Lorraine Courtney: 'Paschal has nothing for Generation Rent – why stay in a country that doesn't value you?'

IS Fine Gael trolling young people? Even for a generation used to being snubbed by those in power, watching Paschal Donohoe deliver Budget 2020 yesterday felt like a kick in the teeth. “Absolutely no surprises,” Paschal had said. We’re still on track to be a generation collectively poorer than our parents.

Budget 2020 had nothing for Generation Rent. In fact, the Government seems to have completely forgotten that a whole generation has been priced out of the housing market. This matters. Every milestone traditionally shoved down our throats as markers of adulthood, whether that’s owning a house or living alone or raising a family, is increasingly becoming something that’s only accessible to the smallest, richest sliver of the under-40 demographic.

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When you buy a home, you make a long-term commitment to your neighbourhood. When you rent, you don’t. In the rush to pretend we’re all renting like Germans now, we are forgetting that social bonds and ties have died with mortgages.

It’s cheaper to buy than rent, but there is no hope of saving for a deposit. We are spending up to two-thirds of our wages on rents, ever since the generation before us bought up a hefty proportion of property and is now either sitting on it or letting it out to us for enormous monthly fees. Headlines tell stories of rents that far surpass what we saw during the boom.

According to the latest quarterly Rental Report by Daft.ie, on average the cost of renting is now €1,391 per month, and this increase marks the 13th consecutive quarter of record rents. The average listed rent per month is €361 higher than the last peak 11 years ago.

Home-ownership rates in Ireland have hit their lowest levels in 46 years. The rate dropped from 69.7pc to 67.6pc, the lowest since 1971. The levels are lowest in urban areas, where just 59.2pc of homes are occupied by the person who owns them. Still, the implication is that unless you’re sitting in a tent on the canal, rattling with the cold, you have no right to complain.

In Ireland we are paying between 51pc and 53pc higher rent than the UK, according to a recent study from Provident Personal Credit. But then, when you factor in high living costs, then you’re lucky if you have enough left for a drink at the end of the month. But hang on there, big spender – you weren’t actually thinking about having that drink, were you? Because that money should be saved up so you can eventually move out of your co-living space when you’re 55.

Our basic living expenses swallow up most of our wages before we have had time to think about doing anything else, be it a holiday, a night out or even getting a takeaway.

A pair of jeans costs €74.05, which is about £64.80 – €9.60 (£8.40) more expensive than a pair in the UK. Even cars in Ireland are more expensive than those in the UK.

When the recession first hit, there was much made of the need to broaden the tax base; to ensure that as many people as possible are making some contribution. But why are we still paying and where is that money going?

Earlier this year, the Taoiseach committed to increase the point at which people pay the top rate of tax to €50,000 for a single person or €100,000 for a two-income couple over the next five budgets. Reader, he was lying. Yesterday, he chose to give medical cards to more older voters instead – and to under-eights, regardless of their parents’ incomes or their medical need.

Young people are stuck in a vicious cycle of high rents, low wages and not much opportunity for career progression to help themselves out of the cycle. We aren’t saving enough because there isn’t any money left to save. In an ideal world, young people would have savings, a job and a home, but young people are always at the bottom of the list of people the Government wants to help and Budget 2020 is no different.

I’m light years away from where I thought I’d be by now and my so-called adult life has been a series of dingy flats and housemates to make ends meet.

I’m frustrated, scared and out of pocket, and unless the Government re-evaluates its reckless, short-sighted policies, young people will look abroad for brighter futures, leaving the future looking very grim indeed for people left behind.

Why should we stay? To watch our children grow up in private rented accommodation that they can be evicted out of on a whim? To pay childcare fees of €1,000 a month from a wage that’s already been ravaged by tax, PRSI and USC deductions?

You can’t neglect important social policy areas like housing and childcare, sit on your hands while there is no improvement either, and hope that the electorate will keep on voting you back in.

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