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She’s a felt maker. He has a food truck. How did they get a home loan?

Scant resources and a housing crisis have made us narrow our eyes in suspicion at each other

Divides have always existed in Ireland. Historically, you can slice and dice Irish society in a dozen ways as if it were a courgette on a late-night kitchen gadget infomercial. First up you’ve got the big hitters that still flavour public and political life. The Civil War gave us two similar centre-right political parties. There’s also Protestants and Catholics, Culchies and Townies, Barry’s and Lyons Tea, and the entire country vs the Dublin 4 accent.

We’ve even invented differences when we’re bored – like pretending other white people in a town 20 minutes down the road across an invisible county line are exotic outsiders with strange customs especially when it comes to GAA season.

But now the deepest divide isn’t between those who wear different coloured jerseys or whether their bottoms go numb on a pew on a Sunday at Mass or Service. Instead, it’s between renters and owners. Those who are stuck on a hamster wheel of trying to save for a house as rents rocket at the same time as housing prices so that the little amount that finally gets scraped together is never enough for a deposit. And those who have managed to jump off and land in their own livingroom that they’re finally free to decorate in any other shade than landlord white.

For our parents, home ownership was just a thing they knew they could do – like smoking in cars with children in the back. Being able to attain a forever home was an automatic assumption for generations where now it is a privilege. Available to some but not to all. Something the “all” feel keenly every time they receive notice their rent is going up or see another bang average home advertised confidently for half a million euros with photos of unmade beds.


Scant resources have made us narrow our eyes in suspicion at each other. General chit-chat with new acquaintances become spaghetti western standoffs. “What area do you live in?” ask homeowners who feel jaded they couldn’t buy in their preferred location and were forced further out. God help you if it’s the same one as your answer because they’ll be sizing up your handbag, your jewellery, your salary and the attractiveness disparity between you and your spouse. Any clues to figure out how you could afford it but they can’t. “Ah but you’re only renting right?” comes the smug coup de grace. “Only” as if your rents aren’t nearly double their mortgage repayments.

‘We all know the Bank of Mum and Dad is keeping the Irish first-time buyer market afloat’

In the grand tradition of this proud and noble land, the begrudgery cuts both ways. Renters or those still living at home still in the first circle of hell can be equally protrusive in the financial affairs of homeowners. Just listen to any conversations in the car ride home from a dinner party.

“She said they bought.”

“But she’s a felt maker with a part-time job in an art gallery and he has a loss-making food truck that serves sushi on pizza. How did they get a loan?”

“They must have had help from their parents. Quick go through her Facebook and see if she has any skiing vacation photos.”

“Yep, there’s an album called Val-d’Isère en famille from 2012.”


We all know the Bank of Mum and Dad is keeping the Irish first-time buyer market afloat and most of us would snap the hand off if a cheeky little €40k got handed to us in a secret granny handshake. But for the home-loan have-nots, there is something satisfying about knowing your friends got a little bit of help (good for them) to achieve their goal. Otherwise, the reason you’re getting left behind is because you’re lazy, stupid and invested your communion money in a trampoline instead of cryptocurrency. It’s far nicer to claim others get given everything in life than hold ourselves accountable for not doing better.

While the divide can be widened through suspicion, looking up salaries on and stalking parents on LinkedIn, friends can manage to bridge the chasm between them. In my experience, there is an unspoken code among sound people to be honest and empathetic in these situations. When a friend purchased a house with an enviable address in Sydney at 25 on a junior journalist salary (two buttons and a coffee loyalty card with ⅘ stamps punched to get one free) she told us her parents lent her the deposit. By acknowledging her leg up, she made the rest of us feel okay about not being able to achieve the same yet. Friends who openly tell you how they were able to move home to save or cashed in company shares to afford their house keep the begrudgery levels down. I wish them well, genuinely. Not even in a Gwyneth Paltrow way. Who wouldn’t like help? But we shouldn’t have to need it to put a roof over our heads. That’s what should unite our warring factions, especially coming into elections.

Brianna Parkins

Brianna Parkins

Brianna Parkins is an Irish Times columnist