Monday 20 November 2017

'We're earning €60,000 a year but can't afford to rent or buy a house'

Young father Luciano Forte at his rented home in St Brigid’s Grove, Artane, Dublin. Photo: Colin O’Riordan
Young father Luciano Forte at his rented home in St Brigid’s Grove, Artane, Dublin. Photo: Colin O’Riordan
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A young father warned Ireland's housing crisis is now crucifying hard-working families who cannot afford to either rent or buy a home.

Luciano Forte (36), his former partner, Monica Delfino (41), and their son, Giuseppe (10), admitted they dread Christmas having been served with notice to quit their Dublin house by a landlord who is intent on selling the property.

The family were given four months to leave the property they have lived in since 2012.

Incredibly, despite the fact Luciano and Monica are both working, one as a retail shop manager and the other as a nurse, they are finding it impossible to locate comparable accommodation in Artane for a rent they can afford.

Luciano, from Longford but who has been working in Dublin all his adult life, said he was only speaking out about his family’s plight because tens of thousands of other families in Ireland are in the same desperate position.

“The tragedy is that this isn’t just about my family,” he said.

“There are tens of thousands of people around Ireland, ordinary couples, young people and families who are terrified of that same phone call from a landlord or a letting agent that we got.”

“People are working God awful hours, saving every penny they can after they pay their taxes and it still isn’t enough.”

“I try to look on my family as one of the lucky ones. No matter what, we will still be able to put food on the table at Christmas and the New Year. The problem for us is that we just don’t know where that kitchen table will be in the future.”

Luciano revealed his family have been trying to save for a mortgage for a decade – but found their ability to save hit first by the Universal Service Charge tax, then spiralling road tax and insurance rates, water charges, property tax, soaring rents and finally the Central Bank demand for a 20pc mortgage saving deposit.

“It’s not just my family that are facing this,” he said.

“There are people around Ireland, ordinary people, from every walk of life who are now lying awake at night afraid of being left homeless.

They work hard, pay their taxes and are still living in fear.”

“Every issue in Ireland is down to the same few causes – it is like a problem pyramid, those few bad decisions made at the top work their way down and cause all the problems at the bottom.

"We can tackle those problems, we certainly have the money, Ireland is awash with it no matter what the government says, that money is there, just look at the insane pensions and bonuses it gives out to the people who need it the least, but those are the people in power and they don't have the will to change or even address the problems."

Luciano and Monica were horrified to realise that rents are, in some cases, almost 50pc above what they are currently paying and are rising by the week.

In determination to keep their son in the area, they have commenced a campaign of knocking on neighbour doors to determine if someone is leaving their rented home making a suitable property available.

“You should have seen the look of terror on people’s faces when I told them our story and asked if they knew if a property would be available? I could see they were terrified that they could be next to lose their home.”

“I do not want a hand-out. I don’t want anything for free" Luciano said.

“I just want to be able to rent an ordinary house that we can call home or be given a mortgage and a chance to put our rent into bricks and mortar for our future and Giuseppe’s future.”

“I poured my heart out to the bank and they still said ‘No’. What made it hurt was it was the same bank branch that gave one developer a €500m loan which was later written-off.”

“Like every other parent, I want a home for my son. I don’t think that is a lot to ask for. But modern Ireland is a very scary place. I don’t ever remember Ireland being this frightening for people growing up in Longford 20 years ago.”

Luciano said he finds it “absolutely disgusting” to see the plight that families, couples and young people face while vulture funds pay little or no tax on millions of Euro profits.

“The Irish economy might be working well for the Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. But it isn’t working very well for my family, for thousands of other families in need, for the people sleeping tonight in a car, for the families in a hotel room and certainly not for our fellow citizens forced to sleep in doorways tonight."

His son Giuseppe is happily settled in school which is a 10 minute busride from their current rented home.

Giuseppe is also a devoted member of the local GAA and football clubs so he doesn’t want to be forced out of the tight knit area.

The inability of the family to find suitable rented accommodation is all the more shocking from the fact Luciano and Monica never missed a monthly rent payment in 10 years living in Dublin.

The family has an excellent credit rating from the full repayment of various loans including one for their family car.

Since 2011, Monica and Luciano have paid a whopping €20,000 between them on Universal Social Charge (USC) to the Government.

Spiralling rates of car tax, car insurance and living expenses have meant their bid to save up to meet the tough Central Bank mortgage deposit requirements have been fatally undermined.

Last year, they applied for a mortgage in a bid to finally get a home of their own.

But their application for the €220,000 mortgage was declined due to the fact they didn’t have the required savings as set out by the Central Bank.

The mortgage refusal came despite the fact both adults are in full time, permanent jobs with a combined salary of around €60,000.

“The ripple effects of that mortgage refusal were appalling for my family. We began to worry about losing our home and where on earth we would rent a property for something we could afford.”

“I do not understand it. We have been renting for 10 years and we have paid €120,000 in rent. That is half the total loan we want. But they still will not give us a mortgage,” he said.

Luciano’s fear is that, like thousands of other Irish families, he will be forced to quit the area where his son has made friends and gone to school in search of cheaper rental accommodation elsewhere.

“For us emergency accommodation is a fear – a genuine fear. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried,” he said.

Luciano also worries about an unending cycle of having to move every time rents spiral beyond their budget.

Monica a nurse in a Dublin public hospital leaves for work at 6am every morning and Luciano arrives home from work at 7 every evening.

“It does seem strange to say your dream is to get a mortgage that will take you 25 years or so of your life to pay off, say that to your 20 year old self and see how they feel?"

“But that’s our Christmas wish. We don’t want a palace. A simple two-up, two-down house that we can pay for and call home. I don’t think that is a lot to ask for in modern Ireland.”

Irish Independent

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