The political economy of the ‘residential rent relation’:

Antagonism and tenant organising in the Irish rental sector

Michael Byrne

Published in Issue 1.2 // The Long Read

Keywords: private rental sector, political economy, tenant organising, housing


Homeownership is in decline in numerous countries, including the UK, USA, Spain and Ireland. So-called ‘generation rent’ is experiencing many of the issues associated with the ‘housing question’ as it was posed in the early twentieth century: exorbitant rents, frequent evictions and poor-quality accommodation. In response, tenants’ organisations have sprung up from Edinburgh to Madrid. This article seeks to contribute to understanding the politics of this transformation. It does so by, first, developing a theoretical approach to the political economy of what I will call the ‘residential rent relation’, i.e. the antagonism between the accumulation of capital/wealth and social reproduction which is inherent in the landlord-tenant relationship. Second, it sets out the particular forms of accumulation that characterize Ireland’s post-crisis housing system, which centre on the growth of the private rental sector. Third, it explores how these different forms of accumulation give rise to distinct forms of antagonism and resistance by discussing some of the tenant organising and activism that has arisen in Dublin over recent years.

Michael Byrne is a lecturer in political economy at the School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice, University College Dublin

Download PDF

See article reference