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Parenting A message for the new Taoiseach - please get a handle on housing

Regarding housing, Margaret Lynch has some choice words for the new Taoiseach.

IS THERE ANYTHING more excruciating than giving yourself away in the first week of a new job?

My first job after college was in a recruitment agency, and I can still remember the look on the face of the person training me in when I asked her what a ‘job spec’ was. Imagine!

Working in recruitment and not knowing what a job description was. I have since made that same face myself, many times over the years, when I realise I have hired someone who hasn’t an actual breeze.

And I made that face again recently when newly appointed Taoiseach, Simon Harris, made his comments about ‘moving mountains to get children out of the box room’.

I know where he was trying to go with this and I know it’s the speechwriters who put this stuff together but… for God’s sake! His very first chance to show us that he is actually going to make a difference here, and tackle some real hard-hitting issues, and what does he do? He calls us children.

Until recently, I was living in the box room, along with my partner and children. Because of a complete and systematic failure in policies by our new Taoiseach’s party, so many of us (grown adults, families) have been forced to live in the box room and so this language doesn’t help… it infantilises us.

So we are referred to as children. Because we have been deliberately locked out of home ownership and forced to fight tooth and nail over a handful of way overpriced rental properties, leaving many people under 40 with no choice but to return to the box rooms.

Is it too much to ask for politicians to take the time to research the issues people are really facing? To try to connect with people and reassure us that they understand. That they will make a difference. Is it really acceptable for a politician to know so little about the issues he has been elected to solve? In our current digital age, where people can express their opinions and concerns on so many different forums, is it really acceptable for a politician to not grasp major issues? 

Who is in the box room?

The issue is not children living in the box room. It is fully grown, adult families who have been forced to put their lives on hold and move back in with their parents due to sky-high rents, a lack of housing, or an inability to meet the staggering criteria for a mortgage, or they can’t find a house without a four-hour commute.

Families with both parents working and a shockingly high crèche bill each month, who see house prices increasing faster than their savings.

It’s not children in box rooms that worry the vast majority of us, it is families growing up in hotel rooms with no cooking facilities and no space to teach their babies how to walk. It is families split between male and female shelters as the homeless numbers continue to hit record new highs each month.

It’s not children in box rooms keeping us up at night, it’s the worry of homelessness, and the realisation that if your landlord decides to move you on, there is absolutely nowhere to go. It is single adults who cannot afford to buy a house on one salary, and it is absolutely outrageous that no one has been held accountable. Because the system isn’t broken, it is very profitable to some people. While those who make the policies ignore the need for change.

The actual children in box rooms, those under 25, are likely going to take their qualifications and use them in other countries because there is nothing for them here. Although to be fair to Simon Harris, he never specified where he was going to put the children when he got them out of the box room. Maybe he meant straight on a plane to Oz. He has said he will move mountains to get them out of the box room. But mountains don’t move on other people’s timelines. And not over the past 14 years, but definitely in the next 11 months.

Common sense, please

Luckily for Simon though, he doesn’t need to move mountains. And while I don’t have a job spec for him, I am fairly certain mountain moving isn’t on there. His job is to be the voice of the people of Ireland. And it’s not an impossible task.

He needs to build more homes and stop investors and foreign buyers from snapping them up and then renting them back to families at sky high prices. He needs to stop giant corporations from ‘considering’ buying entire housing estates. And we need rent caps so that people can actually save for the ridiculous deposit they need. We don’t need mountains moved, we need common sense.

But how can we expect our politicians to bring in fair legislation for renters when so many of them are landlords? Housing policy shapes the lives of the people who live in this country, people who pay taxes to fund their salaries. If we have nowhere to live, no security over our own homes, and if we are constantly looking down the barrel of homelessness, we can’t live normal lives. We can’t raise families in hotels or box rooms.

It’s just not good enough.

It’s too late in the game for someone unable to grasp what’s at stake. The situation is far too serious to be pawned off on another person who simply does not care.

We’re not children, and it’s not mountains.

Margaret Lynch is a working mum of two in Kildare. 

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