‘I’ve spent €55,000 in rent’: Millennials share experiences of the property crisis

Trapped generation: Irish Times readers speak of trying to buy a home amid high prices, stagnant wages

Millennials in their 20s and 30s are likely to be the first generation in Ireland to have lower living standards than the previous one, research has found.

Earnings for workers in their 20s have flatlined, meaning they are earning less than people their age did in the 1990s and 2000s, according to the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

We asked Irish Times readers to share their experiences of high rents, stagnating salaries and inability to buy homes.

Here are some more of the hundreds of responses we received.

Some entries have been edited for length.

'I've spent €55,000 in rent in my time in the city.'

I've been living and renting in Dublin since July 2013. When I initially moved I was recently graduated and happy to take a room in a house share with three others as an affordable means of renting.

I stayed in that position for six years before the landlord requested the property back. It was time to regain a bit more privacy and I moved into a two-bed with a friend for a while and then into a two-bed with my partner.

Over the years I’ve gone from paying €430 for a shared house to €1100 for my share of a two-bed. Calculating the rent increases over the years to the best of my memory and putting the sums on a page I estimate (lowballing) that I’ve spent €55,000 in rent in my time in the city.

This could easily have been more had I vacated the shared house earlier but there comes a time in a professional adult life where you need to spend a bit more to stop living like a student. I’m lucky that I have a well-enough paid job which enables me to save money each month in addition to paying rent but it is frustrating that after almost a decade of work and saving what I can that owning a home feels further away now than it ever has done.

'It just seems all hope is lost'

Celbridge, Co Kildare
I'm 36, single and living with my mum! Ten years ago I would have been shocked to think I would be living like this in my mid 30s, but unfortunately this is the reality. On the plus side, I'm not spending all my hard-earned salary on renting and I've managed to save €30,000 in the past 2 and a half years.

I’m on €36,200 gross per year so with my savings, plus 3.5 times my salary I can afford a property of about €155,000, my choices are very limited. I work in Co Dublin and I’ve lived in Celbridge for 20 years. All my friends and family live there so I don’t really want to move too far away. I really don’t know what to do at this point. It just seems all hope is lost.

'I was never able to buy a house even though I have a well-paid job at Microsoft'

Enniscorthy, Co Wexford
I decided to move out to Wexford. Dublin got too expensive for me and I was never able to buy a house even though I have a well-paid job at Microsoft.

I am 32-years-old. I am actively observing the housing market in Co Wexford and even here I see a heavy increase in the housing prices.

It is a difficult and ridiculous situation. Many other potential buyers come in and are cash buyers and drive the house price so high – no chances for me.

'It's a far cry from my parents' generation, who owned a home and were having children by the time they were my age'

I'm 28 and living with my partner and a good friend in north Dublin, both the same age. We pay €2,000 in rent between us – and I consider us lucky even at that amount. I spend my idle moments doing mortgage calculations and wondering what will be enough.

Up until recently, I thought I might be in a position to start looking to buy when I hit 30...with the way prices are going, I might be 35 and still not have a deposit that’s large enough. It’s a far cry from my parents’ generation, those who owned a home and were having children by the time they were my age. They cannot expect the same from us with things as they are. I wish there was more empathy from that generation.

I just want somewhere I can paint the walls the colour I want instead of greige, where I can hang up a picture frame without asking permission, and where I provide a loving home to a cat or dog.

It doesn’t seem like much but with property ownership a distant aspiration, we’re stuck with expensive tenancies with landlords who put blanket bans on the things that make a place a home. I’ve no plans to leave the country, but I grow ever frustrated with the Government that have led us into this mess.

'We plough on and hope to win the lotto.'

Co Offaly
I am 36, single and living at home with the parents. Feel lucky to have that in my life of course, but having your own space to make a home out of it is what I want and what we all want. At this stage I tend to resign myself to the fact that I likely will be living at home forever.

As a singleton to even attempt to enter a bank looking for a mortgage is unimaginable with the salary that I’m on. My grandkids, if I have any, would likely still be paying the mortgage by that stage.

Also going from a permanent full-time job (part-time due to Covid and going on the Covid payment) to then entering another full-time job but this is only a one-year contract job with no guarantee that I will be kept on after it.

