The realities of renting: ‘We are watching our lives unravel’

‘We are packing to move back to our parents, both in different counties’

 

This morning something was different when I opened my eyes. This morning, I thought “I give up.” The sick feeling in my stomach was worse this morning, so bad that I threw away my untouched cup of tea. I packed up a bit more of our life into boxes, as I do every morning, then I left the house to join the queues of traffic on the N11. The shred of dignity I had yesterday is gone, along with the glimmer of hope.

Now facing my 26th move, I give up. The apartment my husband and I rented so happily for just seven months has been sold, after sitting for three years on the market. We have been given the satisfactory notice period, although we have begged – yes, begged – the new owner to extend the notice period by just two more weeks to give us time to find somewhere else.

My father in law died suddenly last week, and so we pack amid grief and sadness and I keep thinking, where are we packing to go to? There is nowhere to go. Of the 71 properties available to rent in all of Co Wicklow, only two are within our price range, and that’s with both of us working full time. For those two properties, there are at least 20 people, if not more, also waiting to view, some ready to offer a higher amount, a cash-in-hand deal so that they secure the lease, or even worse, an offer to buy the place. This happened to us before, and we lost out because we didn’t know that if you play by the rules, you finish last. A glance at the property pages will show a “charming bungalow”, which in layman’s terms means a converted stable, all for the not-so-charming price of €700 a week. Yes, a week.

A human right

The media refers to us as the “locked-out generation”. I’d like to know what this really means. Yes, we are perishing in a limbo that is not of our making. This limbo ensures that unless we earn twice our salary, we cannot afford to rent, and that if we can stretch to pay the extortionate rents, we can never save for a deposit, so that we might own our own home someday, put up a photograph without having to take it down and pack it away. This should be a human right, something so basic and underrated, to feel secure between four walls.

If we can afford €900 a month in rent, why can’t we get a mortgage? All it feels like is that we have been locked out of our own lives, watching them unravel, robbed of a stable future.

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The insecurity of this situation has left my husband and I white-faced and miserable. We work, we drive, we eat, we pack and we sleep. And in between every stage, we worry. There is a brick wall facing us that we can’t get through, and we can’t get over.

If the right to housing was to be enshrined in the Constitution as many have suggested, what good would it do on a practical level? It won’t magically create a steady supply of affordable rental properties and it won’t stop landlords from charging whatever they like for accommodation best suited to horses.

Back to parents

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy managed to defeat a vote of no-confidence in the Dáil last September. Since then another 1,000 adults and children have become homeless, pushing the total over 10,000 for the first time.

This morning, something was very different indeed as the pain of the truth really hit me. We are packing to move back to our parents, both in different counties. We will be separated by miles and unsure of how often we will see one another because of the long commutes to work. We know we’re lucky to have the option of moving back, as so many do not, but it is unfair that it has been made our only option. We just want to be together. He’s my best friend and I don’t want to wake up every morning and find he’s not there.

The impact of this housing crisis runs far deeper than anybody realises. It does not just skim the flesh, it crushes the bones of this generation. Whoever is to blame for this – the Minister for Housing, Nama, the Celtic Tiger or the burst bubble – please listen to us. If we are the locked-out generation, then can someone please give us a key?

Fiona Cassim works as an administrator and is a writer.

If you are a renter searching for a home, The Irish Times would like to hear your story. Click here to share yours.

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