A terrifying prospect lies ahead of us. The housing crisis is set to continue to worsen over the next decade, based on current housing policy actually working. That might seem counterintuitive given that policy is supposed to be solving the crisis.Rory Hearne writing for the Irish Examiner, 6th December 2021
I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m exceptionally aware of that and grateful every day. At the grand age of 42, I finally got the keys to my own home. A dream that had seemed increasingly elusive in this country was made possible but I didn’t do it on my own. I needed help, A LOT of help! Full disclosure- I was a ‘cash buyer’ and yes, I felt (and still feel!) guilty about that as I knew going into the purchasing process that it gave me an unfair disadvantage over other prospective buyers who might be relying on a bank loan for a mortgage. Due to the sale of a family home, there was some spare cash floating around that could be loaned out to me to help me with buying my own home and I had managed to save up a deposit of €24K in the last four to five years. The lockdowns during 2020 definitely helped as there was literally nowhere to go and nothing to spend your money on! My Mum was instrumental in getting things underway and negotiating a loan from her family but it meant that she and my Dad had to forget about their idea of selling their small apartment in Spain and upgrading to a larger apartment. In the end, things happened quickly and after what seemed like the fastest viewing ever (a 5 minute tour of the house with an estate agent before a complete moratorium on viewings happened a week later), I put in my offer and it was accepted almost instantly! It happened in early January, traditionally one of the bleakest months, but by late March, I had got my keys and moved in!
Several years ago, when I was a postgraduate student on a teacher training course and studying Child psychology, I remember attending a lecture where we heard about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and his theory on motivation. We were shown a pyramid (see above) which represented every human being’s fundamental needs ranging from the most basic physiological needs such as food and shelter to more peripheral needs such as the need for friendship and love, a sense of belonging etc. The lecturer pointed out that at any stage in our development, we can be at a particular place on the pyramid but in order to self-actualise, in other words, to fulfil our highest potential, we need to have all our other needs met first, be they physiological or esteem needs. Then, and only then, can we become who we are truly meant to be. At least, that is what I took from the lecture…. I remember sitting in the lecture wondering where I was on the pyramid and thinking that I was a long way away from ever ‘self actualising’, if that day ever happened. At the time, I was 27, I was single, subletting a room from a friend and I had no real idea of who I was or what I wanted. I spent the next ten to fifteen years teaching on and off in different schools, both in Ireland and abroad, trying on and discarding different careers, moving in and out of different types of shared accomodation and living on my own, also both in Ireland and abroad. I also had several relationships (one of them disastrous but that’s another story!), made and lost friends, travelled, went to therapy on and off, read widely and experienced poverty and near starvation at times!
Fifteen years later, I feel I know myself a lot better, I’ve experienced and survived a lot and I finally feel I’m in a ‘good place’ . I’ve come to terms with my past and my choices, I’ve got my own home and a permanent job which I enjoy and I’ve met someone new who makes me happy (not that I’m not happy on my own but it’s nice to have a partner-in-crime!). I don’t think I’m fully “self-actualised” yet, I think I probably still have a long way to go before that happens but I feel a sense of security and contentment that I haven’t felt in a really long time. A large part of that is knowing that I have a permanent roof over my head and that whatever else happens in life, I will always have a home. Renting and sharing in Ireland is so uncertain and precarious, you’re constantly on edge and anxious and looking back, I think a huge part of my self-esteem issues were because I felt I had failed at adulting and at life in general. I was single and without a significant other in my life, the chances of owning my own home were pretty grim, with house prices spiralling out of control. The fact that I had done so much job-hopping was working against me I felt and I was beginning to despair of every finding stable employment that I liked. My mental health needless to say was suffering and moving back in with my parents after a relationship breakup felt like another failure on top of a litany of failures.
Having my own home has changed all that which just goes to show that things can change in an instant. Not only did my mental health improve significantly(to the extent that I felt I no longer needed my fortnightly sessions with a therapist), my job situation and relationship status literally changed almost overnight too! I achieved some personal goals of mine which was to pay off some outstanding debt and I also got got published not once, but 3 times with a small magazine called “Changing Ireland”. More incredibly, I even got paid for this work! Not enough to give up the full-time job and emigrate to Sardinia but stilll….!;-)
As a friend said to me at the time, “things happen in 3s” and that does seem to be the case for me at least. If you’re reading this and feeling despair and that you have failed in some way because you don’t have your own home or you can’t seem to find Mr/Mrs Right (or even Mr/Mrs Right Now!) or find a job that you actually like, I hope this post will make you feel more hopeful and optimistic and help to see you that there is light at the end of the tunnel (even if it is from an oncoming train, haha!). No, seriously, the housing crisis here is not of your making and you have not failed because you don’t own your own home and are still sharing at 46 or whatever …. The blame rests entirely at the government’s feet and their failed housing policies which have done little to improve the situation. I’m well aware that not everyone has parents who can help them out financially and lots of people don’t have job security either so I’m not going to tell you that some day you will own your own home or get that dream job or find that perfect person. However, what I will tell you is that things can and do change all the time and it’s not impossible that one of those things might happen……