Sunday 30 November 2008

bedsits to be banned

THEY were home to generations of teenage boys and girls when they first came up from the country -- but now the humble bedsit is about to be banned by the nanny state.

From young girls with their first civil service job, to teenage lads fresh into the world of college, they were the first taste of freedom for many. A venue for all-night parties, the bedsit was a unique rite of passage long before the gap year or the posh apartments of Dublin 4.

But now Environment Minister John Gormley is planning to introduce new laws to ban the traditional bedsit, as part of a series of measures which his department believes will improve standards of living for people in the rented accommodation sector.

The new bill will spell the end for the conventional bedsit -- meaning residents from neighbouring bedsits will no longer be allowed to share a communal bathroom.

The four-year run-in programme, to be introduced on February 1, 2009, will also require landlords to improve heat, lighting and fire safety.

But Stephen Faughnan, chairman of the Irish Property Owner's Association (IPOA), says the new legislation will only affect those most in need of affordable accommodation.

"Bedsits are normally positioned in city centres, where they are convenient to the shops for people who have no car and who are usually on the lower income level who want a comfortable, affordable place to live," he said.

"If there are 9,000 of these units housing some 15,000 people, then surely there is a market for them?"

Mr Faughnan described Mr Gormley as living in "Cloud Cuckoo Land" and pointed out the inconsistencies in his proposed legislation.

"Does this mean that when we go into hospital that we get a separate bathroom? Does it also mean some of the people who currently live in these bedsits will get a separate bathroom in their hostel accommodation or on the side of the street when they become homeless, as many of them will?"

Anthony Murtagh, from Rathmines in Dublin, has lived in both self-contained and non self-contained bedsits for the past 11 years.

He says he is "appalled" at the proposed legislation.

"I've never had any difficulties when it comes to sharing a bathroom. I've had to share a communal kitchen in the past, where there might have been a small issue over people taking their neighbour's bread or biscuits, but then the person would leave a small note and write their name on the pack and everything would be sorted," he said.

"I've shared bathrooms with neighbours too and I have never had a problem there. People understood which toothbrush was theirs and there was always a mutual respect there to leave the place clean and tidy. I would get to know the time of morning my neighbours would need to wash and then I'd use the bathroom in the evening when it was quiet."

"If this law is passed it will be absolutely ridiculous. Rathmines is 'bedsit land', as is Phibsborough. Where does the Minister expect everyone to live when these places are being renovated?"

Sunday Independent

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