WHEN Veronika Haluskova moved to Cork from Slovakia four years ago, she was looking forward to setting up a new life here.
Her Slovakian husband, David Malak, 36, was already living in the city and renting a place, and Veronika was making plans to get a job, start a family, and eventually buy a home that the couple could call their own.
But Veronika, 34, now the mother of a 20-month-old girl, Zoe, now believes that the dream of them buying a family home is way out of their reach.
Even worse, the family are also facing an uncertain future, as their landlord wants them to move out so he can pursue a business venture.
Although she works, and husband David this week started a new job after being laid off, Veronika has even tried the social housing option — and been told the waiting list will mean they face a wait of EIGHT YEARS!
The pressure of an unknown future is a strain on the young couple, who came to Ireland in the hope of a better life for themselves and their family.
“We hoped for a better life here, but it’s not happening,” admits Veronika. “We just want to settle down. We want to go to work and have a home.
“I would love my own kitchen. I don’t expect more. That doesn’t seem a lot to ask for.
“We’ve always paid our rent and we built up a good relationship with our landlord as a result of that. And we get on well with our neighbours.
“We can’t stay at our present house, but our options are zero.”
A place of their own seems like a pipe-dream.
“David and I would love to have our own family time in our own place with our own things,” says Veronkia.
“We have worked hard to achieve our own things, and I am very grateful for my work. I love it.
“But David’s situation, where he lost his job, did not help us and there is no motivation to plan for the future.
“Zoe is young yet, but as she gets older and she goes to school, there will be more expense. She will need new clothes, shoes and a school uniform.”
When Veronika arrived in Cork four years ago, she moved into a place that David had been renting for a year.
“In order to afford the rent, we have a house-mate, Peter, who contributes to the bills,” she explained.
“The rent is €220 a week. I work in Tesco in Douglas, but David lost his full-time job after 10 years. He has just started a new job on Monday, but before then he was on social welfare. It made more financial sense, because the cost of childcare is unaffordable for us.”
Unaffordable rents and the cost of buying have stopped the young family’s dream of a home of their own in its tracks.
“After 10 years, when David was working, we didn’t go anywhere,” says Veronika. “We stayed renting. A house of our own is out of reach.”
According to Cork auctioneers, the selling price for a typical three-bedroom semi-detached house is €270,000 including VAT, price of land and profit.
“It is an impossible dream for us,” says Veronika, sadly.
“Since David lost his job in January, it was so hard to save any money for a deposit on a house and on the Daft.ie page, rentals are up to €1,200 a month.
“It is unrealistic for us to hope to own our own house, when you have to come up with a percentage of the deposit for it first.”
However, they both realise they are living on borrowed time in their present arrangement.
The couple have had lee-way from their landlord who is anxious they move on. They are depending on his goodwill to let them stay there until they get social housing or can afford another place if David gets a job.
“Our present landlord wants us to quit and has given us notice since February,” said Veronika.
“That has been extended. But he wants us out because he has plans to renovate the property into a business.
“We begged him to let us stay until July and now the pressure is really on us to move out by the end of the month. He has given us a bit more time.
“We hope the business proposal might not happen, then he won’t need us to go. Not knowing if we’ll have a home next week or next month is not ideal for a young family.”
The couple are struggling to keep a roof over their heads.
“We don’t know what will happen. Our landlord hasn’t asked us to leave yet. But one day, he will. In bed at night, we worry.”
As they pursue new rental properties, the couple are also facing issues because they have a child and a dog.
“Landlords don’t want to know us when we tell them we have a child and a dog,” says Veronika.
“That is amazing. We thought it was quite a normal part of life for a couple to have a child and a dog.
“We would love to have a place of our own and our own privacy. It would be lovely to be able to get a place to call home and to make it a home.
“We did our research and went to some viewings where there were loads of other couples,” says Veronika.
“We were told numerous times that they only want adults, no children, no pets. I know 75% of Irish people own a pet. Some landlords would not even talk to us.
“It seems fine to rent property to people who drink alcohol or who smoke cigarettes; but not if you have a child or a dog. That’s not fair.”
Veronika says house prices are out of their reach and prices of property are well beyond them.
“When we both worked and brought home two pay cheques, we paid the rent and brought the food for the week and that was it.
“There was no money to spare. The price of renting a house or an apartment is gone out the window.”
The couple have no choice at present and they have no luxuries.
“I have a family and I want comfort and warmth for them and for myself.”
Is there any light at the end of the tunnel?
“We applied for social housing,” say Veronika. “In Mahon, Douglas and in Turners Cross. There is a chance we might come to the top of the queue in five, ten, or fifteen years’ time. We have no other option right now.
“Threshold helped us out and wrote a letter for us to help our application in the queue. We apply every single week.”
Veronika called one councillor from Cork City Council to get information about a social housing application and was told she faced a queue of at least eight years and that their best option was to get a private rental.
Meanwhile, Nelson, the family’s Alaskan Malamute dog, needs a garden.
“Yes, he does,” says David. “He has got his own house outside and doesn’t enter the house where we live now, but when we tell people that when we are looking for a new house; it doesn’t seem to matter. We are just turned away.”
The couple just want to turn the corner and get on with their lives.
The Advice Services, Threshold, National Housing Charity, 22 South Mall, Cork