‘I’m 28 and live in a campervan’: Readers on their experiences of low wages and the property crisis

Updated: Millennials living with parents, house sharing and contemplating emigration to keep heads above water

Earnings for workers in their 20s have flat-lined which, in real terms, means they are earning less than they did in the 1990s and 2000s, according to the ESRI. Graphic: The Irish Times

Earnings for workers in their 20s have flat-lined which, in real terms, means they are earning less than they did in the 1990s and 2000s, according to the ESRI. Graphic: The Irish Times

 

In the wake of an ESRI report that found people in their 20s and 30s living in Ireland are likely to be the first generation with lower living standards than their parents, we asked Irish Times readers to share their experiences of high rents, stagnating salaries and their inability to buy a home.

Here are some of the hundreds of responses we received.

Some entries have been edited for length.

CONNI DAWSON
Ennis

I’m 28 years old and live in a converted campervan.

After I split with my boyfriend I couldn’t afford rent in Cork city anymore and after sleeping in a friend’s spare room for eight months I decided to get out of the city.

My plan was to move to Northern Ireland but Covid hit and I got stuck in Co Clare for nearly a year. I was a musician before this and now all the work has dried up so I’m going back to university to study landscape architecture. There’s no way I could pay rent in Dublin so I’ve decided to convert a van and live in it, rather than dig myself into a debt hole. It’s not ideal but it feels better than the alternatives.

My three grown brothers all still live at home and none of us expect to own a house in our lifetimes.

‘We are getting into dogfights with other bidders over small three-beds’
DAVID GUNNING

Dublin

My partner and I (29 and 32) are healthcare professionals, a physiotherapist and a pharmacist, living in Dublin. We have been paying in excess of €800 per month each on rent for the previous six years while also saving to buy a house.

We recently acquired our approval in principle having saved a very sizeable deposit and the lack of supply and poor quality of housing is disheartening. We are getting into dogfights with other bidders over small three-beds that need tens of thousands of euros worth of work (and we would probably be considered in a good position in a normal market – I can’t imagine how it must be for others earning less).

With stories of vulture funds and investment firms having the ability to buy up almost entire housing developments, how are people who should be in good positions to buy houses supposed to compete in this market? We have done everything right to work towards buying a house and it all seems for nothing. We have always been ones to vote for this government but this latest disastrous housing policy would turn us against them and I’m sure there would be many more in our position who would feel the same.

We feel that unless there is urgent action on creating supply and clamping down on these investment firms this situation will not be fixed for decades and our generation will continue to struggle.

‘I am miserable and ashamed that at my age I live in a share...’
LARA B

Limerick

I am 35. I live in a flat share with two working professionals. The rent is reasonable but obviously I would rather have my own place. A house share isn’t easy. You don’t have privacy after a long day of work. I spend most of my time in my room, it’s not ideal. I refuse to rent my own place as more than half my salary would be paying for someone else’s mortgage.

My partner lives in another county, at home with his folks. We simply don’t meet the criteria to afford a house together right now.

I am miserable and ashamed that at my age I live in a share... I thought I’d be in my own home with kids at this stage. I can’t have kids right now because I have no place to raise them. I work hard and I have a good job.

‘I am sick of seeing young single parents get houses off the social welfare and I’m saving every penny I can’
SHAUNA DOYLE

Dublin

I’m 28 years old. Still living at home with my parents and sharing a room with my 25-year-old sister. We both have boyfriends. I work full time as a store manager. I have been saving a deposit for a few years now but I’m having to start accepting the fact that I will probably never be able to live near my parents. All my friends have had to buy outside of Dublin because there’s nothing available/affordable where we actually want to live. I am sick of seeing young single parents get houses off the social welfare and I’m saving every penny I can.

‘Currently considering emigrating at 43… it’s depressing’
BRENDAN O’NEILL

Dublin

Have been trying to buy a place for 20 years, during the Celtic tiger was on very low wages and the max I could borrow was €70,000. Over the last 15 years I have saved €50,000 and now earn €44,000.

I have been in house shares for 20 years. And although I have been lucky, I’m still tip-toeing around mood swings and the various personal issues other housemates experience . Living in covid was a nightmare... sharing toilet facilities and avoiding people in the same building. I can not go on in shared accommodation, my relationship can’t move forwards, we cannot find anywhere to rent.

Currently considering emigrating at 43… it’s depressing, and then we will fall down the imaginary pecking order of these schemes the government keep talking about, if they ever materialise... at such a low point now. Genuine bouts of anxiety for the future, never experienced these before.

