Are we becoming a nation of renters?

Are we becoming a nation of renters? Are we becoming a nation of renters?

One of the favourite destinations for Irish people to visit abroad when they have a few spare pennies is the United States and, in particular, New York.

Whether it is for its sights, nightlife, shopping or all of the above, the Big Apple has for some time been a dream destination for many Irish.

Over the years we have adopted many of their customs as well and that trend could be now extended to our property market.

The big question is: Are we becoming more and more like New Yorkers?


The topic has been slightly touched on at two separate conferences in the past week.

On Thursday, Joshua Kahr of New York-based KEC Properties spoke about his experiences of the US property market at the SCSI annual conference.

One thing he mentioned was how many New Yorkers were now “renters by choice”. While home ownership in the States has been somewhere between 60-70% over the course of the last 20 or so years, in New York 68% of people rent permanently.

While Ireland is some way away from that figure, the number of people renting here has grown considerably in recent years.

Indeed, DIT lecturer Dr Lorcan Sirr touched on the subject earlier this week when he suggested the gloss has gone off home ownership for many people.


Speaking at the National Construction Conference in Dublin, he argued that there was finally recognition that renting was good for the economy  as it brought with it “economic mobility and little risk especially for personal savings.”

The figures would appear to back that theory up. Home ownership levels are now below 70% here with 18.5% renting, according to the latest Census. In Dublin the number renting is even higher at 30%.

Dr Sirr pointed out that the numbers renting is up 50% in the last five years but argued that the property market is not ready for a complete change as there was a shortage of decent accommodation out there, especially for families.

While in the past, standards were not as high, people want good quality homes now rather than damp basement flats. They also want to live in areas that suit their needs.

Dr Sirr argues that “the demand is there, the need is there, but the accommodation is not” and says the market needs professional landlords who will apply the principles of commercial property investment to residential development.

That, realistically, is not going to happen overnight but government housing policy has been changing to better balance the options of owning and renting.

The demand for rental accommodation is certainly there. At a time when the residential property market is slow, numbers visiting the likes of has grown to record levels.

Indeed, there has been several reports of huge queues outside places that are up for rent in many areas. A recent Irish Times article by Bernice Harrison brilliantly summed up her feelings on the matter.

Far more Irish people may be becoming “renters by choice” but, like the buying market, it has its problems.

Today we ask your opinion on the rental market.

Is the level of stock available satisfactory? Do you prefer to rent or buy? Is your long term goal to buy or would you be happy to rent for your lifetime?

Let us know in the comments below.

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