More than a year ago, when Daughter No 1 and the Boyfriend were living with us, I had a system for searching for places on Daft.ie: I’d keep refreshing the website page, and whenever a new property popped up, I’d put in an application.
I had to be quick. Other people were obviously doing the same thing. If the property had 10 page views or fewer, there was a chance Daughter No 1 would get to see it in the real world; any more than that was too far down the queue.
And I’d marvel at how quickly the page view numbers would rack up. Within hours, there would be hundreds. Within days, it could be 2,000 or 3,000.
I’ve had reason to revisit Daft. It’s not particularly scientific, but it was interesting – and appalling – to see how the page view numbers have increased. One apartment in Dublin had been viewed online more than 35,000 times. That’s tens of thousands of people hoping against hope that they might get to live there.
[ Kathy Sheridan: Truth the first casualty in a housing crisis ]
There are – as we all know – far fewer properties now. The rents being asked have steadily increased, and such is the competitive, Hunger Games nature of searching for a home, I’m sure many have simply given up.
I looked at Daft just to get a sense of how desperate things are. Because Daughter No 1, the boyfriend and Granddaughter No 1 are back. The apartment they had was fine – just about – for a couple, but impossible with a baby. Your modern baby comes with a lot of equipment and it soon took up every centimetre of available space. There’s a lot of laundry too. On the first weekend back with us, Herself counted that the washing machine was used nine times in a 24-hour period.
We’ve all had to readjust to the new situation and occasionally it’s been a wee bit tense. But mostly there’s been a sense of heartbreak. They have to deal with the sleeplessness that comes with having a baby, they have to make a living and they have to somehow figure a way out of an impossible predicament. What we all know, but avoid saying, is that it won’t take six months this time. It might take years.
We are far from unique. Tens of thousands of Irish homes now house more than one family, because one of those families can’t find somewhere to live. And compared with families depending on the State, they are lucky.
[ It may ‘take decades’ to fix housing delivery ]
We call this the housing crisis, but in its practical expression, it’s analogous to an internal refugee problem with thousands of people forced to seek shelter wherever they can. (And please: don’t get triggered by the R-word. If there were no refugees in the morning, no family in Ireland would suggest to their kids, or grandkids, that they move into a hotel or direct provision.)
Most tragic of all is that this is a stable-door-horse situation, and it will take years to fix. And a willingness to break out of politically boxed thinking. The recent row over the eviction ban was essentially about politicians speculating about what theoretical landlords would do in a theoretical situation: not what they knew would happen. It was guesswork. What we know is that more people will be housed when there is more housing. Simple as.
Most politicians join parties with an oven-ready set of beliefs from which they seem chronically unable to deviate. The market will solve all problems, or the State will solve all problems: but neither of those assertions are true in all situations. Sometimes, the lefties have to accept that the most pragmatic solution is a bit of capitalism; sometimes those on the centre-right might have to accept that statism is the way forward. To do that doesn’t undermine all their other beliefs.
We have the timber, the bricks and cement ready to go. What’s lacking is imagination.