‘What a strange country we live in where I can afford a mortgage but I can’t afford to rent’
PAUL CASSIDY

Dublin 24

I am 37 and my wife is 37. We have two kids and we are living in my wife’s nanny’s house in Dundrum which we could never afford to buy. She passed away and we were given the opportunity to save for a deposit. We now have the deposit and we can’t find a home in Tallaght or surrounding areas to purchase. We even have been looking as far as Newbridge. My wife has worked in A&E for 17 years and I’m working also. The house we are in is currently sale agreed so we have months left. We will end up homeless because the rent is on average €2200 per month and we cannot afford that. Our mortgage would be about €1100. So stressed what to do next.

What a strange country we live in where I can afford a mortgage but I can’t afford to rent. Our mental health is destroyed with this and even though we try to keep it away from the kids they will always pick up on the energy of the parents. Two parents who worked all their lives and can’t provide a home for their children. I’ve a constant pain in my stomach about this.

‘My experience of renting in Dublin includes a shared bedroom in a house of seven – plus mice’
SHIRLEY

Dublin

At 24, I’m lucky to have a job with good career prospects based in Dublin. However, I know I have no hope of ever being able to purchase a house in our capital city. With current mortgage rules, home ownership in Dublin and other major cities is simply out of reach. We are being crushed by spiralling rent costs and a housing market that puts million euro price tags on four-bedroom semis in the suburbs.

My experience of renting in Dublin includes a shared bedroom in a house of seven, plus mice (who didn’t pay rent), for €500 a month and my own double bedroom and a two hour plus commute from the city centre for €700 a month. Are my generation entitled and a little too fond of avocado toast? Or have we been let down by a broken system which prioritises investors over individuals? I think the answer is pretty clear in these stories.

‘I’m 33 and considering emigrating... again!’
MARGARET KILCOYNE

Sligo

I have been trying to get on the property ladder but to no avail. Renting almost 15 years. Where I live is more then unsuitable but I can’t move as I cannot afford to pay higher rents. It’s a disaster. I’m 33 and considering emigrating... again!

‘I’m a two-time college graduate still living with my parents in south Dublin’
AISLING BRENNAN

Dublin 18

I’m a two-time college graduate still living with my parents in south Dublin. I’m working three jobs, two minimum wage, and have accepted that it will never be “worth” the cost of moving out, even renting, unless I can get a decent job outside of Dublin, or abroad.

In 26 years I have never lived outside of my family home and honestly the idea of home ownership at any point in the next 30 years seems almost laughable, especially in Ireland.

I’m considering going abroad to do a second masters as I have been unable to find work in the fields I already have degrees in, and I’m afraid that once I do that I will find it even more difficult to move back here, and will end up abroad indefinitely or just moving back in with my parents with no progress and used up savings.

‘We have put off having a child as we want the security of a permanent home... but we can’t buy
SUSAN COFFEY
Ireland

Having moved out of the family home, over 10 years ago at the age of 20, I was expecting student-style accommodation and I was excited to live with my friends. I didn’t think that I would be stuck with those conditions for a decade with no hope of ever owning a place to call my own.

For the majority of the last 10 years my rent has ranged from €800–€1500 per month to currently €2400, the “lower” rents came at the cost of damp, mouldy and downright dangerous accommodations, at one point sharing with seven other people (in a house with one toilet)!

I am now 31, recently married, and my husband and I have decided to treat ourselves by renting a place by ourselves , with a bedroom that has a working radiator (my first in 10 years) at the cost of €2,400 a month. An eye-wateringly high price, but once we pay every month, while meeting our other financial obligations, it’s tight but we manage.

We have put off having a child as we want the security of a permanent home for our future child, we have had the full deposit plus associated fees for purchasing a home in our account for years, but we can’t buy in Cavan when our jobs are in Dublin.

We have sacrificed so much in the hope of purchasing a home, but here we are with no idea where we will live next year once this lease ends. The effect this has on my mental health is immeasurable, we have began to look at our options in terms of emigrating as beyond feeling totally hopeless in our endeavour to ever own a home, I feel so let down by successive governments who have allowed this situation to worsen year on year.

‘Life, for us, is on hold.’
MARTA C

Dublin, Ireland

I’m a 30-year-old Dublin native who was brought up to expect it all during the Celtic Tiger.

After I graduated in 2012, the lack of opportunities and prospects – even with a sought-after degree – and the loss of everything I had come to expect in life, sent me into a period of anxiety and poor mental health, something I shared with many of my peers.

After returning from London two years ago, my boyfriend and I were “lucky enough” to be able to build a log cabin in my parents’ back garden.

Although I have a steady, permanent job, my boyfriend is an actor and work is never certain.

I don’t know when we will ever be able to get a mortgage, move out and start a family of our own. We are quite alternative and open to different kinds of lifestyles yet even with that, the prospect of us being independent in the next five years is pretty bleak. Most of my friends, including fully qualified psychologists and others with “good jobs” are in the same position. Life, for us, is on hold.

