In the 2008 film Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the bandsman Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) amazed audiences.
In one of Infant Sorrow’s songs, Snow encourages listeners to ‘do something’… anything really. While the lead singer does not specify what exactly he wants done, his passion and zeal clouds the void in specified action.
“You gotta do something” the chorus begins with.
“We gotta something”.
“Sometimes I sit in my room and I don’t know what to do, but we’ve gotta do something!”
Of course, the song ‘We’ve Gotta Do Something’ is sardonic: meant to mock those who call for action without elaborating. But it seems the government has taken Infant Sorrow’s message to heart and decided in order to combat the housing crisis they’ve “gotta do something.”
On November 1st the government’s rushed and ill-judged eviction ban came into effect. Having previously denounced countenancing such a proposal the coalition government has since acquiesced to some opposition parties and imposed a moratorium on evictions – with an exception for bad behaviour and failure to pay rent – until March 31st of next year.
An eviction ban, in theory, sounds wonderful. People not being removed from their dwellings during a cost-of-living crisis is the humane approach from a public relations perspective for the government.
However, this move will only hurt those it is attempting to help. Ireland’s much-remarked-upon housing crisis is anything but, it is a rental crisis.
The Republic of Ireland is a nation of 5 million. Yet, just over 700 properties are currently available to rent nationwide. When taken at a micro level, Dublin has a mere 300 properties available.
The basic law of economics is that when so many people are chasing scarce resources those resources increase in price. This axiomatic economic rule contextualises the scenes witnessed in Drumcondra recently where a vast array of prospective tenants spent over an hour viewing a rental property on Saint Brendan’s Road listed at over a grand a month.
No picture of the property was available online, yet hundreds of people felt they had no choice but to spend hours queuing to view the property such is the desperation younger generations in particular are experiencing in their quest to find affordable accommodation.
When prospective tenants finally do obtain a rental property the chances of them paying extortionate rents are quite high. For example, in Dublin renters pay an average of €2,000 per month on their landlords’ property.
In Cork and Galway, rents have risen in the first quarter this year by 10 per cent and 14 per cent respectively. Rents are up by a whopping 16 per cent in Limerick and Waterford.
According to the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) rents have increased by over 80 per cent since 2012.
Despite the acute rental crisis Ireland is facing, as mentioned, buying a home is not beyond the reach of many. In fact, in August the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers found that paying a mortgage was less expensive than paying rent, with the exception of two regions – Dublin 4 and 6.
Renters, mainly young people, suffer while homeowners, mainly older generations, prosper.
This desperate situation afflicting one of the richest countries in the world is the direct result of government policies that have squeezed small landlords from the market.
While the free market is not perfect by any means, the fact of the matter is that in the past year over 5,000 landlords have left the Irish market. There are 25,000 fewer landlords in the market today than there were in 2016. While some may cheer and actively egg on this exodus, having fewer landlords makes an already bad situation much worse.
This has caused terminations to increase by over half in the first half of this year due to property being sold. With no landlords, many face the prospect of homelessness. Figures show that over 10,000 people are in emergency accommodation, including over 3,000 children.
Moves to further dampen the sovereignty of landlords will only discourage further entrants into the market when the State should be encouraging more.
Small landlords face a 52 per cent tax on their rental properties. They are also prevented from increasing rents by more than 2 per cent per annum in so-called ‘designated zones’; this policy backfired spectacularly as peripheral landlords raised rents beyond 2 per cent in anticipation of potentially being within the designated zones.
Ask yourself this: why would any landlord enter a market when their prospect of a return is flimsy?
They wouldn’t and they aren’t.
Renters and landlords would benefit from a policy of lower taxes on rental property coupled with lower rents and an increase in constructing build-to-rent accommodation particularly around universities and other institutes of third-level education where renters proliferate.
Sometimes doing something, is worse than doing nothing at all.