By Lea Valance
The Dublin Inquirer website published a study in February showing how much people would need to earn as an hourly wage for their rents to be affordable (no more than 30% of pre-tax income) in different parts of the city.
Using official Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) figures, the study showed that Dublin 11 is the cheapest area to live in the capital as one would need to earn €20.47 an hour for affordable accommodation there. If a person were to earn the minimum wage of €9.15, they would need to work up to 80 hours a week for their rent to be affordable in that same area! This is a striking example of how difficult renting has become in Ireland.
Rents keep rising
With next to no regulation on rent increases, and combined with the normalisation of part-time, low-paid precarious work, people are forced into poverty in order to put roof over their heads. A recent report from the PRTB shows that rents are up 9.8% nationally with rents in Dublin now higher than at the peak of the boom in 2007.
Despite new legislation implemented in December last year whereby private landlords can only increase the rent every two years, there has been no provision for much needed rent controls or improved tenants’ rights. The housing crisis is worsening around the country, this has seen a sharp increase in the number of people on social housing waiting lists.
The problem is particularly acute in Dublin where there are 43,500 people waiting for affordable housing in the City Council area alone. Despite this crisis nothing has been done to invest in public social housing. Instead, the Social Housing Strategy plans to have 70% of their units sourced from the private sector. Here again, it shows the over-reliance in investment from the private sector who are making huge profits from the crisis.
The Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) and the system of rent supplements serves to further line the pockets of private landlords whose shameful rent increases are subsidised by the state at the expense of taxpayers. While discrimination from private landlords against those in receipt of rent supplement has recently been made unlawful, the same discrimination continues as people are simply being priced out of renting.
End reliance on private sector
In order to deal with the massive housing crisis we need to implement serious rent controls straight away and reverse the cuts made to rent supplement. We also need to see the release of NAMA properties to the councils for the benefit of those in need of accommodation and massive state investment in the construction of publicly owned social housing on a huge scale to clear housing waiting lists. To achieve this we need to have a banking and construction that is publically owned and democratically run in the interests of working people.