‘Am I not entitled to a fair crack at owning a home?’
EOGHAN B

Ireland

I work in tech, 30 years old, single and earning what I consider a good salary (over €50,000 a year). I’ve been renting in Dublin the last eight years and I’ve about €80,000 in savings. I’d need double that to even have a chance of buying in Dublin at present. I haven’t a rich daddy or a sizeable inheritance to call upon to bridge that gap. In the meantime I’ve to deal with greedy miserable landlords. If rent is a day late there are phone calls and threatening emails. I’m also a member of the Defence Forces Reserve, and I’ve put myself on the line testing for Covid-19. Am I not entitled to a fair crack at owning a home? I know of plenty of countries which will welcome my skills, and my two degrees paid for in part by the Irish Government, if that’s not the case.

‘Prospects of buying a house are bleak’
CIAN DALTON

Cork

After 10 years in the Defence Forces and renting, I resigned with essentially nothing. Back living with parents now, prospects of buying a house are bleak.

‘I’m tired, I’m hopeless, and I just can’t see a future right now.’
THOMAS O’BRIEN

Dublin

Looking at housing leaves me feeling completely hopeless about my future. I’m a 25-year-old college graduate, living at home with my parents, still sharing a room with my other adult siblings, and working full-time for minimum wage.

Me and my siblings would love to move out of the overcrowded family home and gain some independence, or even just have our own room for once, but with rents as high as they are, and being on minimum wage, this is completely impossible. My monthly wage wouldn’t even cover the rent, let alone basic necessities.

I did think of going back to college to do a master’s degree at the start of the pandemic to hopefully get a better-paying job, but the fact that lectures would have been online all day excluded me as I have no personal space to take them.

Lawyers, software engineers, people that work well-paying jobs are stuck in the exact same situation, so why should I abandon my job and everything I’ve built there, when I know that it won’t make a difference in the end?

Nothing the Government has announced feels like it’ll make any difference to me.

A €500,000 cap on prices in Dublin is pretty useless to people that can’t even afford the current prices of €350,000. Rents are still going up, and wages are staying the same. There’s nothing there that will make any difference. I’m tired, I’m hopeless, and I just can’t see a future right now.

‘I earn more then the average Irish income and considerably more then the median... I’ve had doors shut on me by multiple banks’
RORY WEST

Ireland

I work as an engineer in medical devices and pharmaceuticals, a career path and industry I thought would set me up well as a prospective homeowner.

I value my independence and want to own my home as a single individual and have what I thought were realistic expectations of buying an apartment in north Dublin.

Over the last few months I’ve had doors shut on me by multiple banks and mortgage advisors, all reluctant to give me any hard information other then “you need to earn more money if you want to qualify for an exception to the mortgage lending cap” and considering the cost of apartments and saving on a single income while paying rent, the exception is the only path towards home ownership for me in Dublin.

I earn more then the average Irish income and considerably more then the median, but due to the rising cost of homes relative to salaries, the lack of availability of apartments to buy for individuals and the complete disregard for single prospective buyers by our Government and banks, I have lost all hope of home ownership.

I feel my Government is more concerned with my love life than my friends and family, and has a stronger desire for me to “couple up” with someone then I ever had. The ignorance towards people like me who value their independence but also want to seek security and pride of place through home ownership, is astonishing. The traditional life path of grow up, meet your partner, get married, buy a three-bed semi d and pop out three kids does not apply to everyone, yet it seems to be the only demographic ever considered during this crisis.

‘I have twice been outbid by investment funds buying in cash’
GRACE LINEHAN

Dublin

I earn more than the average person my age, but at 30 years old I struggle to find an apartment on a single wage. I have twice been outbid by investment funds buying in cash with the aim of renting out to HAP recipients, even after two weeks of bidding €25,000 higher than asking. The irony is that the Government’s solution will be to give out up to €30,000 of taxpayer money in grants to first-time buyers on the help-to-buy scheme, and give out HAP payments to low-income people to rent private houses. Ultimately it’s all coming out of the taxpayer’s pocket and going straight into the investor’s bank account, and driving up the cost of housing in the process.

