"Dream BIG or go home! Only I don’t have a home." Ireland's housing crisis isn't just hitting the city it's effecting those living and working in the countryside.
My daughter is desperately looking for a home in County Wicklow. Problems of lack of money and the vice like grip of the county council on house planning with draconian terms is yet another form of forced homelessness through lack of clear thinking and not putting people first.
This is in her words:
Protecting our countryside over protecting our people?
I have lived in County Wicklow since I was four-years-old. I went to both primary and secondary school in Wicklow. I have worked and continue to work in Wicklow. I have lived in Parkbridge, Coolboy and now Aughrim. All within 35 minutes of each other.
I work with horses and the dream is to set up a charity or non profit equine rehab, education and training center. Dream BIG or go home! Only I don’t have a home.
'Local needs' restrictions for planning permission for building houses in Ireland is unfair, discriminatory and makes getting planning for a home nearly impossible to obtain - as well as costing an arm and a leg. County Wicklow is known for being notoriously difficult to obtain planning permission on a site and people often tell you that you have to be born, bred and rared within a few miles of where you would like to build a house. Of course you could just buy a house! But for many that may not be an option either for money issues or career choices. Of course, that is where I live.
Our family home in Parkbridge was repossessed by the banks after my dad went bankrupt in the UK leaving my mum with an unmanageable mortgage which she was unable to afford alone. So then we rented a little cottage in Coolboy. We lived there for 9 years until the landlady wanted to move back in so we got the boot. Then we were forced to split up trying to find suitable places that we could afford and suited our needs. My sister and I now live in Aughrim and my mum lives in Shillelagh, about 30 minutes away. I have rescue horses and they are in a small yard I rent about 20 minutes away from my house. Our house had to also be suitable for our rescue dog and cat.
This past winter was tough! During the worst of the snow I walked the 9km in 4ft drifts to my horses to check them and get them some water (and I’m not very tall). I am very lucky that my place of work is just a couple of minutes down the road and they have jeeps and ferried me up and back to the horses when the snow lessened but my van still couldn’t make it out. I was mostly alone as my sister was in my aunt’s house in Dublin for the college term. I am now returning back to education to get my equine science degree. So I really need to have my animals on site with me and ideally a ‘family’ home to keep costs down and to also help me out a little bit.
So we had an idea. Let’s try buy a little run down house on a couple of acres and we can take our time doing it up but at the end of it we will have our family home. Well it is not quite that easy. Everything we have come across has been was out of our budget which is very modest in line with a single working mother with two student daughters in part-time, precarious employment.
More affordable idea: let’s buy some land locally and build. After all I have lived in Co. Wicklow all my life and I have been working in the same equine yard for five and a half years and I’ve been living in the same house for 2 years. A nice five acre field has come up for sale that is within our budget so I call the Wicklow County Council to check about local needs etc.
On this phone call I am told.
‘We need to protect our countryside’ [What about protecting our people?]
We get hundreds of calls like yours’ [Doesn’t that tell you that something is going wrong?]
‘It’s to stop people selling houses in Dublin and moving down ruining our countryside’ [So you’re also punishing me too? Rather than just stopping people building gaudy mansions you stop anyone who is not born and reared in the one 8km radius? ]
‘Wexford is ruined’ [Because they are not so strict with their local needs]
‘You can buy a house’ [I cannot afford to]
‘Buy a house in a town’ [My livelihood is horses, how will that work?]
‘We have placed local needs on run down houses and ruins too to stop the price being driven up’ (implying I may be able to afford that) [But what good is that to me as you have just told me I do not qualify for local needs?]
Never have I been more embarrassed to be Irish. We have thousands of homeless people including families and protecting green is more important? I do not want to build a gaudy mansion (even if I could afford it). All I want is a small house or bungalow to have some security and to call home.
I have lived in Wicklow for over 20 years but never in one place long enough to be able to build a home. But none of the moving was my choice, heck it wasn’t even my mum’s choice. Plus how was she to know I was going to be pony mad and have such a dream that requires me to live in the countryside.
I was close to tears on the phone to the lady in the planning office and I am sure she could hear it in my voice, after all she said they get 100s of calls like mine……. How can that be right? They get 100s of calls of people unable to afford pumping what little money they have into a dead end such as rent, also unable to afford to buy a house, but a slim glimmer of home would be to buy a small field and build as they earn the money and have a small amount of security that they won’t be evicted. But no I am not born, bred and reared in the one area so I may as well be an alien looking for planning permission. All because we have had to move a few times over the last 12 years, from external factors that we had and still have ZERO control over. I could be given my eviction notice in the morning and be essentially homeless as I have no lease and I have not come across anywhere that has as cheap rent. So basically everywhere else is well out of my budget, which will be dropping even further when I begin college in September.
My housing future is looking very uncertain - unless I win the lottery (and that as my mum always tells me is a poor man's tax).
Georgina taking about her two rescue horses. As much as she loves them, I think they love her more - Mum.
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