Stress levels rise with rent, says CEO of housing charity

by Shauna Bowers and Kyle Ewald

Renting causes financial and emotional distress, according to the CEO of a housing charity.

John-Mark McCafferty, CEO of Threshold, a charity that aims to secure rights to housing, said past rent figures are an indication of how distressing the Irish rental sector is.

“The increasing level of calls received by Threshold on an annual basis – over 70,000 in 2016 – is indicative of the financial and mental distress experienced by those living in the private rented sector, where there remains an acute shortage of supply.”

According to the latest Rental report released last week, tenants faced another year of double-digit rent increases in 2017. This can be compared with an increase of 13.5 per cent in 2016, 9 per cent in 2015 and 10.7 per cent in 2014.

Rents outside of Dublin have increased by 52 per cent on average, compared to 81 per cent in the capital. Cities such as Cork, Galway, and Limerick also have higher rent averages than the national level—with increases of about 65 per cent in each case.

The report attributes these changes to the “structural shifts at work in the economy”, particularly Ireland’s convergence to its economic peers in Europe and other countries, shifting away from agriculture and manufacturing and into services, and therefore a shift into cities.

McCafferty said families and students are suffering from not being able to afford sufficient living space.

“Families and individuals who are studying, living on minimum wages or embarking on the first steps of their career following graduation find themselves in dire situations as competition for homes at the lower end of the rented market has led to the emergence of overcrowding and falling standards,” said McCafferty.

The Threshold CEO said while he acknowledges that the Government is introducing measures to tackle the rent crisis, “much more” needs to be done to protect tenants, especially students.

“Who protects students from rent increases on campus residences? Accommodation costs in a TCD off-campus residence in Rathmines now exceeds €5,000, while standard costs in UCD range from €6,000 to €10,000 (Roebuck Castle) and in Galway students can also pay over €5,000,” said McCafferty.

“One doesn’t need to be a genius to realise that education is fast becoming a privilege instead of a right.”

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) believes that the increase in the cost of rent year on year will eventually become a deterrent for students to attend university.

“USI believes that students are being forced out of college because of rapidly increasing rent costs. Escalating cost of rent is forcing some students to take leases they cannot afford, sleep on friends’ couches, live in poor quality accommodation and undertake long commutes to college,” said a spokesperson for the Union.

“The accommodation crisis and the increase in rent will deter some students, especially those from rural areas, from going to college in Ireland, and long commutes will negatively affect the quality of their college experience.

“Meanwhile, other students are putting themselves into debt to afford to go to college because of their drive and determination. But, they will be saddled with debt and trapped as a renter for the rest of their lives as a result.”

Shauna Bowers and Kyle Ewald