Housing Problem

We live in a very diverse political society ranging from the far right capitalists to the far left communists. Depending on your allegiance you will believe or disbelieve whatever they tell you. They all sound plausible and I suppose, in an ideal world, all their theories will work. The problem is we do not live in an ideal world and the truth is that non of the theories work for all people. Our democratic system gives us the opportunity to choose our legislators every four years so if we don’t like what they do we can turf them out and elect a new crew.

It is however  replacing  Tweedledum with Tweedledee with the new grouping doing all the things that they said they would not do while in opposition and so it goes on. More and more people are getting fed up with the main parties and are turning instead to  independents who generally represent some local issue  like hospital closures or “potholes”.  We have many bones of contention with the legislators today like water charges, household charges, hospital waiting lists, medical cards etc., the list goes on.

One thing that is causing huge problems throughout the country is the lack of housing. It is now accepted that people lost the run of themselves in the boom years paying exorbitant prices for houses they could never hope to pay for. Not entirely their own fault since greedy bank managers were encouraging them to borrow far beyond their capabilities to repay so that they could Pocket a big bonus cheque.  Why do we have the compulsion to own our own homes? Throughout the world the majority of people are quite content to live in rented accommodation all their lives but not us. Not only do we want to own our own homes we think we have an absolute right to do so. This is a relatively new idea. Going back a few years all the local authorities built houses in  cities, towns and villages and most working class people lived happily in these. The professional classes and business people did own their own properties because they could afford them. In the countryside Farmers owned houses and the local council built houses for the people who worked for them. Every second house along the roadside was a “council cottage” and many people, including myself, enjoyed growing up in them.

Gradually things changed  mainly through the availability of mortgages and more and more  ordinary people built or bought their own homes. The local authorities saw the opportunity to save some money and cut back on the housing programmes, cutting out the one-off rural houses altogether.  Everything was ok until the boom and of course the burst came and now we have a long list of people on waiting lists for houses that are not there. In the society we have created we have the expectation, maybe even the right, to have a roof over our heads.

We have been let down, that’s a fact, but did we contribute to the problem ourselves by building houses that were far too big for our needs. The three bedroom bungalow was the standard  for years but when money became available the “keep up with the Joneses” attitude took over and houses got bigger and bigger. A couple with two children do not need a house with six en-suite bedrooms unless they are going into the B & B business.

Why put oneself under the strain of huge repayments just for show?  Families are smaller these days than when I was young. Back then 8-12 children was the norm and they all lived happily in three or four rooms.  Even so we don’t want to go back to those days but let us lower our expectations a small bit. Local authorities should get back to building as many houses as are necessary, including one-off rural developments. It would give young couples an opportunity to live in and eventually purchase their own place and take the first step on the ladder. Plenty time for bigger houses later on when they are in a better position to afford them.

Domhnall de Barra