WHEN I lived in my previous house in the countryside, Cork County Council insisted that I needed to upgrade my septic tank.
There was nothing wrong with it but because I was looking for planning permission, the tank had to comply with new building regulations — regulations that didn’t exist when I was building it back in 1982.
I got an engineer to have a look at it and he said that what was being proposed was an overkill and unnecessary, but I didn’t have a choice.
When I questioned it, I was told that because it was a four-bedroom house, the septic tank had to be capable of dealing with eight people as the regulations count two people in every bedroom.
I pointed out that there were only three of us living there and, as my wife and I were both over 50 at the time, the prospect of us having more kids was highly unlikely, but they said it didn’t matter. It was two people per bedroom and that was that.
But maybe they weren’t daft after all, just looking to the future, because there is a serious shortage of houses... and it’s my fault apparently.
According to a report in the Irish Examiner, the Government is making a fresh push to entice older people to move out of family homes and free up housing by gauging their interest in a series of financial and property incentives in the run-up to the next budget.
They are surveying older people for their views on downsizing as part of research due to be completed in September, just weeks before Budget 2020.
The Department of Housing enlisted a survey company to ask 1,050 older people living alone for their views on what incentives would convince them to move out of their homes.
I came across an earlier statement from the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI), who said empty-nesters should be financially incentivised to downsize their home to help ease the housing crisis and there was talk of a ‘granny flat grant’ of up to €15,000 for homeowners who wanted to convert their homes into two units.
In other words, too many of us are living in houses that are too big. We’re called ‘empty nesters’ because we continue to live in the family-sized home after the kids have flown the coop, and we’re causing problems. Young people can’t find houses to raise their own families and it’s all our doing.
Don’t panic, though, because we can solve the housing problem if we go and live in a closet and give the house to younger families.
We’ve reared our children, so now they want us to jump ship into a flat and make the space available to others, so they can raise their kids.
Well, you can take that solution and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine and take the ‘granny flat grant’ with you on the way out, and let me tell you why.
Many homeowners of my age started out in the early 1980s, either buying or building our houses. We got married, started a family, saved hard, made sacrifices and in those early years, often struggled to make ends meet.
In my case, we raised two children to maturity, educated them and did whatever else was required to help them get the best start in life.
That’s a serious investment and we did it while paying taxes and looking after all the bills that needed to be paid just to keep the show on the road. Clearing the mortgage and being debt-free seemed a lifetime away.
That day eventually dawned, though, and it was a great relief. The kids were grown and sorted, and it was our time to reap the rewards and enjoy the rest of our lives doing whatever we wanted to do.
Except that it’s not straight-forward now because the rules have changed. These days the kids don’t want to leave the nest and, in many cases, when they do leave, they end up coming back to take over the spare room until they find their own place.
Now the Government wants us to either vacate our property and move to something smaller like a granny flat or, alternatively, split the house in two. There might even be a grant to help us convert our walk-in wardrobe into a mini-flat.
If somebody wants me to move out, they had better come up with a decent proposal. If I’m going anywhere, it will be to a place of my liking, built to a high standard and close to local amenities. There aren’t too many of those available to me now, and until such time as I see something suitable, I’m staying put.
And don’t worry about me being lonesome when I have the house to myself. That emotional blackmail is not going to work on me.
Psychotherapist, Toby Ingham reckons it might be a shock to the system when the kids leave, and it will only hit us when it happens.
He says that empty nest syndrome can lead to feelings of depression, loneliness and grief, and while we may think it affects women more than men, men often go through the same experience too.
Who am I to argue with Mr Ingham? He has obviously met grieving fathers in his time, distraught because their kids have packed their bags, but he hasn’t met me.
My wife and I paid our dues and we’ve done our bit for the State. If they want me to solve the housing crisis, they had better have deep pockets.
In the meantime, if I happen to be part of the ‘random sample’ of homeowners surveyed, then I hope the guy who comes knocking on my door isn’t easily offended.