Tuesday 20 August 2019

Fiona Cassim: 'We need help buying a nest to duck housing birds of prey'

Some suggest we make sacrifices, give up luxuries, but we don’t have any to give up. Last year, we paid €9,600 in rent (stock image)
Some suggest we make sacrifices, give up luxuries, but we don’t have any to give up. Last year, we paid €9,600 in rent (stock image)

Fiona Cassim

In the quaint little village of Rathdrum, during dusky evening twilight, a graceful eagle circles in the half light, searching for its prey.

In Ireland today, bird-watching does not require binoculars, or a book so that you can recognise the species - all you need is access to the media.

First came the committee of vultures to invest in debts and mortgages that were in arrears, leading to repossessions and attributing to the housing and homeless crisis that is fast becoming the new face of modern Ireland.

Please log in or register with Independent.ie for free access to this article.

Log In

Then came the asylum of cuckoos, the ones that do not fly over nests but sweep inside, pushing out any other interested parties. These large companies are buying up massive developments before they hit the market, essentially locking out ordinary first-time buyers who have probably struggled to make it this far.

Now a new predatory bird emerges - the stately magpie, collectively known as a parliament.

Magpies are notorious thieves, with a fondness for anything shiny. The newest bird to the aviary is the State; local councils that are buying one in five new builds for social housing rather than building a new stock. These are the new magpie funds, another obstacle to overcome in this time of great uncertainty.

The housing crisis is the subject of much debate, worry, even desperation for many. In the face of it, ordinary people with low to medium wages are being met with defeat at every turn.

My husband and I are now resigned to probably never owning our own home; we will continue to rent because there are no other options.

We cannot afford to save for a deposit and we do not qualify for social housing. Some helpfully suggest we make sacrifices, give up luxuries, but we don't have any to give up, but even if we did is that really what it takes? We work hard all week long, are we then expected to isolate ourselves within the four walls we work it all for? It's been more than a year since I bought new clothes, we don't go out socially on the weekends, we do not indulge in frivolities, we have never heard of avocado toast.

There has been a huge surge of media coverage surrounding topics of work/life balances and the link to mental health. The link between housing and these issues has become a widespread topic. Is that the price we are now expected to pay to have a roof over our heads?

I have been on the Wicklow housing list for almost 10 years so I could help my mother secure an RAS tenancy. Recently it has come to light that now I am married, the income threshold is just over €36,000 for two people, an amount too low to catch anyone that falls between the median low to medium salary brackets.

Caught in the middle, the exhausting limbo between the lack of wealthy relatives to secure a deposit, and non-eligibility for social housing, there are no available, affordable options for people in our position.

The council affordable housing scheme was scrapped in 2011, but it was designed for low to medium incomes, so home ownership could be a reality instead of impossible; a right, not a fight.

We can afford to pay the rent without fail; but why are these payments not taken into account towards securing a more permanent situation?

Last year, we paid €9,600 in rent - probably just under half a security deposit. This year we will pay the same. We are not looking for something for nothing, we are not seeking pity or special treatment.

Affordable homes aimed at people who have a proven track record of monthly repayments need to be implemented.

Perhaps a let-to-buy scheme would work well for this bracket whereby your first two years repayments are counted as your deposit, with two additional years then added to the repayment term to settle the final balance.

This could really help so many get a foot on the housing ladder even though the climb means we duck to dodge the vultures, cuckoos and magpies that are swooping through the skies.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss