A CORK city councillor has spoken about being part of the “locked out” generation of people unable to qualify for a mortgage despite never missing or being late with a rent payment for over a decade.
Solidarity Councillor Fiona Ryan, 31, calculated that she has spent approximately €104,864 in rent over the past 11 years.
Despite a perfect track record of rent payments, buying her own property, is at present, an unattainable goal.
“I think the locked out generation which isn’t just one generation now, it’s two generations – pretty much anyone under the age of 40- have become normalised to paying the majority of our pay to landlords. It’s a situation that has been consciously created by the banks and by the political establishment which propped them up after the financial crash,” Ms Ryan said.
“There are so many houses on the northside that are eminently affordable, that are under €200,000. There are houses going on Kerryhall Road for €150,000.
“I would have had one of those houses mostly paid off by now if I had been able to access a mortgage,” she continued.
Ms Ryan pointed to the mortgages have become far more affordable than renting and it is lower and average income people who are suffering the most.
“As a councillor, I do this full time, the only wage I take is actually quite low. It’s just under €17,000 a year. My partner is a waiter in a hotel, so we’re both low-income people,” she said.
“We’re only able to borrow 3.5 times our max annual income. The banks have created a situation that locks us out, regardless of our ability to pay rent for over a decade,” she continued.
“In order to keep a roof over our heads, we’ve had to pay a mortgage and then some.
“There is no reason that banks wouldn’t take that into account unless they’re consciously trying to restrict what layers of society are able to access property. Banks want cash buyers and landlords.” Ms Ryan also spoke about the power this has given the latter groups.
“What we don’t talk about now is the ‘soft power’ of landlords.
“Even the best landlords don’t understand the enormous power they hold over their tenants.
“Most tenants, if there’s an issue in the property that could be resolved themselves for let’s say under €100, they’ll just do it themselves rather than facing the anxiety of going to the landlord to ask for something.
“Even good landlords are ripping their tenants off because we wouldn’t be in a situation right now where the average rent is so high if all landlords, with a few exceptions, aren’t complicit in the system.” The Cork North Central councillor said urgent action needs to be taken to combat this issue.
“I think we need urgent rent control that’s doesn’t just stop the rents from rising, but gives the ability to roll them back.
“If the State and the banks believe that spending more than 30% of your income on a mortgage as per the mortgage lending rules is unaffordable then why are they happy for a situation of the vast majority of the renters paying that and more?
“We have to have a situation where real rent control is introduced,” she said.
“Second, we need to build public housing on public land and that has to include public options for renting where you can be given affordable renting on council built property - it’s the norm throughout Europe and it’s something that just doesn’t exist in Ireland.” Ms Ryan said the issue will “only get worse” if action is not taken.
“What you have now is a normalised situation of young people living with their parents well into their twenties, sometimes into their thirties, and then other people moving back home to live with their parents in their thirties in a desperate attempt to save for a mortgage,” she said.
“It shouldn’t be our elderly parents that have to bear the burden of the housing disaster Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour and the Greens have created.”