It’s life, but not as we know it (Weekly Blog)

It can be hard to keep up with the various crises going on in Ireland at any one time.

We talk about the housing crisis, the health crisis, the poverty crisis, the mental health crisis; and with all this crisis around us the word can start to lose all meaning, I mean, crisis almighty.

But it’s important we don’t let it become a buzzword. It’s important that when we hear of the “X” crisis that we recognise what that is; a catastrophic failure of government that is causing real life hardship for real people.

Each one of these crises is valid and must be addressed. Of course, health and homelessness would seem most vital. These are literal issues of life and death. There are, at present, around 12,500 homeless people in Ireland. And those are conservative figures, which don’t account for those living with friends or family, sleeping on couches or sharing spare rooms.

You don’t have to look very far to find the outworkings of the myriad of crises in health. Paramedics were on strike yesterday with nurses and midwives due to go on strike next week.

And that’s not to downplay the seriousness of, say, the poverty crisis, which plays its own awful game of life and death. We have all heard the sad news over the past number of weeks, of a spate of suicides all across the country linked to evictions and repossessions.

There is, however, another crisis that we are in the grips of and while it may not seem as drastic as many of the others it will have far reaching consequences for Ireland for generations to come. It will change the very way future generations live, work and raise families.

The rental crisis.

As of the last rental report, rent prices in Ireland are now the highest they have ever been.

The average cost of rent here is now 30% higher than it was in 2008, at the peak of the boom just before the collapse.

How? How can rent continue to rise so drastically yet wages remain stagnant?

It’s clear the Government’s half baked 4% rent cap scheme has been an utter failure. The lowest rise was in Donegal, of just over 6% with the highest come in Galway at more than 14%, well over three times the proposed cap.

So what are the effects of this? Young people live longer and longer at home, until they can save up deposits or until the unpaid internship they’re doing for “experience” decides to pay them.

Students can’t afford to go to college, unless they happen to live in a city that has one. Can you think of a more regressive development, than the reintroduction of education as the preserve of the wealthy?

Relationships are pushed back, the majority of your income goes on rent, there’s little if anything leftover to save, the idea of ever owning a house becomes a bitter joke, the “right time” to have children gets kicked further and further down the road.

It’s not so much living, as existing. It’s sitting impatiently in the waiting room of life, hoping that your number is called next, thinking, maybe next month or next year, with a bit of luck, I’ll get on top of things.

Unless the car breaks down.

Or the job falls through.

Or the rent goes up again.

All these issues and many more besides will have untold consequences for generations to come. Younger and younger children will have to look after older and older parents who at the end of their lives will have nothing to leave them.

The matter isn’t helped either by the sneering attitude of some older people to today’s younger generations.

“If they stopped buying avocados maybe they could afford a house,” followed by a self satisfied snort is a common dismissal of the woes of younger generations we often hear.

I can only imagine the bitter resentment and burning rage that must cause in people in their early 20s, struggling to find and afford a place to live, from a generation that were able to buy a house, a car and raise a family, all on one average income.

While other crises have more immediately obvious effects, the rental crisis, if not addressed, will change the makeup of our villages, towns and cities, will have knock on effects on how pensions, property and welfare work, and yes, will change the Irish family itself.

Of course, while I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight the particular dangers of the rental crisis, we must also remember that all these problems feed into each other.

Poverty, homelessness, suicide, physical and mental health, the cost of living, rural isolation, child poverty and many more besides are all caused by and exacerbated by each other.

What is needed is wholesale change and a fundamentally different way of looking at governance.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have been trying the same approach for almost 100 years and it hasn’t worked yet.

Time to try something different.

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