This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
OK
#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 15 °C Friday 14 August, 2020
Advertisement

'It's soul-destroying, like going for a job interview once a week and every time you don’t get it'

Three people who recently moved into a former Nama-owned property explain what having their own home means to them.

With the occupation of Apollo House came loud calls for Nama to step up and focus its attention on solving Ireland’s current (and growing) housing and homelessness crisis. In this first day of a three-part special investigation, TheJournal.ie visits some of the most affected areas to examine if the so-called bad bank has been playing its part in providing social housing.

PEOPLE END UP on the social housing waiting list for numerous reasons – it could be as a result of losing a job, being unable to keep up with increasing rents, struggling to get by on a low income.

TheJournal ie‘s latest series looks at what Nama, local authorities and approved housing bodies are doing to boost social housing supply.

Three people who last year moved into Cúirt Róisín in Galway city, a former Nama-owned apartment block now run by Clúid Housing, explain what having their own home means to them.

Louise Borre

1916816_10153149088122181_6277091568079971471_n Louise Borre

“In 2008, I had a nervous breakdown and went into the psychiatric unit in Galway. In 2009, I went back to work – it was way too soon.

“In 2012, I was working and got sick again and had to take some time off work. The day after I went back I was made redundant.

“I moved around Galway and tried to get another job, but that didn’t work out.”

Louise (42) says she lived in a few different places before moving in with a friend in May 2015. They signed a year’s lease. The rent was €1,100 per month, her friend was paying €700 per month for a larger room and she paid €400 per month.

Louise says she was receiving €280 per month in rent allowance (the rate is higher for a person living on their own) at the time. Her parents helped her pay the outstanding €120 each month.

About halfway through their lease, Louise says her roommate decided she wanted to go travelling and left the apartment. She says the estate agent told her she couldn’t take over the lease as she was on rent allowance.

As she struggled to find a new place, Louise says she contacted the city council, local politicians and homelessness organisations such as COPE and Simon.

“A lady from Simon rang me nearly every day about places available for rent.”

IMG_8051 Source: Órla Ryan

Louise says she spent a couple of months looking for a new place but couldn’t find anywhere to go.

It became soul-destroying. It’s like going for a job interview once a week and every time you don’t get it. I tried my best to find a new place, it’s not as if I just sat on my ass.

Louise says some landlords didn’t want to rent to her as she was receiving rent allowance.

“You end up lying, saying you’re not on rent allowance just so you can see the place. That’s not the right way to do it, but if you say you’re on rent allowance over the phone a lot of people don’t even let you view the place.”

It’s illegal for landlords to discriminate against people in receipt of a rental allowance or supplement. However, as noted by Threshold, landlords are entitled to seek a market rent for the property and rent allowance doesn’t always cover this.

Louise says this was a “very stressful” time and she didn’t find anywhere before she had to move out in early December 2015.

She had nowhere to go and called into COPE’s day centre. They arranged for her to get a room at Osterley Lodge, a 12-unit hostel that provides emergency accommodation for women and children.

IMG_8054 Source: Órla Ryan

Louise says staying at the hostel was very difficult at times, but the staff helped her pull through.

“It was very frustrating. At one stage, my mental state changed because it was so frustrating. I got angry with people in there. I’m generally not an angry person, I’m happy-go-lucky. I had to go back to the psychiatric unit, I knew I couldn’t live like this. They say when you’re depressed it manifests itself in anger, it’s a vicious circle.

If I didn’t have COPE I wouldn’t be here by now. The staff were absolutely fantastic but they’re stretched beyond their means … If I didn’t have COPE, I’d be dead.

Louise was one of the people Galway City Council placed on a list of nominees for Cúirt Róisin, a social housing development being run by Clúid in the city. She was one of 15 individuals and families who moved into the former Nama-owned property last summer.

“I have my good days and my bad days. The security of having a home has made a huge difference.

“If you go out there and ask for help you will get it, but there is stigma around it … I’m middle class, I don’t want to put a class on it but it’s not just lower classes anymore,” Louise says, referring to a new cohort of people who are becoming homeless or at risk of it.

Louise is aware she’s “one of the lucky ones” and, feeling compelled to campaign on behalf of people experiencing homelessness and housing issues, is now a member of the Galway Housing Action Group.

“I was walking around and saw people sleeping out on the street and thought I was so lucky I never had to do that.

“Other people are still [in Osterley Lodge] to this day … still stuck in limboland.”

David Boyle

IMG_8038

David is a self-employed cleaner. He was on the social housing list for 12 years.

