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RENTAL CRISIS: Fewer houses, at higher rents, means it’s a case of survival of the fittest

May 24th, 2021 11:40 AM

By Emma Connolly

'My heart goes out to people trying to get a property to rent,’ says estate agent Martin Kelleher. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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Since the pandemic hit, more people have returned to West Cork, with others looking to relocate here. All of this has added to the low supply of homes, and contributed to spiralling rents, pushing people out of the area

THERE’S a serious shortage of quality and affordable long-term rental accommodation in West Cork which is displacing families and has the potential to undermine the region’s ability to attract a quality labour force.

That’s according to local estate agents who believe the West Cork housing market is now aimed at a couple working full-time, at the expense of every other demographic.

The latest rental report by Daft.ie reveals the average monthly rental in Co Cork for 2020 was €1,137, which is 8.7% higher than the previous year.

Locally, rents are typically €1,000 for a three-bed house and around €1,100-1,200 for a four-bed. A two-bed house/apartment starts at €800; one-bedroom properties start at €625 per month and one-bedroom apartments suitable for couples are €750-€850.

Daft.ie also shows just 16 properties available to rent in West Cork at the moment, with a similar shortage on offer from estate agents.  That’s a discouraging scenario of fewer houses to rent, for higher prices.

Essentially what’s available to rent in West Cork can be split into three categories. There are the short-term rentals that are available on Airbnb.

Typically, at this time of the year, lots of people are displaced from houses to make them available for these lucrative short-term summer rentals.

Then there’s the ‘in-demand’ properties which go to the highest bidder. West Cork has become hugely popular since the pandemic hit, for remote workers, and people who flew the nest are now keen to return.

This means locals are competing with people on Dublin salaries and losing out.

That leaves the sub-standard properties, which last year commanded a monthly rent of around €800, but which have now increased up to €1,200 due to demand.

Clonakilty-based estate agent Martin Kelleher said the market is totally excluding single people, bungalows for the elderly, and apartments for the young.

He’s furious about the crisis which he said everybody saw coming from a mile off since 2010/2011.

‘New home building came to a standstill in 2009, but the population in the Republic is 800,000 more people now than it was in 2005. We have been really good at adopting new EU directives which have exponentially risen the cost of building.

‘On top of that, the planning system is a disaster, with lack of access for developers to building finance.

‘We have the land, there’s loads of it. We need to fast-track planning permissions, give builders interest-free loans, create a national building company that will take on trades apprentices long-term and at good rates.’

Around Clonakilty, he said, there’s rarely more than two or three properties available for rent at any one time.

‘And we get at least three to four enquiries every day from people looking for a rental and they are happy to compromise.

‘My heart goes out to people trying to get a property to rent. The lack of rental supply is eroding our competitiveness in attracting a labour force and new relocators who would be shopping and spending in the area.’

Finding a rental home comes down, a lot of the time,  to local contacts.

Carbery Group, a major employer in the region, agreed that lack of rentals has been an issue for some recent employees.

‘We’ve been lucky in that local contacts/knowledge have sorted our employees out on a couple of occasions, but the situation would have been difficult, but for having these contacts,’ said a spokesperson.

Sarah Connolly, letting agent for Charles McCarthy in Skibbereen, agrees that the region’s lack of suitable accommodation is stopping people from relocating for work purposes.

‘I have had many enquiries over the last few months from people who are looking to live and work in the area and are in need of accommodation, but it is just not available at the moment.

‘Also the quality of property does vary greatly, so quite often tenants will have to compromise in some way in order to live in a particular area,’ she added.   

This is part one in a series about the West Cork rental crisis. Read part two on Tuesday.

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