‘We can’t afford a house; we may as well have our avocado toast’
We have more ‘stuff’ than our parents’, but owning a home is completely out of reach
For the average couple, (the plight of individuals is even bleaker) to have any chance of securing a home of their own, they need not only secure, well-paying jobs, but a substantial sum of money in the bank. Illustration: iStock
Though it is generally good to evaluate your life from time to time, certain events will spur a fresh dose of evaluation. It is as though the light changes, and you take a step back, only to realise that you have been peering a little too keenly at the small details of the painting. From your new position, with a little more perspective, things look quite different – there is far more going on than you have been paying attention to.
I had one of these recently, and came to the sad conclusion that ripples through my generation – I don’t know if I will ever own a home. Now, this isn’t revelatory information. In fact, it is the context of our times, particularly for anyone in their late 20s or 30, living in Dublin, not that other parts of the country are at all immune. Rather, this was the first time my partner and I sat down together in the little sitting room of our rented home, did the maths and talked about whether it might be possible in a few years, or in the foreseeable future. The answer we came to, unequivocally, was no.
That “no” is difficult to navigate for a number of reasons. Putting down his pen gently, Jules, hunched a little on the couch, pointed out that we both come from working-class backgrounds and have, to a large extent, fulfilled our mothers’ aspirations for our security. Both of us attended university to postgraduate level. We have technically become middle class, and yet our parents were able to buy homes in their 20s. We both have nice (though old) laptops for work, and yes, I am prodigiously fond of avocado toast. We have more “stuff” than our parents’ generation, but the prospect of owning a home is completely out of reach.
The distressing reality, however, is that even if I and most of my generation went without all the “stuff”, we still would not be able to afford a home of our own. We are not without property because we can’t stop buying avocado toast – we salve the open wound of our inability to afford a home with slices of avocado toast, because if you can’t have financial security, you might as well have something nutritious to eat.
The deck is stacked heavily against first-time buyers. For the average couple, (the plight of individuals is even bleaker) to have any chance of securing a home of their own, they need not only secure, well-paying jobs, but a substantial sum of money in the bank. Since the average Dublin rent is 55 per cent of city dwellers’ take-home pay (our own rent is higher than most friends’ mortgages), saving is impossible.
This makes home ownership feasible only for those who are lucky enough to have wealthy parents to supplement their funds, or those who are unlucky enough to have parents who have died. This is modern Ireland, where your parents must die in order for you to have a home (presuming of course that your parents had property themselves), or your living parents must share their own hard-earned capital with you. This is not to be begrudged; it is no more than most parents would do if they could.
Still, that’s capital those wealthy parents should ideally keep for their wild retirement (without their leeching kids) to spend on speed boats and blow, or whatever they like – it’s their money.
Something is deeply wrong when education, hard work and budgeting are not sufficient – even eventually – to secure young Irish people a loan to buy their own home. Renting is fine, except of course that disastrous Government decisions have created a crippled market, where the rent you pay is completely unrelated to the value (by any reasonable metric) of where you live.
An inability to personalise the space you live in, to put a picture on the wall without permission, to plant things in a patch of ground – if you are lucky enough to have one – to grant entry only to those of your choosing, is demoralising. Younger people have paid a large chunk of the bill from the poor decisions of the previous generation. We are beginning to realise just how much more we will have to pay.