The building he was renting in was put on the market and he says he only had six weeks to find a new place. However, he notes this was more time than many of his neighbours got as he had been living there for longer.

David (53) is a single parent and lives with his two youngest daughters.

He says he isn’t eligible for certain social welfare payments because he is self-employed, but received support through the Rental Accommodation Scheme. Rent supplement claims from self-employed people are assessed on the individual’s circumstances and the person may be asked to prove they are working less than 30 hours a week.

After more than a decade on the social housing list, David says he was losing hope.

I was kind of fearful at that stage about what was going to happen in the end, when I’d get a bit older, wondering where are we going to go and what’s going to happen.

“You kept constantly pushing it to one side. Trying to be positive and stuff like that. But for the kids I’m sure I probably wouldn’t be here I’d say, you know. I probably would have emigrated or went somewhere. Thank god any of that didn’t happen. I think you need focus, for me it was the kids.”

David says some of the places he and his children lived before weren’t great quality, saying he moved into the “to get the kids in off the street”.

While renting, he says the threat of being asked to move out or the rent jumping up was always “looming over you”.

“Especially when the downturn happened, people were much more worried about properties, especially when you see the [estate agent] signs getting closer.”

“When I got the call for here I was delighted. It worked out great. The two girls share the one room. Their friends are close by.

“[The location] is very important. If it was further out of town, it meant a longer commute, more money that wouldn’t be able to go into somewhere like this. It would have taken longer to sort myself out.”

David put some money aside while renting and is now able to buy furniture and decorate the apartment.

“I kind of have to do things on my own, which I don’t mind at all because at least when I’m paying off stuff I know I’m going to be left there.

“Even for little things like having a picture or putting something on the wall, before you couldn’t. And the kids can decorate their room in their way. That kind of thing, you make it more homely. I’m down there at the end [of the building] with the hose at the weekends washing the car and stuff like that. I’m doing what normal people would do if it was their own dwelling, you know?

You’re saying ‘this is my home’, rather than ‘this is where I rent’… You’re more settled.

“I’m paying off the stuff myself, which I like the idea of because I can afford to do that because I’m working. It’s a home, it’s not just a place where you’re living. You’re not wondering ‘When is the [for sale] sign going to go up outside your door’.

“It’s not all paid for yet, but we’re getting there. Maybe down the road they might let us buy [the apartments].

“That would be the icing on the cake in a couple of years, if they gave us an option to buy.”

Rachel

Rachel* is another Cúirt Róisín resident. She lives there with her daughter. They spent 13 years on the social housing waiting list.

“It’s quite a long time, I’d say if Clúid weren’t there I’d probably still be waiting. It’s hard to find anything suitable anyway because of rent and [other costs like] heating.”

Rachel is doing a course at present and hoping to find work.

The location of Cúirt Róisín is a big plus for her as it’s close to her daughter’s school, meaning she didn’t need to move schools.

“It’s only me and her and my mam minds her so it’s really important that I have people close to me. I couldn’t go miles out the country.

“I wouldn’t have been able to move to a different location so it was brilliant that something like this came up. This is such a higher standard compared to what we would have been in,” she says, recalling how some of their previous homes were damp or had mold.

shutterstock_50839585 File photo Source: Shutterstock/bikeriderlondon

Rachel says her daughter is very happy with the new apartment.

“Well, it’s hers – you can never do what you wanted in a rented house, you’d always have to get permission. She’s painted her room the colours she wanted and she can move her stuff and do what she wants … It’s brilliant for her, as she gets older she’ll chop and change.”

Rachel says having a secure home has taken a “huge” burden off her shoulders.

“If you were given a month to leave, where are you going to go? There’s nowhere to house you, truthfully … My family home isn’t big enough to take us in, there’s no accommodation.

“At least here we know that we’re secure and we’ve got somewhere and they’re not going to throw us out.

“I hope that more people get houses like this … Rent is going up and up and it’s absolutely crazy. [This] is affordable and it’s in a great location.

“I still know people who are on [the social housing list], hopefully things will come up for them. I was one of the lucky ones.”

*Not her real name

More features on social housing will be published on TheJournal.ie during the week.

Read: ‘No one thinks they’ll end up in social housing, they shouldn’t be stigmatised if they do’ 

Read: ‘I have never seen anything like this’: Homelessness in Galway hits crisis point

Read: Thousands taken off social housing list for not replying to questionnaire

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article
  •  

About the author:

Órla Ryan

Read next:

COMMENTS (28)