Much is speculated about the relationship between migration and the housing crisis. For some, migrants are to be blamed because they increase the cost of housing and the need for supply. For others, such as investors, a mobile professional class is the perfect type of tenant for their new apartments and co-living projects. Some defend the stance that who lives here belongs here, so non-nationals should have the same rights as nationals.

But very little has been said about migrants' housing rights and their actual experience in the Irish housing market. Migrants are the majority of those renting in Ireland. While around 80% of Irish people own their home (with or without a mortgage), this figure is only 34% for migrants. With a few exceptions, non-nationals are not entitled to housing support or social housing due to visa status, which leaves them more exposed to the pressures of the private rental sector.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

From RTÉ Radio 1's Morning Ireland, Sinéad Gibney from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission on a new report which highlights the disadvantages experienced by migrants and others in the Irish housing system.

Migrant experience in the rental sector is not uniform, and varies due to nationality, visa status and income. The report Monitoring Adequate Housing in Ireland report from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), showed that 49% of Western European migrants are renting privately, but this figure grows to 80% for Eastern Europeans. The corresponding figure for UK migrants is just 10%.

There are very few studies on the housing experience of migrants in Ireland. However, migrant groups such as the Anti-Racism Network and the Migrants Rights Centre have highlighted how visa status impacts migrants' access to work and services in Ireland. Recent research conducted by the author and Dr Michael Byrne arrived at similar findings. We interviewed Brazilians renting in Ireland during the pandemic and identified that visa status is an important factor that shapes migrants' access to housing, the quality of their dwellings, and tenure security. The tenants also reported feeling discriminated against in the rental sector by estate agents and landlords, as had been reported in previous researches.

Poverty and low income also negatively impacts one's housing experience, regardless of nationality. However, in 2016, consistent poverty rates were 13% for non-Irish, compared to 8% for Irish, surging to 29& in specific cases of non-EU nationals. The incidence of minimum wage pay among migrants is over twice that of Irish employees. A recent study by Dr Ebun Joseph calls attention to racial stratification in Ireland by comparing the labour market outcomes of distinct non-Irish nationals.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

From RTÉ Radio 1's Drivetime, John Mark McCafferty from Threshold and Margaret McCormac from the Irish Property Owners' Association, on rent hikes

Those on student visas face a particular challenge to access housing. If not wealthy enough to afford €1,000 euros per month for student accommodation, they are exposed to low standard dwellings, usually overcrowded and with precarious tenancy arrangements with the landlord. One of our Brazilian interviewees explained her experience: "our contract is verbal. We didn't sign papers so we feel insecure that at any moment he (landlord) can take us out. We think about it, you know? The question of not having a contract is something very relevant, but we as students, like ... we can't get a contract because the estate agencies don't accept us. They want someone with a stable job and citizenship."

Non-nationals' higher reliance on an unstable rental market leaves them more vulnerable to homelessness. While non-Irish nationals make up around 12% of the population, they made up 33% of the homeless population in 2017, according to a report of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE). In April 2018, the DRHE confirmed that 42% of rough sleepers were migrants.

If housing is for all, the conditions to access suitable quality dwellings should be provided for everyone who lives here

Even though low income and lack of rights make migrants more vulnerable during a housing crisis, this crisis is not about migrants. It is about how the government provides and assures adequate dwellings and enforces mechanisms to end discrimination in the housing sector.

Unfortunately, while the specific situation of some vulnerable groups was considered in the recent Housing for All plan, the demands and needs of non-nationals were omitted. This is largely because many of the issues regarding the private rental sector were not addressed in the plan, such as security of tenure, affordability and the role of private investors and corporate landlords in housing provision. It also did not address how housing for asylum seekers will be provided as part of the Irish state commitment to end Direct Provision by the end of 2024 . If housing is for all, the conditions to access suitable quality dwellings should be provided for everyone who lives here.


The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