An Arklow family have been forced to sleep on the floor of one of their mother’s houses for months after being evicted from the home they rented for two years and told that the only emergency accommodation available is a hostel 65km away in Carlow.
The parents, who are both currently unemployed, would like to remain anonymous, as they feel anything they say may damage their application for social housing, or even see them branded as trouble makers.
The young family had been living in the same rented accommodation in Arklow for the past two years and were in receipt of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).
When their landlord decided to sell the property, they were put on notice to quit and given four months to find new rental accommodation, which they haven’t been able to find.
The family are currently homeless, living with one of their mothers on her sitting room floor with their young child. Crammed into an already packed house, with two other siblings still living there, the couple sleep on a mattress on the living room floor, while their young child sleeps in a travel cot.
The couple began by explaining that Wicklow County Council had refused them emergency accommodation, and that the one temporary housing option that was offered to them was totally inadequate.
“We know there is emergency accommodation available, but we’ve been refused it,” the couple claim. “The council have said that we’re not eligible for it. We’re a homeless family with a young child, how is that not an emergency?! We were treated like a number on a list.
“We weren’t asking for a council house, we were just looking for emergency accommodation until we find our next rental property.
“The council just didn’t want to meet us half way. Then they offered us emergency accommodation in a hostel in Carlow. When we refused that, we felt like we had damaged our chances and were instantly treated differently. But we just couldn’t accept it.”
The couple explained that their child’s public health nurse and GP are in Arklow.
As they currently have no transport available to them, making the trek from Carlow to Arklow for appointments was simply not a viable or reasonable option.
“We explained to the council why we couldn’t take it,” they continued.
“We have all the emails of our conversations saved. What they were basically saying to us was: ‘We offered you a place, if you don’t want it, there’s nothing else we can do for you’.
“But we had absolutely nowhere else to go. It was by the bare of my teeth that I asked my mother if we could stay with her.
“She didn’t want to see her grandchild living on the street and of course offered us to stay.”
According to the couple they have emailed the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien numerous times but haven’t received any acknowledgement. They also claim that they have contacted every TD and councillor in County Wicklow and that among them Cllr John Snell was one of the few who offered meaningful consultation.
According to Cllr Snell, who is Chair of the Housing SPC, “Unfortunately there’s is an all too common story. There’s just nowhere to rent, and now landlords are selling up left, right and centre.
“Two weeks ago I looked at rental properties in Wicklow. There were 13 of them – all over €2,000.
“These properties are getting hundreds of applications and, to be honest, are gone before they’re even posted in a lot of cases.
“I’m afraid we’re experiencing now what Dublin has for a number of years. It’s a difficult situation for people to try to secure a rental property anywhere.”
Rental prices and the exodus of landlords have of course been hot topics of late. Daft.ie reported recently that rents in the Garden County have risen by 11.8 per cent and that €1,738 is now the average rental price. Simultaneously, the number of landlords leaving the market has doubled on last year, with 5,599 landlords selling up and further deepening the rental crisis.
In the case of the Arklow couple and their landlord, who also sold up, the parents maintain that they hold no ill will. “He had to do what he had to do, it’s not his fault,” the couple remarked.
“The way the housing crisis is at the moment, I don’t blame property owners, I blame the government for their mishandling of the situation.
“I think Wicklow County Council could be doing a lot more to help too.
“The council house next door to the one we were living in in Arklow was vacant for up to 15 years,” they continued.
“All the residents in the area were complaining about it, the state that it was left in. The council put up a notice saying they were going to do it up, but it’s still just sitting there.
“Now, you can see that all around Arklow, all around Wicklow.
“There are so many vacant houses around. Why is this happening? Why are they left sitting there for so long?”
The couple explained that they had gone on Daft.ie recently and had applied for a two bedroom, two bath apartment in Rathnew.
They were quoted €1,750 p/m, which was outside their budget, but they still applied to see if the landlord would consider their application.
They explained that they doubted any HAP they would receive would be substantial enough to cover more of that sum.
They went on to say that they had viewed another apartment recently that had received over 1,400 applications.
“Rent has gone up, but HAP hasn’t,” the couple said. “We tried another property in Wicklow Town after the one in Rathnew.
“It was €2,200 a month! Now, even if you were working full time, if you’re paying that much, you’re just working to pay rent. You wouldn’t have a penny for food, clothes and all the other necessities. Now that’s a terrible situation. That’s just not right.”
Asked if the had a message for the government and the Wicklow County Council, the couple replied: “Focus more on the housing crisis. There’s no point in leaving families homeless because they’re not on the list long enough.
“They have to be more flexible. They have to look at each case and each set of circumstances individually. We’re more than just a number on a list.”
“It’s 2022. The housing crisis just seems to be getting worse and worse.
“I don’t know how you let it become this bad, but I’ve never seen anything like it. Let me tell you, it shouldn’t be considered a privilege to have a roof over your head in this day and age.”
Upon hearing of the couples plight, Arklow councillor Pat Fitzgerald remarked, “It’s true, the problem here in Arklow is huge.
“There is an extremely short supply of houses and it’s not going to improve, despite the best efforts of Wicklow Count Council.
“And I must stress, the council do their utmost. But I’m very worried that there are going to be a lot of people going to be homeless coming up to Christmas. And that’s just a terrible state of affairs altogether.”