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July 2017

Irish Congress of Trade Unions BDC 2017


Eimear Allen (INTO)

Eimear Allen (INTO)

Wed 5 July 2017

Speaking on the housing motion

The housing issue is one of the most daunting challenges facing us over the coming decade. I’m speaking today as a young worker trying to enter the housing market.

I’m currently working and living in Dublin and like many young people, I am finding it increasingly difficult to pay the exorbitant rents being set by landlords. It has become near impossible to pay the current level of rent and save for a house at the same time.

Rent has now surpassed the 2008 levels that were clearly unsustainable at that time. Nothing has changed to make these rents sustainable now. A two-bed apartment which I rented in a suburb of Dublin has jumped from €1000 to €1600 euro a month in barely four years. By current standards that price is considered a good deal. Add bills to that cost and over half my net pay is going to basic accommodation costs.

I am currently trying to find a new property to rent and this is proving to be extremely challenging. I’ve attended viewings of rental properties with over fifty other prospective tenants. Bringing along a large sum of cash, a copy of your passport and even a payslip has become the norm to merely get your hat into the ring.

The reality is that many young workers are forced to live at home with their parents. This is quickly becoming the only means by which young people can hope to save a deposit to purchase a home. However, this is not an option for everyone. In 2006, the average age of a first time buyer was 28 – now it is 35. This figure is only going upwards and the prospect of owning my own home is growing further and further away.

The average price for a three-bed house in Dublin city is now €404,000, which requires a minimum deposit in excess of €40,000. Research published by last week indicates that house prices will continue to increase at an alarming rate. The report found that house prices in Ireland have risen more in the first six months of 2017 than in the entire year of 2016. This is a very worrying trend. Drastic action is needed to reverse this progression in prices.

Many young workers who started during the recession found it challenging to secure employment. Now that the economy is recovering and employment is growing, we are faced with the new challenge of being priced out of the housing market. This is not incentivising young workers, including many of my friends and colleagues, who emigrated during the recession to return. Are we going to continue to lose many of our best and brightest graduates on foot of another crisis?

It is totally unacceptable that modest accommodation is beyond the means of ordinary people.

Clearly, we need action at a central government level to rapidly increase the supply. There is simply not enough accommodation available to the population – particularly in urban areas. The price of building land should not be allowed to persist at the current ridiculous levels it has in Ireland and should be more reflective of the cost of agricultural land. For generations, this has been a major contributory factor in distorting the market. And remember, it is us – the workers - who are bearing the cost.

This problem is fixable. It is clearly possible for Ireland, North and South, to have a healthy functioning housing system by controlling land prices and through an effective state programme of building, among other measures to meet the demand. This requires real buy in by government and for them to deal with some of the large-scale investors who are destroying and controlling the housing market.

Congress must put this issue at the forefront of the Government’s agenda.

Date: Wednesday, 5 July 17