As our chronic housing disaster unfolds, with more people in danger of homelessness following the lifting of the eviction ban last week, we can see just how flimsy the whole business of finding a dwelling place is in this country.
Chatting to a mother last week, who had to leave her rented house of more than ten years having been served with a notice-to-quit last summer, the precariousness of her situation is stark.
She and her husband and child have moved into a relative’s house. She worries about the effect of such insecurity and anxiety on her child. At least she’s not living in a car. As if that should be a source of consolation.
But we have got to a stage where the unthinkable for some families has happened.
Up until recently, homelessness was generally the preserve of people with addiction problems. Now, there is a new class of people that have been exposed to the terror of not having somewhere to lay their head every night.
The right to housing is not enshrined in our constitution - although there’s a presumption of housing with the reference to a woman’s right to stay at home to tend to her household without fear of economic hardship.
Around the world, the right to housing is included in 81 constitutions. And the right to adequate housing is provided for in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the European Charter.
Trying to get people evicted from their homes to speak to me on the record for an article I’m working on is proving difficult. There seems to be shame associated with homelessness, despite the fact that people are losing their homes through no fault of their own. They’re at the mercy of the market.
Landlords served 4,741 eviction notices to tenants last summer, with 60% saying they wanted the property back so they could sell up, according to the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).
Almost two thirds of these termination notices submitted to the RTB between July and September 2022 came into effect last Saturday.
Behind the statistics are a lot of broken people, completely disillusioned at their inability to find somewhere else to rent. There are very few rental properties out there, and often, the rent is prohibitively high.
What about councils buying houses where tenants have been served with notices-to-quit? But as it stands at the moment, councils can’t afford to buy them as landlords are asking for too much money.
No wonder that there are fears that families at risk of homelessness could be used as bargaining chips by sellers trying to score higher prices.
It comes as no surprise to hear that the grass is greener on the other side. A student that I know will be graduating this year. While she doesn’t yet know what career she wants to get into, she isn’t going to sit around in her parents’ house trying to figure it out. She can’t afford to rent here - so she’s off to Spain where she feels confident about picking up a job.
She has secured accommodation in Valencia with a couple of friends. Her monthly rent will be just €400.
A bit of teaching and maybe some bar work should be sufficient as this student plots the course of her life. She thinks this country is a joke.
Most people can only dream of uprooting themselves to more affordable places. Family ties keep them here.
But if you’re young and fancy free, there are options. A study from cost-of-living site, Expatistan, has found that eastern European countries are the best places for value for money.
Even the most relatively expensive rent in the lower priced parts of eastern Europe is manageable for your average worker. For example, rent in Lodz in Poland is around €616 per month.
But nobody should have to leave their country to chase manageable rent. Affordable housing should be a right in your own country.
Making the rent has never been so hard.
Wake up, Darragh O’Brien.