THE HOUSING CRISIS has had a devastating effect on so many people across the country. I recently shared my story about my family’s experience with mortgage arrears and homelessness. Our story is not unique and we are far from alone. The Central Bank recently reported that there are currently 76,000 mortgages in arrears.
Like all families, we wanted to have a place to call our own. I rented for years around Dublin and each year it was getting more difficult to find an affordable place to rent. I never took owning my own home for granted and we certainly did not consider our home an investment.
We genuinely believed it would be our forever home. We had plans to finish the garden, add a bedroom to the attic, buy nice furniture once we could afford to, to raise our family there.
We’re part of the ever increasing working poor
We always struggled to make ends meet, part of the working poor that is ever increasing in this country. By the time the mortgage and other bills were paid each month, there was barely enough left over for much. We didn’t mind. We were constantly being told by older generations that it’s always like this to begin with.
Five years on though and we were still finding it really hard to make ends meet.
Along came 2008, two babies, a credit crunch, a recession of epic proportions and a redundancy. Reliant on social welfare and my wages, we cut absolutely everything to the bone.
It started out with the obvious things. Health insurance was cancelled. Satellite TV was cancelled. Nights out were cancelled. Then it began to include the important things. Friends weddings were cancelled. Unnecessary car journeys were cancelled. Days out with the kids were cancelled. All of the ways that memories are made, cancelled. That is time we won’t ever get back.
I was made feel we were overindulging
I called our bank almost weekly. We had to fill out forms that went through our income and expenditure every three months. Each time the amounts we had down would be questioned and I was made to feel that we were overindulging.
I was told I could not put by €20 a week to save for Christmas presents. I was told our health costs were very expensive, which covered medication such as anti-depressants and anxiety tablets, creams for our daughter who suffered terribly from eczema and medicine for our little boy who had reflux.
Each and every time we had to go through the figures, I would lose a little part of myself. The guilt and shame was immense.
Our babies were growing out of car seats and buggies and clothes and shoes and each day I was having panic attacks wondering how we would afford to get them what they needed. I remember sitting on the lovely oak stairs in this beautiful house that we had built, thinking I couldn’t even afford new shoes for my toddler and I couldn’t ask family for help again. I just could not stop crying. It broke me. It almost broke us as a family.
We knew we couldn’t go on like this anymore
In 2013 after months of discussion, we knew we couldn’t go on like this anymore. My mental and physical health was at an all-time low. The bank had asked us to consider selling the property for some time.
We reluctantly agreed at that point and put the house up on the market. We sold everything we had, including my wedding ring, to afford six months rent and to cover the fees to allow me to enter full time education. We were now officially homeless.
I’ll never forget our last day in our home. Packing everything into the car and trying not to cry in front of my children. Trying to be brave when all I felt was that my world was falling apart. We lost our home but we swore to each other that we did not go through all of this in vain. Since then we have been dealing with a vulture fund who has sold the house but still wants to recoup the full outstanding balance from us. We are now faced with bankruptcy.
Carly Bailey writes about this and other issues on her blog. She’s a local area rep for the Social Democrats in Dublin South West and a full-time mature student studying law and political science at Trinity, thanks to the Trinity Access Programme (TAP).