‘We are too poor for a mortgage and too “rich” for social housing’
GILLIAN COLLINS

Bray, Co Wicklow

My partner and I are working full-time, in permanent jobs not affected by the pandemic. We have one son. We are currently renting a small two-bed apartment for €1250 a month. We would love to buy a house but are unable to get a mortgage as we are finding it difficult to save for deposit as we are paying high rent and after bills, food, childcare, etc, we do not have much left over . We want to stay in Bray as my family is here and can help with childcare and our social life is here and our jobs are close by. We have looked at mortgage calculators on bank websites but the amounts were all too low to buy a house in Bray or even an apartment. Yet all the calculations show mortgage repayments of €800 or €900, which is lower than what we are paying in rent. We can’t apply for help to buy as there are no new builds within budget near us. We are too poor for a mortgage to buy in our desired area and too “rich” for social housing. We are stuck renting for the foreseeable future.

‘We are planning to move back to our separate parents’ houses... We are heartbroken at being apart’
FIONA CASSIM

Arklow, Co Wicklow

My husband and I are renting an apartment which is for sale and our home will likely sell. We are planning to move back to our separate parents’ houses and save for a deposit. We cannot afford to rent in Wicklow anymore and we have no ability to save while paying rent. We are heartbroken at being apart and saddened that this is our only option.

‘We feel we are being pushed out of Dublin’
CAL MORAN

Dublin

We are a couple and always wanted to buy a second-hand house in the local area. We have mortgage approval and deposit saved. In last few months, we have been outbid on every property. Prices are increasing beyond our reach, with two-bed terraced houses (usually requiring upgrading and refurbishment) asking €400,000+. Feels so hopeless, and we feel we are being pushed out of Dublin

BARRY CURRAN
London, UK

Being Irish but working in London due to the economic collapse between 2007-2010 and the fallout from that, attempting to move home and purchase a place of my own is next to impossible. I’m viewed as a foreign investor and the hoops I have to jump through leave me deflated. I had to move to the UK to secure employment due to the banking and property collapse and now it is exactly this that is preventing me from moving home. This along with the mass accumulation of properties from venture funds means there is less stock of properties which in turn drives the demand up and the price.

‘I’m a single parent... A mortgage is not on the cards.’
SORACHA NI DHONNCHADHA

Galway City

I’m a single parent of two boys. I’ve worked all my life. Working full time I still get welfare benefits as my wage falls below social standards. I receive HAP [Housing Assistance Payment] to help pay rent, which means I am deemed housed and would not be entitled to social/council housing. I moved from my hometown to a cheaper rent catchment. I get an allowance to help with school costs and to heat my home.

If I had a partner, my situation working full-time and with same income (x2), we would then lose the allowances and be in the same predicament unable to pay for heat and probably not being able to afford even going to work. This system sucks.

I love working. But at 39 years of age I’m still in the same hole, even though I’ve worked all my life. I have learned how to be frugal. But we survive and try to salvage our mental health under it all. Even if I had no children I would not be able to have my own home. A mortgage is not on the cards.

‘In any place that is applicable to me or my wife, there are 20 houses available total, according to the agent... 20 available in all of Dublin county for how many potential first-time buyers?’
SHANE FAGAN

Dublin, Ireland

I’m 32, currently an engineering manager at a robotics company based in Dublin. My current rent is around €1,700 a month and it’s for a two-bed.

I maybe am not in the majority of first-time buyers right now in that I have been fairly successful in getting higher wages over time but I have an issue finding a mortgage and a house.

My wife and I are on around €150,000 a year jointly, but my wife was laid off from her job and ended up switching. The broker tried every bank in the country and only gave us half of her wage towards the mortgage after six months of employment at her new job. So while under central bank rules say we should be clear up to €550,000 (we aren’t looking that high) we got approval for €370,000.

We tried looking for a house and there are currently no new houses while HTB [Help to Buy] is only available for houses built in the last five years.

We have around €20,000 saved so far but in any place that is applicable to me or my wife, there are 20 houses available total, according to a phone call I had with the agent today. Twenty houses available in all of Dublin county for how many potential first-time buyers?

Buying right now you are buying at the very top price of the market.

If, under the new measures from the Government they really do address the supply issues we could end up having a house that isn’t worth the mortgage we are paying for it and immediately going into this with an asset that will fall in value.

‘I just want a chance to live a good life with my own space.’
ANDY BYRNE

Dublin 15, Ireland

I’ve been saving for over three years with my partner to buy our own home. I currently live in an over-crowded council house with my mother, her sister (who needs full-time care) and her daughter.

I love Ireland and always saw my future here. But now I feel like we are being pushed abroad. There is no housing available that we could even begin to afford, and our jobs refuse to give us a raise due to “the uncertainty caused by Covid-19”.

We are looking to move abroad and spend our savings on a home and a new life in the UK. This is the second-last thing I want to do but the thing very last thing I want to do is live at home until my mid-30s. I’ve gone to college, have a decent job with a reputable company but I feel like a loser.

I just want a chance to live a good life with my own space. This country has let me down and all they do is talk, talk, talk – no action. What am I supposed to do?

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