'We're moving house. Will Santa Claus know where to find us?'

Cork dad Ross O'Keeffe tells us why moving into their forever home this Christmas week is a dream come true for his family
'We're moving house. Will Santa Claus know where to find us?'

The O'Keeffe-Kowalewska family, Dorota, Ross, Ella and Céiden. Pictures: David Clynch

Moving house at Christmas? Experts will advise you that a chief consideration on that to-do list is to ensure the man in the red suit knows your new address.

This is something the youngest members of the O’Keeffe household in Cork don’t need to be told. As they pack the last of their belongings to relocate to a new forever home just 10 minutes’ drive away, Ella, five, and Céiden, three, are mainly looking forward to laying out the welcome mat for St Nicholas.

“They are fierce crabbit for their age,” says their dad Ross O’Keeffe. “They know exactly what is happening — so they’re asking constantly, is the new house ready? And is the new house nearby so Santa will know where to find us when he pays a visit?”

Prospective new homeowners considering a move before Christmas are traditionally counselled to act before the festive season descends.

But getting the keys days before December 25 is nothing short of a dream come true for Ross, wife Dorota Kowalewska, and Ella and Céiden. “We’ve been renting for so long we’re over the moon,” says Ross.

The new Co-operative Housing Ireland estate at Brookhill, Carrigaline, Cork. 
The new Co-operative Housing Ireland estate at Brookhill, Carrigaline, Cork. 

Their new abode couldn’t have come to the family at a better time, he adds. "Having a home offers us a sense of stability which we haven’t had in a long time, especially in the run-up to Christmas,"  says Ross.

Having a home offers us a sense of stability which we haven't had in a long time

“We’d been renting for so long and we were looking for a house for a few years. To be honest, I’m not sure how long we were on the housing list for. Our local councillor was a great support to us while we were looking."

The O’Keeffes’ new residence is one of 69 turnkey homes supplied by Co-operative Housing Ireland and launched by Taoiseach Micheál Martin on December 7 at Brookhill estate in Carrigaline.

These affordable A-rated family homes are part of a development achieved through partnership with Cork County Council, the Housing Finance Agency, the Department of Housing, Local Government, and Heritage, and the Homeland Group.

Dorota, Ross, Ella and Céiden. 
Dorota, Ross, Ella and Céiden. 

Turnkey homes are essential to addressing the housing crisis, according to Kieron Brennan, CEO of Co-operative Housing Ireland, the national organisation representing, promoting and developing co-operative housing in Ireland.

“The importance of community has come into sharp focus during the Covid-19 pandemic and the necessity for affordability and security of tenure,” he adds.

And it is this security that is an especially welcome gift, says Ross. He adds: “I’d easily spend an hour discussing how amazing our new home is. It’s as though our dreams have finally come true.

“The fact that the houses in this estate are so fantastic is the icing on the cake for us." 

“It’s especially wonderful for the kids too, as the garden here is so much larger than what we had. We spent a lot of our free time in parks and green spaces for the kids to play in.

“It will be a huge change for us as a family to have a safe place for them to play just beyond the back door.

“Our kids are three and five, but they are as cute as foxes, so they did get a good grasp of social distancing and hygiene.”

Ross works three days a week with the local golf course, looking after the greens and other outdoor facilities, and Dorota is employed in a hotel, which is closed due to restrictions. “I’ve been lucky that restrictions haven’t affected my work too much,” adds Ross.

Dorota Kowaleska and Ross O'Keeffe.
Dorota Kowaleska and Ross O'Keeffe.

“Getting out in the fresh air makes a huge difference during the week, especially because our movements are so limited with restrictions.”

Brookhill, Carrigaline, Cork was launched by Taoiseach Micheál Martin on December 7. 
Brookhill, Carrigaline, Cork was launched by Taoiseach Micheál Martin on December 7. 

In recent times, the family “deliberately tried to limit” its intake of news and media as much of what’s covered is Covid-19-related. “We’re trying to keep things at home as normal as possible for the kids,” adds Ross.

But the couple feels that with Christmas coming, the opening of this development is positive news. “Times are hard for people so this takes the limelight away from all the negativity,” adds Ross.

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