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“I feel like buying a home was exciting in my parents’ era, but now it is just manic”

By July 24, 2021July 26th, 2021No Comments

Sasha Hamrogue on renting with a young family. 

I have found it increasingly more difficult to dream about the future. As a long time renter living in Ireland, fantasies about a home for my family, security for my children and an area to set down roots feel just out of reach as headlines hamper our hopes daily. Feet now firmly planted in the cold reality of the current housing crisis, simple dreams of buying a modest home for my family in the city I’ve called home for decades are evaporating.


It’s made me wonder if safety and security allow one to fantasise freely. Do worry and fear steal the energy it takes one to daydream? Hopes of sunny afternoons in the back garden or the twinkle of Christmas lights on the tree feel impossible without feeling the safety of a secure roof over your head. Despite our privilege, I have a successful career that allows us to pay high Dublin rents and my husband works as a stay at home parent, we feel stuck. We still cannot afford to buy a home here, or anywhere in our city for that matter. Saving while paying astronomical rent is an almost impossible task. 

Six years ago, before we had children, my husband and I moved to Stoneybatter, an area and community that we call home. We were happy to rent with homeownership something we didn’t give much thought to. But in those six years, our rent has increased by 58% and we’ve moved house three times. Our last move came after our then landlord refused to fix our heating for an entire year. We now live in fear of the owner of our home deciding to sell, giving us mere months to pack up and start again.

As the years have passed my enthusiasm for making a home in these houses has waned, suitcases at the ready under the bed just in case. As a parent, the urgency changes. No longer as concerned with our own needs, the obligation to provide a place for our children to make memories and set down roots feels immensely important. And in the current climate, just out of our reach.  

Speaking about the impact of the current housing market on families, Dr Susan Donnelly, a sociologist with the Centre for Effective Services, a non-profit that works to reform public services in Ireland says, “Safe, affordable housing is about security. When you take away security, you produce a sense of powerlessness. This lack of security – or precariousness – is a feature of living in rented housing in Ireland. Fundamentally the impact for the individual is a loss of control and a loss of self-determination.” As part of this piece, I spoke to a range of people about that sense of powerlessness as they navigate living in Ireland right now.

Comedian Jen Hatton and her partner have felt that loss of control after making the tough decision to live separately since 2019. The couple, who have a son and two dogs, decided to live apart with different family members to save for a home. Despite their sacrifices, that dream is just out of their grasp, “With us living apart with no end in sight, what seems like a reasonable thing to want (my family under the one roof), Ireland and the people in charge have made it seem like a fantasy and a dream, something to have to jump through hoops for.” 

Hatton says she still hopes to own a home one day, but it is mixed with the painful realities of the current landscape, “I live for the day we get those keys, I just don’t know how long it will take…..or how much more I can take. As a parent, I feel irresponsible. I know we’ve progressed as a society and it’s more normal these days for grandchildren to live with their parents and grandparents, but ideally, I would have liked to have settled in our own house and have that security before he came along.” I echo Jen’s worry about being an irresponsible parent, living with regret for not having not looked to buy before my kids were born. 

Allison, who is originally from California and lives in Dublin with her daughter and husband, was happy renting before becoming a parent, but says that all changed after her child was born, “Owning has become a goal since having a child in Dublin. It was not always this way. But I can see that it would alleviate the stress and anxiety of renting. It would provide us with security in a sense. I also have to change my idea of a dream home. What I had as a child might not be achievable as an adult and that can be difficult to come to grips with. I worry that I will not be able to provide everything I want for my daughter.” 

My parents, Irish immigrants who went to America for a better future, were able to provide a wonderful home for my sister and me growing up. A four-bedroom house in Queens, New York with a yard, which at the time was attainable. Like Allison, I have also grappled with not being able to provide the same for my children. A recent study by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ERSI) found that the combination of high housing costs and stagnant wages are leaving young people in our country financially worse off than their parents. Dr Susan Donelly speaks to the report saying, “In terms of the future for our children, evidence suggests that if trends continue, they will have a lower standard of living as adults than their parents. It’s a dark prediction and one that has to be considered in the context of a shifting economic landscape prone to boom and bust. The ESRI report that millennials in Ireland will be the first generation to experience a lower standard of living than the previous generation. The collapse of homeownership for young people is part of that picture.” 

Thomas Crosse, who rents and works in Dublin, went seeking mortgage approval but was advised that might he want to change his romantic status, “I brought in all the docs needed and said what I would like… I was told maybe I should consider dating someone as I’d have a better chance of the home I wanted. It made me feel so shit that not only am I lonely for being alone but now I’m also not able to have a home because I am on my own.” According to the Central Statistics Office, the average salary in Ireland in 2020 was €49,000 a year, which makes it very difficult for many single people to become homeowners. 

Many who are ready to buy are facing unprecedented bidding wars, like 30 year old Clodagh and her partner Mark, who say, “It’s heartbreaking. It’s one of the most stressful and difficult things we have done. I feel like buying a home was exciting in my parents’ era, but now it is just manic. Recently we looked at another house that we liked and just decided we couldn’t go through it again. The worst part is that we are bidding up to €80/€90k over the asking price on these houses, there is no point even considering that a home will go for what it is advertised at.” 

My husband and I have saved our deposit and kept our accounts in order, but despite following all the “rules,” we are unlikely able to compete with the current bidding wars. Like so many other young families we remain at the mercy of landlords as we try to pave our path to homeowners. The stakes are so much higher and the hoops seemingly endless. It has made me wonder about the rules and who is setting them. Like many parts of our infrastructure, a rigid system and process designed for the nuclear family of eras gone by. Who do we deem deserving of the dignity of a home? Are we all not worthy of a safe place to call our own?