BY EMMA CONNOLLY
A MAN who wanted to bring his Silicon Valley digital experience to a start-up in West Cork had to turn it down because he couldn’t find any house to either rent or to buy.
And Eugene Murphy said if finding a place to live was a hard experience for him with his ability to make a six-figure salary, he can’t imagine what it’s like for others.
Eugene got offered a job with a digital start-up in Clonakilty and despite trying hard to make it work for six months, he had to park it, because he couldn’t find anywhere to live in the wider area.
From Passage West originally, Eugene has strong family ties to West Cork. His mother is from Templemartin and he has close cousins in Kilbrittain. digital consultant, he returned from Australia in May 2020, having worked abroad since 2013.
‘My parents are getting older, I’ve a brother and two sisters here, four nephews and a niece. I’m 37 now and I wanted to get back and settle down here, to bring my skills and experience here, and I wanted to live in a place that I’ve an attachment to,’ he said.
He took a job in Kildare when he got back initially, but despite leaving that position at Christmas, he is still living there because since January he’s found it ‘unachievable’ to either buy or rent a house in the general area – stretching from Muskerry to Tralee.
‘I’m looking for a modest property, at the lower end, around €250,000. But the cottages which were €50/€60k when I started looking are now €110k. The value has gone out of the market. There’s nothing there. I’m completely priced out.’
Eugene said that as a businessman he had to do the maths and the numbers weren’t stacking up for him to buy.
But rental options are just as slack.
‘I’d check Daft.ie every morning and at the start there were 24 properties in West Cork for under €1,000 a month, then 14, then six and the quality was garbage. Estate agents in West Cork are so honest, but there’s nothing there.’
He has compared West Cork to Queenstown in New Zealand which he said had become a ‘playground for the rich with locals pushed out of the market.’
Like West Cork, Queenstown also has a thriving Airbnb market with many property owners choosing to rent on this platform rather than enter into long-term leases.
He was also highly critical of the draft County Council County Development Plan to 2028, just published.
‘They’re working off data from the 2016 Census,’ he said. ‘The property projections are being made on five-year-old information.’
He also said the plans were made pre-Covid, and don’t take into account the government’s target of 20% of the public sector working either remotely or blended by the end of 2021.
‘The plan needs to account for that population growth. It’s getting to a point where there’s just not enough capacity.’
He said the support infrastructure for start-ups in Ireland is first class, but the lack of housing is letting it down.
‘It seems, on the face of it, that the government, councils and associations want our skills, experience, capital and willingness to start the businesses that are needed for the future rural economy.
‘But there’s no way you can afford housing unless you’re on a multinational wage in Dublin. The market doesn’t support someone taking a risk,’ he said.
With his lease up shortly in Kildare, he’s thinking of a move to France for a few months to wait for the market here to ‘cool’.
‘It’s clearly obvious that the younger generations won’t be hanging around here very long – it’ll surely be a quieter part of the world without them or the likes of myself, who would love to provide the type of employment they would usually head to Dublin – or most likely abroad – for.’