This is part one of a three-part series about the impact of Ireland’s rising rent and house prices for Irish millienials. Next week’s piece will include an interview with a mother and her adult child about their experiences living together.
Within the space of a single generation Ireland has gone from a nation of independent homeowners, to renters and hangers-on living in the childhood bedroom of their parent’s abode. A confluence of factors brought us here, from the global economic downturn and nefarious banking practises, to lack of new properties and soaring prices in the rental and housing markets. For the millennials and baby-boomers that have found themselves elbowed off Ireland’s property ladder, it is of cold comfort to know that their shared ill fate is not through a fault of their own. Itching to vacate the family home, their dreams of freedom either had to be postponed, or the more favoured option, realised beyond Irish shores. Those that stayed behind were forced to stay with their parents or fork over half their salary on rent, a hefty price tag for the taste of independence.
Irish parents have graciously played a huge (and often overlooked) role shouldering the burden of the government’s ineptitude to curb errant landlords or increase the housing supply. As shown by the rise in homelessness those who have a place to stay are still the lucky ones, but living with your parents in your early to mid twenties is far from an ideal situation. To begin with there’s the unnatural pairing of a couple in their fifties co-habiting with housemates half their age. Familial ties aside, the lifestyle choices and unsociable hours of a person straight out of college is going to rub any parent the wrong way. Manoeuvring these obstacles demands compromise on both sides, but this compromise implies sacrifices that neither party should be forced to make. As you enter into the full bloom of adulthood it becomes increasingly important to have a physical space of your own; a space to organise as you please, for inviting lovers and friends, a space for experimenting, being completely yourself, and stepping out of your parents’ shadow.
Child-parents relationships are perpetually reductive in the sense that we are always bound to our childhood and our role as children in the company of our parents. While they may shower us with endless love and hot meals, at some very basic level it is unhealthy to live with your parents past a certain age. Living under your parent’s roof means adhering to their rules (‘My roof, my rules’, is a refrain every child has had retorted to them at least once during a family argument), a completely fair expectation considering it is their home first and foremost. However these limitations inhibit us from forging our own path and closes us off from parts of ourselves. It is only when we leave the parental sphere that we gain the necessary space to stir up latent pools of our personality, revealing internal avenues unbeknownst even to ourselves.
While for some the noise made by millennials may seem like much ado about nothing, the dawning realisation that buying our own home or even renting an apartment would be immensely challenging registered itself as a deep loss for most of our generation. We watched with a mixture of bitterness and resentment as the carefree interlude of salaried jobs, minimum responsibilities and a home to call our own before the onslaught of mortgages and babies shrank into nothingness, meanwhile the return of our parents’ investments, the houses we occupied, multiplied in value under our very feet.
No one could have anticipated that the housing crisis would get as out of hand as it did, nor the pain it would inflict on our small island. Admittedly there is a distinctly bourgeois tone to this article considering the 9,968 people who are homeless, 3,811 of whom are children according to the latest figures by Focus Ireland. Still there is a growing discontentment amongst the Irish youths, who are voting with their feet and streaming out of the country in their hoards. Making Ireland feel like home is harder than ever.