Just 23, James O’Connor is the youngest TD in Leinster House and regarded as a rising star in Fianna Fáil, but he does not hold back when it comes to housing, and house prices.
The Youghal-based TD is unable even to consider buying a one-bedroomed property in Dublin for the nights spent away from his Cork East constituency.
“I think it says an awful lot when a member of the Oireachtas can’t afford to purchase a one-bed property in Dublin city centre. It is very reflective of just how dire the situation has become,” he says.
The decision to close construction during the Covid-19 lockdown was a mistake, he believes, since it has led to a dramatic fall in the numbers of houses built this year.
“If we don’t tackle it, everybody knows what the consequences are going to be. The consequences will be that the public at the next general election vote us out of office.
“Property prices in Ireland are going to rocket over the next three years,” he says, adding that auctioneers “are telling me the situation has now spun out of control and they were never busier”.
“It is hitting every community in every area. I am asking myself the question as a single person, is it an achievable goal the same as it would have been for my parents?”
He lives at home with his parents, and is trying to save. “It is a long drive. There are nights I come home at two or three in the morning, it is no joke. You’d be flat-out wrecked, but I love what I do.
“I would aspire to my own home and to have a mortgage before the age of 30 but at the moment I would be of the opinion that it looks incredibly difficult to go and do that.”
Even hopes of a one-bedroom apartment in Dublin for Dáil duties are ruled out. “I have been trying to, and it is just not possible and we are seen by the public as being in well-paid positions.
The cost of building has gone up dramatically for every little thing. It is increasing all the time
“The same could be said of people who are working in banking, insurance and many other large industries. A lot of them now are being locked out of the market. In its place you have cash buyers with huge sums of money.”
Sinn Féin intends to channel public anger on the issue, but, in the meantime, house prices are affecting some of their deputies just like in the rest of society.
Roscommon-Galway TD Claire Kerrane is one of them, with the 29-year-old living at home with her parents in Tibohine in West Roscommon while she saves to build a house locally.
“I have an awful lot of saving to do. The cost of building has gone up dramatically for every little thing. It is increasing all the time. If I can get planning permission, that will hold for five years.
“My plan is to get the permission this year and then keep saving and hopefully get to a point where I can start the build and maybe do it bit by bit rather than have a massive mortgage that I will be paying off for the rest of my days.”
Between 2016 and 2020 she lived in three different rental properties, and faced rent increases when she worked as a parliamentary assistant for the party in Leinster House.
I am not even looking for anything fancy and big, I am looking in my own community
“I had three different rentals in under four years. The rents went up and up in all three. In the first two the landlord was selling and then I would have been paying around €900 a month in my last place.”
In the Seanad, Independent Senator Lynn Ruane has just been outbid for a property for the first time, as she tries to find a home. Her ideal location is in Killinarden, Tallaght, where she lives with her mother and children.
“I am not even looking for anything fancy and big, I am looking in my own community. I put a bid on a house the other day and it shot up €15k, I can’t compete with that,” says the 36-year-old.
If she cannot buy a home, she will consider adding an extension onto her mother’s house. “I haven’t been worn out by it yet. I don’t know if in every situation I will be outbid. Plan B is the extension.”