05 Oct 2022

Opinion: Kilkenny is booming with new jobs, but there is nowhere to live

Hundreds of new jobs for Kilkenny but rental properties are in short supply

Opinion: Kilkenny is booming with new jobs, but there is nowhere to live

Kilkenny is basking in its own success at the moment - a heroic All-Ireland camogie win, a thriving arts festival which has grown to include several superb fringe festivals and a €440 million investment and 800 new jobs by a global healthcare company.

Snap-happy tourists are marvelling at our medieval wonders and there is a buzzy feel-good atmosphere on the city’s streets.

The cranes (and not the flying ones) are back in the skies and constructions workers are travelling to the Marble City to work on a number of significant projects.

Even though inflation is spiralling and the cost of living is increasing, there is a waft of the Celtic Tiger era in the air. It is near to impossible to find builders or tradespeople for small jobs as they are working on bigger construction projects. And, if you are lucky enough to find someone, you will most likely be waiting quite a while before the job is done, such is the current demand.

The cost of property has also rocketed with one two-bedroomed Kilkenny apartment on the market with a guide price of €345,000.

There are no rental properties available.
Literally none. A cursory search on any of the leading property websites on any given day shows less than a handful of available properties, which begs the question: where will all the people filling these new jobs live?

The Abbey Quarter is also taking shape with the Brewhouse now open for business with hundreds of people expected to work out of the city centre building over the coming months.

As well as the jobs boom that will be created in the Abbey Quarter, medtech Abbott have announced that they are locating their new €440 million manufacturing facility at the IDA Business and Technology Park with upwards of 800 new jobs at the facility. This is, of course, to be welcomed and will encourage people to live in Kilkenny and help support our local economy and allow it to flourish and thrive.

Amid all the welcoming and congratulations though, lies the elephant in the room - where will all these people live?

There are no rental properties available and there is no quick remedy for this. Most people moving to take up a new job will rent initially and maybe decide down the line to buy and settle here. But where will they find room to call home?

Private landlords are selling up to take advantage of sky-high property prices last seen in the years and months leading up to the crash in 2008. This resulted in a generation forced into a lengthy period of negative equity and the resulting struggle to stay afloat financially.

One would hope that we have learned from that dreadful time of almost 20 years ago when people raced and fell over each other to get on the property ladder while paying absurd money beyond the real value of the bricks and mortar that they were purchasing.

It seems we have almost come full circle. The property market has rarely seen such demand with prices on a seemingly neverending upward trajectory. There is also a nervous panic among people in a position to buy a home, so much so that they will pay as much as they can get their hands on to secure a lifetime of debt on a property which is worth only a fraction of what they are paying for.

None of it makes much sense, but with limited rights for tenants and the real fear of lack of long term security people have little other option.

There are planning applications for housing developments across the city, but many of these are by private developers and are still subject to planning permission. Kilkenny Co Council has built a number of social housing developments, notably at Gaol Road and on the Castlecomer Road. This is to be welcomed, but the demand still way outweighs what is available.

The solution is complex and will have to be legislated for at national level. More supports are needed for tenants, to ensure rents are capped at a reasonable rate and that tenants have long-term security as well as tax incentives for private landlords so that it makes sense for them to stay in the rental market and not to sell up.

We need a decent supply of good quality rental accommodation to attract workers to come to and stay in our wonderful city. Jobs announcements are great but we need homes for these people.

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