I smiled while reading your post, Service charge. It is the exact same experience I have gone through a number of times in recent years (as well as in recent weeks, before deciding to stay firmly put).
Apartment standards have of course been a hot topic of conversation for many years in Dublin, but it’s only when you go searching that you realise just how shocking the situation on the ground actually is. Not only does it make you want to tear your hair out, trawling through the cesspit of mediocrity and 21st century tenements is also a thoroughly depressing experience – one of those times in life, not unlike the Leaving Cert, that you never want to endure again.
I often think whilst flicking through the pages of Daft or similar sites, just what a gobsmacking experience it must be for somebody coming from the continent or Scandinavia to live in Dublin, observing for the first time the standard of accommodation on offer in this city. It would be enough to persuade you never to set a foot in the country, never mind live full time in this city.
Before you even get off the ground. if the unending joys of inflexible and inefficient storage and electric heating doesn’t appeal to you, not even accounting for their associated astronomical bills, straight away three-quarters of the city’s apartment stock is wiped out. Likewise, Zoe standard dimensions, which miraculously redefined people’s understanding of a shoebox, knock out large sections of Dublin’s apartment stock, in spite of the common perception that far superior apartments in the centre replaced their primitive standards. The reality is that Zoe cleverly developed nearly all of the best locations in the city. This is perhaps the most frustrating aspect of Dublin’s residential stock – that Dublin 1 and Dublin 8 are almost singularly defined by these apartments. It is next to impossible to live in an affordable apartment in these places unless you wish Zoe standards upon yourself. It’s quite shocking the monopoly they have in these strategically important locations. It would be interesting to gauge the economic impact of these buildings - currently, not in the 1990s – on Dublin city centre in terms of their dissuading of middle and high income earners from living in the centre in favour of shared houses in suburban villages.
Then we come to the more recent stock, which are still bafflingly small in size. Even developments like the brand new ‘Rathmines Square’ features insanely small apartments, where two-beds have a galley kitchen, a living room that can barely host a sofa and a coffee table, and ‘double bedrooms’ that contain just that – a double bed. Forget anything else. As for the concept of actually having ‘rooms’ in your apartment, such as a living room separate to your kitchen, a study or a utility room – bejaysus, you’re gettin’ ahead of yourself there now with those notions! Sure dem rooms only come in a proper house! And when you do encounter a self contained living room, it’s usually a penthouse or ‘luxury’ art of living abode lol. It’s actually hilarious when you put the depression momentarily back in its box. As Paul Kearns has insightfully highlighted in his Redrawing Dublin, apartment standards did not improve in the latter boom years – only marketing and ‘luxury finishes’ were notched up. Italian countertops and German sanitaryware came our way, but if you want somewhere to dry your clothes, well that’s what service attends to in the east wing isn’t it?
One would be interested to know how many architects who designed these ‘redefining Dublin standards’ places actually ever lived in them. You can bet your bottom dollar they wouldn't live there if you paid them.
Then you come to regions of the city. If you want Dublin 1, you can settle for a Georgian tenement, a Zoe box, or an overpriced IFSC affair; Dublin 2, er, anything, anyone...?; Dublin 3, suburban houses or shocking 1980s Legoland; Dublin 4, hand over your cheque book; Dublin 5, a shared suburban house of dubious standards; Dublin 6, are you nuts?; Dublin 7, doesn't 'do' apartments; Dublin 8, finally a few dashes of quality in a sea of dross; Dublin 9, you're even more nuts than Dublin 6 with that bus service, never even mind the quality of accommodation.
Simply put, Dublin is a city where affordability encompasses magnolia boxes that have the audacity to call themselves apartments or shared inner urban and suburban houses of usually suspect quality. If you want decent standards in apartment living, assuming you can find them, you pay through the nose for a percieved 'luxury'.