Fiona Cassim, who is married, works as a billing administrator and part-time contributor for the Irish Times and Irish Independent, says she is part of ‘generation rent’ in the Republic of Ireland, born into a society which is ‘hell-bent on home ownership, and yet the majority of us are still renting’
In recent years, the Republic of Ireland has been dominated by the words ‘housing crisis’.
Where once the topic of homelessness would not have found its way into the media, now it screams from the headlines. To be homeless is simply to be without a home, something which should be a right, not a fight, yet some 10,000 people find themselves without this human right in Ireland today. The Government talk about about this right being enshrined in our Constitution, but in practice, will this create enough housing for everyone?
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy is trying to implement solutions that simply do not work, all the while insisting that everything is going according to plan. Tell that to the mothers sending their children to school from the confines of hotel rooms and B&Bs. These people were not always homeless; they once had a home that they lost because of unaffordable rents and higher mortgage repayments. The demand for both social and affordable housing overwhelms the supply. More than 2,000 social houses were built in 2018, yet this number still fell four per cent below the target.
While this is somewhat good news for those eligible for social housing, it still does not solve the problem for people who are not. My husband and I work full-time, yet we earn a wage that is lower than the ‘average’ weekly wage, as set out by the Central Statistics Office. With rising rents and no disposable income, we struggle to afford the rent and know that owning our own home someday is pretty unlikely, as we cannot save anything towards a deposit.
The threat of homelessness hangs over the head of every person on a low to medium income. New figures estimate that one in 10 people are already spending 60 per cent of their income on rent, because rent prices have become unrealistic. We work solely to keep a roof over our heads and that roof provides little security, as more and more private landlords are opting to sell up. In their place large corporations are bulk buying residential property and making it difficult for people, such as young couples. to buy.
In terms of housing models, Ireland falls behind when compared to other EU countries. The much-admired Vienna housing model was recently showcased in Dublin as a way forward for Ireland’s housing problems. In Vienna, 78 per cent of the overall housing stock is made up of rental accommodation, with 45 per cent of this either social or affordable housing, as opposed to our Part V building scheme, where just 10 per cent of new builds are allocated to social housing. There is little in the way of benefits available for ordinary working people, however.
In Ireland, those working full-time are now entitled to the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), where local authorities pay landlords the current market rate, and tenants pay a percentage; however, with joint earnings capped at €36,000, it means that couples working full-time, like my husband and I, cannot avail of the scheme. In Vienna, earnings can be as high as €53,000 for an individual to still be eligible for social housing.
It seems to me that the Irish government is failing the ordinary working class people and it is failing because it does not understand us, it does not hear us. I suggest these ministers listen to the voices of the homeless and those who are struggling to survive on the average wage. We are the voices of this housing crisis, after all, because we are the ones suffering it. The locked out generation of Ireland is knocking, can anybody hear us?