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Louth couple buy rundown cottage in Leitrim as they are priced out of local property market

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Tara Tine outside the cottage in Leitrim

Tara Tine outside the cottage in Leitrim

Tara Tine outside the cottage in Leitrim

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A Dundalk couple who have been priced out of the local property market have bought a rundown cottage in rural Leitrim which they are now planning on restoring.

Tara Tine and David Bellew will have to live in a mobile home for a couple of years but are undeterred as it means that they will have a home of their own.

Tara, a well-known artist, musician and documentary maker, shared the news of their purchase on her Ditch Witch Youtube channel.

While others might be daunted by the condition of the cottage, which hasn’t been lived in for at least ten years, Tara is excited at the prospect of restoring it.

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Having given up all hope of being able to find a house that they could afford in their native Louth, the couple decided to expand their horizons and began searching for suitable properties elsewhere.

"I was fortunate that I’d got a small inheritance when my father died but it wasn’t enough to buy anything here in Co Louth,” says Tara. “Maybe ten years ago it might have been enough for a deposit for a house, but now it’s just savings in the bank that we can access to help us do up this house.”

Like all those working in the creative industries, Tara says that they resigned themselves to not being able to get a mortgage and instead have got a loan from the Credit Union.

As she faced having to find yet another rental property, she decided it was time to look for a home that they could call their own.

"I have lived in over 20 different address and it's so stressful. At one stage I was what would be called the ‘hidden homeless’ as I had to move back into my Mammy’s house until I could find somewhere else. I’m an adult and she’s entitled to have her own space but so many people are being forced to move back home with their parents when they should be setting up home and perhaps starting a family.”

“I have friends with kids who are renting and they are really stressed, not knowing where they will be living in the next twelve months.”

“I feel it’s really harming people's mental health and a lot of people are struggling as they don’t know what the future holds for them and it's not because they didn't work hard enough or save enough but it's the way the property market has gone.”

She recalls being unable to find anywhere to rent when living in Carlingford. “There were probably over a hundred empty houses but I couldn’t find one to rent as they were all short-term lets.”

 Airbnbs have had a major impact on the housing market, especially in areas which are popular with tourists.

"Donegal was one of the areas I’d earmarked three or four years ago. It’s a beautiful scenic part of the country but now property prices have risen too.”

"Our next step was Leitrim and I’m very excited about this cottage that we have bought for less than you’d pay for a site here in Louth.”

Tara acknowledges that it will require a considerable amount of work before they can move in but says they are happy to live in a mobile home until the house is ready.

"It’s on a great site and we’re incredibly lucky that it has electricity already connected. There are also outbuildings that we could do up in the future.”

She reckons it was last lived in about ten years ago and she expects that they will be living in the mobile home for at least two or three years.

The couple plan to be able to do some of the work themselves and Tara has already done a workshop with author Mark Boyle, known as the Moneyless Man, and hopes to be able to put some of the traditional building skills she learned into practice.

“There is a great community of artists in Leitrim as well as people who are living off-grid so I’m excited about becoming part of that.”

‘Country living will suit me as I lived in the country for a time when I was growing up and I like the peace and quiet.”

She’s hoping that the advent of remote working will allow her to find work and she would like to be able to continue making documentaries for independent radio stations such as Dundalk FM.

Having completed a residency at An Tain Arts Centre earlier in the year, she says she intends keeping in touch with “the wonderful community of creative people in Dundalk”.

Buying the cottage and making plans to do it up have “taken a load of my mind” she says.

‘This way we know we don’t have to worry about renting or getting a mortgage.”

"Worrying about housing takes such a toll on people’s mental health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has ranked moving house as the most stressful thing a person can do, ahead of bereavement and divorce,” she says. “It’s not just an Irish problem yet the European Economic Bank is allowing this to happen, even though WHO is aware of the damage it’s causing, even to things like the birth-rate.”

"As a 35-year-old women I should not have to choose between having kids or not having kids based on a national housing crisis with no end in sight.”

She is pleased that they have taken the initiative to find their own home in the midst of this crisis.

The first step in this exciting journey is getting the mobile home they bought repaired so that it will make a comfortable home until they move into the cottage.

"We are looking at moving to Leitrim at the end of the summer. I will be dreadfully sad leaving Dundalk and I know Dave will do, as we have met so many great friends here who has been so supportive to us as creatives. However, it will give us a better life as we won't be living with fear of ending up with nowhere to live.”

"We're just going to be two hours away from Dundalk so I don’t see it as cutting ties. And I’m really looking forward to explore the west of Ireland and a slower way of living.”

"We’re moving so far from the stress of having to worry about paying for a house, a car and a holiday all on a single income.”

While the shortage of housing is a major factor in the housing crisis, she says that the gap between the minimum wage and the living wage is also a big problem for people, particularly on the east coast where house and rental prices are higher.

As they prepare to pack their bags and two cats, she says she's "going off to explore new ditches” and promises to give regular updates on their progress on her Ditch Witch channel.


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