s changing and developing. Stoneybatter is just across the river and that’s an example of a centrally located community working very well. We need to catch up a little, but this area is getting there. The Food Co-op is moving around the corner. They were based in Newmarket but they have a new site beside Kilmainham Gaol. That’s very welcome. Sometimes you just need one of those flagships to move in for an area to kick off.”
So where does Davitt see his future, in terms of accommodation?
“I’ve given up on the idea of having a place of my own. It’s not unusual now for friends to be renting together in the long term. I don’t know anyone who has bought on their own recently. In previous generations there would have been more of an assumption that, as a gay person, you might have spent longer on your own. Now a lot of my gay friends are getting engaged, getting married, buying houses together as couples. We’ll see about the future, but for now, this is a very nice place to live and I’m lucky to live with people I like.”