Conor Sheehan: I do not want an investment, I want a home I can call my own

If the Government really wants to solve the housing crisis, then they need a clean break from the private developer-led approach that has so obviously failed.
Conor Sheehan: I do not want an investment, I want a home I can call my own

Why would anyone stay here, when you have no prospect of secure housing and employment? These are basic quality of life issues and my generation is being failed.

I am angry, no actually I am furious. Never did I imagine that I would be sitting in my parent’s house at the age of 28 bickering over who did or didn’t forget to bring in the washing. 

But here I am and countless others like me up and down the country. The children of the housing crisis.

I moved in with my parents and siblings to turn what I consider a reasonable aspiration - which is to own my own home - into a reality. I am one of the privileged few to have that option available to me and for nearly three years, I lived a simple life, like a monk and saved.

I am a single person which makes it even harder as the system is designed for couples. Every month, I put aside more than half my salary in order to scrape together a deposit. At the beginning of this year, I got mortgage approval and I finally felt like I had reached the summit. 

Or so I thought. Over five months later and I have been outbid on over a dozen properties and everything remotely habitable is now out of my price reach.

It dawned on me how bad things had become one Friday evening when I rang a local auctioneer to make an offer on a three-bedroom semi in need of severe modernisation only to be told four people were engaged in a bidding war for it, and the house had now gone €25,000 over the asking price. 

This particular house was so dated, I half expected Jennifer Zamparelli and Bernard O’Shea to come out of the master bedroom brandishing a cigarette dressed as Bridget and Eamon.

I am one of the privileged ones, I have a slightly above average income and I had the luxury of being able to return to my childhood home to save for a deposit. It is something I wouldn’t often describe as a luxury but it is.

I have countless friends who are stuck on the hamster wheel of the private rented market where their rents only ever go up. I have others like me, living at home with their near sexagenarian parents and adult siblings wondering will they ever leave.

There has been much hand wringing from politicians of all colours in recent weeks and from Government backbenchers in particular. Such is the universality of this crisis, nearly everyone is impacted, unless, of course, you’re a landlord.

I know Labour were in Government at the very beginning of the crisis, when REITs (Real estate investment trusts) were introduced. But it is very near impossible to do anything at all with the IMF wrapped around you like a straightjacket. 

I am aware that some may hold my own party somewhat responsible for this crisis and that others will blame Fianna Fáil and more will say Fine Gael but retrospective naval-gazing will not deliver a single home.

Maybe now that many of their core voters are piled into overcrowded three-bedroom semis with their adult children and grandchildren with the dream of home ownership slipping further and further away, will Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil actually wake up and do something?

If the Government really wants to solve the housing crisis, then they need a clean break from the private developer-led approach that has so obviously failed. Stop thinking of housing as an investment, I do not want an investment or a commodity, I want a roof over my head and a home I can call my own. 

Empower and embolden local authorities to deliver the housing we need and put it into legislation compelling them to do so. More of the same will not suffice and things will only get worse.

It was Einstein who famously said: “The purest form of madness is to leave everything as it was and hope that something will change at the same time.” Government housing policy in a nutshell. 

When the Help to Buy Scheme was introduced, prices went up by the amount awarded under the scheme, rendering it redundant and the same will happen with Shared Equity and, while you’re at it, capping affordable housing at the eye-watering sum of €350,000 isn’t actually affordable.

Cllr Conor Sheehan: "I have countless friends who are stuck on the hamster wheel of the private rented market where their rents only ever go up."
Cllr Conor Sheehan: "I have countless friends who are stuck on the hamster wheel of the private rented market where their rents only ever go up."

To serve as a City and County Councillor in the place I have lived all my life is an enormous privilege and one I do not take lightly. Because if I did not do this job that I love I would leave this country.

Youth unemployment is currently at 59% and unless something radically changes, once the pandemic cedes, we will lose an entire generation of talented young people. Why would anyone stay here, when you have no prospect of secure housing and employment? These are basic quality of life issues and my generation is being failed.

I remember being at university a number of years ago watching people take to the streets to rage against austerity. Now I understand why.  Everyone has their breaking point. 

Going into my 29th year living with my parents and two adult siblings with no realistic prospect of getting out soon, I have exceeded mine. I am furious. Something has to change.

  • Conor Sheehan is a Labour councillor for Limerick City North

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