Last weekend my family and I were walking when a man approached us in front of our house. With hands raised and an apology, he politely requested some of our time.
We had come to our housing development on that sunny Sunday afternoon, thinking it was his best chance of catching people when they could be home. This father of two girls had been frantically searching online for a place to rent for his wife and family, to no avail.
Despite the scorching heat of the early afternoon, he wore his heavy work uniform. He pointed to the crest as if to vouch for himself while telling us he had a job coming up. His employer had initially been able to help him with accommodation, but the father needed more permanent housing now that the time had come for his daughters to start school.
While we were enjoying a weekend with our own child, he had sacrificed doing the same and instead devoted his Sunday to roaming around trying to find a place to stay. He had already saved three months’ rent, a remarkable feat at the current rates he would be willing and able to pay up front. Did we know of a friend, family member, someone who could help?
We took his details and promised to call back if we heard anything, but even when I saved his number on my phone, my heart and hopes for him were low. Later that night, this man and his family joined a crowd of others whose stories were shared on our neighborhood Facebook group. It now seems that hardly a week can go by without another plea being released for a family at risk of homelessness as rental housing in the area remains at a premium.
I worry that we all run the risk of becoming accustomed to hearing such stories from distressed families. When I go into town, I see stickers on lampposts that tell similar stories: small portraits of good people who want a home in a market where many of them have no hope.
Families renting in Ireland are caught in the middle of a crisis. Everyone – landlords and tenants alike – agrees that the private rental sector in Ireland is in a desperate situation. I agree that it’s fair for landlords to make their case and speak up for themselves. All summer, headlines have shown that many landlords are exiting the market and that many object to what they see as an unfair regime that gives institutional investors what they see as more preferential tax treatment.
The loss of landlords will exacerbate the rent crisis. But it’s deeply troubling to see the same landlord lobby groups using this issue to also crack down on rent pressure zones, at a time when desperate parents like the man I met last weekend are wandering the streets trying to find a to find home.
Rent pressure zones, first introduced in 2016, stopped landlords from raising rents by more than 2 percent a year. The fact that the rents were already too high was accepted by almost everyone and became even higher. The rental pressure zones were an anti-market measure. So when landlords complain that they can’t charge “market prices” because of rent pressure zones, they seem unaware that that’s exactly their point.
I’ve always been amazed at the deference people are willing to pay to “market rate,” as if it were some sort of supreme authority and sometimes no little more than a glorified greed index. Rent pressure zones that prevent landlords from charging higher rents just because others are doing so are presented as an unintended consequence of the zones. But that’s what they’re all about.
Landlords can put down their poison pens: I know not all of them are evil incarnate. But the reality is that a significant portion of landlords have been exploiting and exploiting people with rents so insane that six years ago the government was forced to step in.
Rental pressure zones are not perfect. Many landlords have found ways around them, inventing reasons to end their existing leases before starting new ones at much higher rents. But for all their shortcomings, rent pressure zones are certainly not something we can afford to lose in the midst of a housing crisis. I understand that landlords, like all of us, are being impacted by the cost of living crisis. But the current housing crisis is extraordinary, and we simply cannot risk removing even imperfect protections for renters.
We’ve all seen the scandalous ads for glorified sheds and studio studios that are on the market right now for staggering rental prices. If landlord lobbies want to advocate for the abolition of rent pressure zones, they have to get their own house in order first.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/while-we-were-enjoying-our-weekend-together-he-was-devoting-his-sunday-to-wandering-our-estate-trying-to-find-somewhere-for-his-family-to-live-41933790.html While we enjoyed our weekend together, he spent his Sunday roaming our property looking for a place to stay for his family