Dear Dublin, it’s not me, it’s you. And that’s why I’m leaving

Out-of-reach house prices combined with €16 for hot chocolate and a bun have shown me it’s time to go

Dear Dublin, it’s not me. It’s you. You have wrung me out and squeezed me dry so now, it’s time for a change.

For me, the final nail in the coffin of life in Dublin was a story about a bun and a hot chocolate costing a whopping €16 in a city centre cafe.

That was when I finally realised that it wasn’t me – it was you.

Both myself and my husband have always worked full-time. Like a lot of others, we work hard and dream of one day owning our own home. When our daughter was born in 2015, after years of IVF treatment that cost us a total of €21,000, we felt and still do feel like we had won the lottery. Life is messy, and while our peers were saving for deposits and buying their first homes, we put every cent into fertility treatment.

The years of struggling to pay childcare costs, on top of rent and food, nearly broke us but we did it. When the years of crippling creche fees were over and our daughter started school, we thought we would get a break. We whispered that now we might be able to scrape some money together to finally save a deposit for our own home. Then came notion-laden house prices in Dublin coupled with the costs of afterschool care, uniforms, books, voluntary contributions and swimming lessons.

At 51, I am ashamed to say that I am still renting and this is unlikely to change if we stay in Dublin, where house prices are completely out of our reach. Then again, I know that we are not alone. We are among a not insignificant number of ageing renters that a 2022 study by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) warned is at risk of future income poverty in retirement.

The ESRI study found that, in comparison with current retirees where the homeownership rate is about 90 per cent, homeownership rates are approximately 80 per cent for those currently aged 55-64 and 45-54; and that this differential was unlikely to close substantially for these groups given their position in the life cycle.

As I get older, I realise just how precarious renting can be. The lack of any real security is frightening. Knowing that at any stage you could lose your home and perhaps not be able to afford the current rents where you live and your kids go to school are thoughts I know keep a lot of renters up at night.

One day on a whim, I phoned a major Irish bank about the possibility of getting a mortgage and was told that we would be in with a chance if we didn’t have childcare costs. With both of us working full-time and school closing at 2.30pm, I wasn’t sure what the bank expected us to do. Apparently, it’s frowned upon to tie a small child to the gates of the school until 5pm unsupervised.

So, Dublin, it’s not me. It’s you.

I could be convinced if the ads said ‘no husbands’, but Lucy and Maisie the cats and Daisy the dog coming too was non-negotiable

We had some good times, don’t get me wrong. You gave us the sea, the best neighbours in the world and wonderful friends, all of whom we will miss desperately. My daughter adores her school, teachers, friends and GAA club. She has thrived in Dublin. As time passes, however, I realise that she will get to an age where it will be more difficult to make a big move, so the time is now.

The decision to move at our stage in life has been difficult and, at times, quite scary. It is also exciting but has not been without its challenges.

I have been offered a wonderful new job in Limerick and everyone I have encountered there, from estate agents to school secretaries, have been incredibly warm and helpful.

Unfortunately, however, in looking for a place to live we soon discovered our problem was that we had pets.

Given the accommodation crisis in the country, we knew it would be difficult to find a new home to rent. Trawling through rental properties online, practically each and every one of them said “no pets”. We have one small dog and two cats who are important members of our family. There was no way we were leaving them behind. I could be convinced if the ads said “no husbands”, but Lucy and Maisie the cats and Daisy the dog coming too was non-negotiable.

There were days when I asked my husband if we were mad to leave our home in an area we loved and where our daughter was so happy. Maybe we should just call the whole thing off, I thought on more than one occasion when met once again with “no pets”. After months of searching, however, we finally found a gorgeous four-bed bungalow where, thankfully, both pets and husbands are welcome.

The other major challenge we encountered was school places. Two out of three of the primary schools in the area near our new rental were full with long waiting lists. It was explained to me that Limerick had grown in popularity and more families were moving to the area. Unfortunately, however, there has not been a similar increase in primary school places. Thankfully, after a few nail-biting weeks, we finally found a place in a small, friendly national school where I know my daughter will be warmly welcomed.

I am excited about our move to lovely Limerick, where the people are so welcoming, buns and hot chocolate don’t cost €16 and we might, fingers crossed, one day be able to own our own home. Also, outside of Dublin, childcare is more affordable and the rent money goes further, giving our daughter space to run and us to breathe.

So, this is it, Dublin.

It’s not me.

It’s you.

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