No homes to go to: Locals feel squeeze from wealthy elite

Demand from holiday-home hunters and returning emigrants driving prices higher

Kinsale has become known as Cork’s new millionaires row with houses being snapped up by wealthy holiday-home hunters and returning emigrants. File photograph:  Getty

Kinsale has become known as Cork’s new millionaires row with houses being snapped up by wealthy holiday-home hunters and returning emigrants. File photograph: Getty

 

“Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin: there’s no fireside like your own fireside.” How true that is, whether you say it in Irish or in English. Even through a pandemic the prices of homes increased across Ireland by 2.5 per cent in the 12 months to the end of March this year.

Now that the lockdown is lifting, those with dreams of a home of their own will be beating a path to their bank with their savings in one hand and their employments detail summary in the other full of enthusiasm and ideas for decorating. If you are lucky enough to live near the lakes of Leitrim, in the market town of Ennis or under the shadow of the castles of Cashel or Cahir, then you might have options that will keep you close to home and your family and friends. A three-bedroom house in these locations can still be found for €140,000, making it possible to purchase with a 30-year mortgage on manageable payments of less than €500 per month.

If, on the other hand you have been brought up in an area where the locals find themselves competing with people with deep pockets who come for a visit and then decide they want to stay, it’s a different story.

Kinsale is a good example. Popularly known as the gourmet capital of Ireland, the west Cork town has seen the price of its houses grow exponentially over the last two decades as people look to set down roots on the Irish Riviera.

Josie Dinneen of local auctioneer, JD Estates, says that the average price of a three-bed semi has almost doubled from €150,000 to €180,000 in 2003 to €270,000 to €350,000 in 2020. The rent for a two-bed property has jumped from €750 per month to an average of €1,300 per month she says.

Fine Gael Senator Tim Lombard for one is concerned at the impact this is having on those born and raised in the area.

“In Kinsale, the recession never really hit, and local people are being priced out of the market. After 20 years there are finally some social houses being built and a few much-needed affordable houses but they are still only in the planning stage,” he says.

Lombard also worries about the impact of short-term lettings such as Airbnb on the town’s property market.

“With over 200 short-term lets available here in any given week the supply of rental properties for those wanting to live in the town are diminished. It’s so much more financially viable to have short-term than to have long-term renters.”

He’s not wrong. A holiday rental in Kinsale can command up to €4,500 per week.

“Living in limbo,” is how one resident describes it. He’s paying €1,400 per month in rent to stay in his home town and can see no way out of the rental trap. Another local, Paul, tells me that his daughter and her husband are both working but have moved to Kilkenny in order to buy. Their dream of living near their parents will not be realised. Another woman says her daughter and her partner are paying €1,200 for a one-bed apartment. They are now looking to rent in Cork city and commute to their jobs in their hometown every day. They don’t see how they can ever buy in Kinsale or surrounds.

Local Fianna Fail Cllr Sean O’Donovan says that while 325 families have been approved for social housing in Kinsale and other areas, there is no housing there for them. He says he is trying to assist locals who are desperate to stay near their parents.

James Murphy of local auctioneer Murphy Estates, meanwhile, says he’s never been busier with clients looking for family homes.

Josie Dinneen says that many of her clients are Irish people returning from the United States, the UK and Dubai with budgets of between €700,000 and €1 million. On the matter of supply, she points to the entitlement to an exemption from capital gains tax after seven years as the reason those with second properties are holding on to them and using them as holiday homes or renting them through Airbnb.

But as the town of Kinsale and Fountainstown village become known as Cork’s new millionaires row with homes snapped up by wealthy buyers on the hunt for a seaside retreat or cash-rich returning emigrants, where does this leave the people who grew up there? While everyone wants their home town to prosper, and while we are all happy to welcome new neighbours and friends to the places we have grown up in, what price do we put on this prosperity?

If those looking for a starter home are forced to leave their home towns, they wll take their family names and their stories with them.

As one Kinsale man who spoke to me said: “It’s mostly the older generation who are left here now and when they’re gone there will be nothing of the town’s soul remaining.”