Wednesday 25 April 2018

Liz Kearney: It's frightening that there's no alternative to queuing up for homes - and a lifetime of wage slavery

Liz Kearney
Liz Kearney

Liz Kearney

Every generation has its own housing horror story to tell. Unfortunately, by the time you’ve recovered from the fright and are ready to turn your one-time nightmare tale into an amusing scare-at-bedtime yarn, the next generation isn’t interested in hearing it.

And why would they be? They don’t care that you couldn’t get a mortgage for love nor money in the 70s, or that you paid nearly 20pc interest on your home loan in the 80s, or you bought an apartment the size of a kennel for half a million quid in the Celtic Tiger, then watched in horror as its value plummeted, leaving you mired in a decade of negative equity.

They don’t care because they’re too busy contemplating their own housing crisis amid headlines about spiralling rents, pitiful supply and rising debt levels. It’s their story now.

Those at the tail end of the millennial generation, who are in their mid- to late-20s, believe they’ll never secure a permanent job, let alone their own home, so they’ve resigned themselves to a lifetime of eating avocado toast while staring forlornly at the magnolia walls of their overpriced rented flat.

Meanwhile, their older siblings, who are now in their 30s, are so desperate to finally settle down that they’ve been camping out in the rain for days on end in the hope they’ll get to part with hundreds of thousands of euro to finally have somewhere they can call their own.

All things being equal, they’ll pay their deposits, sign on the dotted line and move on with their lives, and forget how stressful it all was.

Because you do forget – the years myself and my husband spent buried under a mountain of negative equity barely register with us now.

They’re history, thankfully. But when the tricky part of securing a home is over, in other ways the story has just begun.

The moment they sign on the dotted line and the amount they’ve paid for their dream home will influence their lives in countless tiny ways they probably can’t even guess at right now. 

That job you’ve had enough of? You won’t be quitting any time soon with all those bills to pay.

Those kids you’d like to spend more time with? Maybe when you’re retired you’ll see more of them.

That elderly parent who now needs 24-hour care? Um, does anyone have the number of an affordable nursing home?

These are the good outcomes.

Worse outcomes include when the unthinkable happens, as it quite frequently does: you lose your job and can’t repay your loan or the market crashes again and you’re saddled with huge debts.

That dream home could just turn out to be a nightmare.

We accept all of this as part and parcel of modern life and our enduring love affair with the bricks and mortar embodiment of security and stability.

We accept it’s our everyday reality in a great little country that’s good at enriching developers and banks and investors, but not so good when it comes to prioritising ordinary people who’d like to live in an ordinary house without being financially crippled for life.

And so we queue to sign up to a lifetime of wage slavery, heavily disguised with A-rated energy systems and attractive high-gloss kitchens, because there is no alternative. And that really is a frightening thought.

Meanwhile...

Facebook’s bottom line

The eyes of the world are trained on Mark Zuckerberg’s uncomfortable appearance before the Senate Committee in Washington, but what about that cushion he’s been sitting on? The black leather “billionaire’s booster” has been the source of much mirthful speculation among eagle-eyed observers.

Had it been placed to give Zuckerberg, who is a diminutive 5ft 7in, a vital few extra inches as he squared up to the stern-faced senators? He’d need something, surely, to bolster his confidence.

Or was he anticipating such a lengthy, squirm-inducing grilling that he wanted his backside, at least, to be comfortably cushioned?

Facebook quickly released a statement to clarify this very important issue, insisting Zuckerberg himself did not bring the cushion but that it was placed routinely by Senate staff for the comfort of the occupant.

The speed with which they set the record straight on this weighty matter is impressive. Funnily enough, they weren’t so quick to respond to questions about how their data had been used to subvert democracy. I guess booster seats are child’s play by comparison.

Nay to May on wedding day

Pity poor old Prince Harry, who’s been getting a roasting for refusing to invite any politicians to his upcoming wedding to Meghan Markle in May.

Anyone who’s battled to whittle down a wedding guest list to manageable numbers in the face of pressure from their parents to invite that long-lost third cousin twice removed will sympathise. It’s hard, but you’ve got to stand your ground, otherwise the dance floor will be unfeasibly crowded.

Unfortunately for Harry, his older brother William invited the then PM David Cameron to his nuptials.

So Harry’s refusal to invite Theresa May to his own big day is now the subject of unfavourable comparisons. I’m sure he can live with the guilt.

After all, isn’t that the joy of being a minor royal? All the perks, none of the politicians?

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