NewsSunday Independent: The starter home now just a fairytale for our children

March 10, 2015

Sarah Caden, writing in the Sunday Independent, 8 March 2015


The starter home now just a fairytale for our children

Youth of today told to forget about the property ladder while an older generation sits snug in their semi-ds

It’s hard to know which would be worse to admit to these days; that you own a three-bed semi with a bit of outdoor space, or that you would like to own one.

If you own one, and you’re under 50, at least people will feel fairly certain that you’re in negative equity or mortgaged up to your eyeballs, and, as a result, feel slightly sorry for you. If you simply aspire to traditional-family-home ownership, however, they’re likely to dismiss you as mad, and even a bit bad.

Two weeks ago on Newstalk, Carol Tallon, author of the Irish Property Buyers’ Handbook, told listeners to forget about the idea of the traditional starter home. “It is no more,” she said on The Pat Kenny Show, providing a soundbite that the station has played over and over since, “what you buy is what you are committing to.”

“Home ownership in Ireland has been seen as a rite of passage,” she added, “that is simply not the case anymore.”

This makes sense, but there is an extent to which our embarrassment at the national financial disaster is being taken out on our young adults who are being told that they cannot even dream of the lives their parents took for granted.

No home of your own, no front or back garden, no community-rated health insurance, no job for life, no nothing. The banks we bailed out will only give them a mortgage if they have a 20pc deposit, and even then, a mortgage will be difficult to secure if they have a precarious job. And, let’s face it, aren’t all modern jobs precarious?

More than one child? Forget about it. You’ll never be able to afford it or have any space to put it.

Essentially, we’re telling a large section of a generation that we have nothing for them, and that they shouldn’t bother whingeing about it either. Because we had it all wrong before.

Irish-style home-owning is bad, we tell them, and they should be looking more to apartment-renting Berlin than to their mammy’s house for a domestic role model. We messed it up, we tell them, and, yes, while we quite like our homes and gardens, they needn’t bother developing affection for them. They can’t have them.

Obviously, Tallon was advising against getting into the financial difficulties with which we are familiar in the last decade, but it came with the accompanying sound of hopes and dreams being extinguished for many.

While Tallon spoke in sensible specifics about the obstacles to achieving the dream of home ownership, other commentators are serving up a message that slaps us down before we even get started on what one daren’t call the property ladder.

There’s a lot of shaking of heads over the “Irish obsession” with owning a house, which is now the most awful thing of which you can be guilty. The attitude is that we all went mad at one point, and now we’re embarrassed about it, and we have this need to punish someone for our humiliation.

On Newstalk, Carol Tallon explained about how prospective buyers might be closer to 40 than the traditional late-20s by the time they buy a house, thanks to a dearth of houses for sale and the difficulty of saving a deposit while paying spiralling rents. These are mighty obstacles.


Continue reading this piece on the Sunday Independent:

Carol Tallon