Honestly you feel like you are being hit badly from every angle. It’s a constant worry and being unable to have that control over your own future. People talk about mental health and I have an emotional dump truck of emotions to unload but, we plough on and hope to win the lotto.

'I and my peers just want to get out of Ireland and emigrate somewhere that will give us the life we deserve'

All my life myself and my peers have been told that we were destined for a great life and that we would be the first generation that stopped the trend of emigration. That seemed to be true, and then the 2008 recession happened, which dashed our hopes but sure, the economy would recover. As we all know it did not.

All of my friends after college have emigrated or are on the verge of leaving as wages are low, the job market is highly competitive and buying a house and setting up your own roots is downright impossible unless you have the privilege of being able to live at home until you’re 30 to save the deposit.

It’s demoralising seeing this, and the report simply confirmed what we already knew. Seeing the Government do nothing but fill their own pockets instils no hope, and instead I and my peers just want to get out of Ireland and emigrate somewhere that will give us the life we deserve. It’s a disgrace that we have to do this.

'We don't have children. We don't have a car. We don't go on holidays.'

Co Cork
I'm 38. I moved back to Ireland with my wife a few years ago after several years living and working in the UK. We're both working but took significant cuts to our wages when we made the move.

My wife is working two part-time jobs (five days in total), one of which is a temporary contract meaning we can’t get a mortgage. We’re paying through the roof for an apartment in a building that has endless problems, which has been particularly stressful during Covid. Are there no regulators to check the integrity of properties being rented?

We don’t have children. We don’t have a car. We don’t go on holidays. We save what we can. We can’t afford much else. I would have thought being able to afford a home was a basic human right. I know of many people who feel powerless and robbed of their dignity. It’s frustrating and I’m extremely angry.

'We have secure jobs and earn €75,000 combined. This used to be a good combined wage'

I am 38, my husband and I have not lived in our own place since 2010. The recession destroyed my husband's hopes of a sole-trade business and we had one minimum wage to survive on. We put in the hard years of moving from room to room, no holidays, one car, no dining out, scrimping and saving, which we are still doing by the way.

We now both have secure jobs and earn €75,000 combined. This used to be a good combined wage. I can’t imagine how people on actual minimum wage have any hopes of a future!

We have been actively trying to buy an old bungalow in the farther reaches of the commuter belt for under €275,000 and it’s impossible for nearly three years!

The only properties we are in the running for have underlying planning issues which a bank will not allow to secure a mortgage, even if we opted to sort these issues after purchasing.

Furthermore, each time we reapply for a mortgage the bank downgrades the lending amount (Covid). €210,000 was the last mortgage approval amount. What could you buy for that, even with significant savings?

My husband is in his 40s, we want to have children. We have already waited years. We have no space for children or security and it is unlikely to happen for us now.

'We'd love to start a family of our own but unless we're willing to house share with more people, there are no options.'

I graduated from college in 2008, just as the recession hit. I could only find work through internships, sometimes unpaid, for about two years and lived in shared accommodation (a house riddled with damp in Drumcondra) using savings I'd built up in the credit union over the years to pay rent and bills.

Through sheer luck I found a job in Eindhoven in 2011, working as a graphic designer. I moved into an affordable apartment in the city with access to public transport, plenty of green space and cultural amenities.

I moved back to Dublin in 2018 when my father passed away and stayed to look after my family. I found a job here but the salary is much lower than what I was paid in the Netherlands.

My Dutch partner moved here with me and we’re both renting, currently paying €2,200 per month for a tiny apartment with very little natural daylight. We don’t have the same quality of life that we enjoyed in the Netherlands and we often talk about returning, though I’m reluctant to leave my family again.

We’d love to start a family of our own but we couldn’t raise a child in this apartment. We tried to look for more affordable rental accommodation but unless we’re willing to house share with more people, there are no options.

Home ownership feels like a pipe dream. We both feel really hopeless at the moment. I wake up in the middle of the night feeling trapped and completely overwhelmed, worried that the opportunity for me to have a child will pass but I’ll still be stuck renting this dark and overpriced apartment with rising rent and no way out.