Mayo's future lies in keeping control of its property prices

by Caoimhín Rowland

Everything is bigger in Texas, or so they say.

The US state has benefited greatly from the Covid pandemic, an economy boosted by tech workers relocating from California and New York to take advantage of low taxes, minimal red tape and a safer environment to raise a family.

It’s shown in the rise of property prices across the USA.

Speaking about the arrival of tech billionaires seeking refuge in Austin Texas, a local stated: “Imagine you invite the new neighbours to a pool party and they turn out to be elephants. When they jump in, it changes things.”

We’re beginning to witness the change here in Mayo as property prices are at an all time high.

Now outpacing Dublin in terms of growth but Mayo is still seen as affordable for remote workers keen on exiting the commuting rat race and embracing the slower speed of life this county offers.

With 21% of the country’s entire coastline within the county boundaries Mayo has also seen a 24.3% rise in rental prices since this time last year.

We are beginning to see the impact of decades of underinvestment in housing in the county coupled with Mayo becoming an attractive place to live and work, perhaps for the first time in its history.

We are attracting businesses and remote tech workers, tired of being fleeced in the Silicon Docks in Dublin who can now opt for a woollen fleecing in ole Mayo.

Admittedly, Mayo loses its attractiveness if it hits Dublin prices without the amenities.

What makes Mayo a promising option for young working professionals and their families is not just the quality of life but cheaper housing.

Unfortunately, like everything in Irish life currently, I feel the need to paraphrase Bill Clinton and state: “It’s the housing crisis, stupid.”

Sort the accommodation shortfall by building more is the silver bullet, not vacant homes.

Mayo county council are overwhelmed by dereliction, everywhere you look in Mayo you’re met by the blight of bygone dereliction.

Tackling those homes first is better for the environment than new builds but also quicker. However, the bureaucracy required to understand ownership of forgotten buildings along our streetscape is currently too much for civil servants.

For the remote workers of Mayo who have decided to adopt these shores as home for the first time or perhaps have familial roots and a grá for the county, they should know how welcome they are.

The dramatic scenes of yesteryear seem distant with job opportunities abundantly available, but let’s identify this demographic. They’re the millennials, aged 27 – 42 years old.

Quite possibly the most talked about and over scrutinised generation of people in human history, they’re known for Chai Latté’s, a love of Harry Potter and overspending on avocado toast.

This generation now dominates the working world, they’re at the helm of growing families and while met with hardships in the job market after leaving college during the recession years, they experienced more affordable housing in Ireland during their adolescence.

Overall, things are looking more rosy for them now, they’re older and now in management positions across their professional lives, thus they can live and work wherever they like, and they’re keen to do so.

That's according to Chief Executive of Leitrim County Council, Lar Power who conducted a survey on 1,000 of them.

The survey found that 61% of millennials have considered moving to another part of Ireland thanks to the growth of remote and hybrid working. Some 22% of people surveyed now work fully remotely, a report from March of this year.

The generation below millennial, their subordinates at work and possibly younger siblings at home are called Gen Z, the first generation in history to live fully online.

They’re entering the workforce in their droves and are aged from 11 to 26 years of age.

This is the generation who are leaving, the ones packing their bags for not just Australia, but Berlin, Barcelona and Vancouver. America, regarded as a backwater of civilisation and a tad too mainstream.

The Gen Z cohort, or Zoomers as they’re known, are the real money spenders that give life blood to an economy, so too are the millennials. What one spends on disposable vapes, nights out and beauty regimens, the millennials now in a position for big purchases such as a home.

Zoomers also face a huge burden amidst the housing crisis. In comparison to previous generations, 68 percent of Irish adults aged 25-29 still live at home.

This, in comparison to a decade ago, where just 36 percent of Irish adults lived at home. The EU average stands at 42 percent.

Is there any wonder why there’s an entirely well-educated and qualified generation opting for Oz?

In Mayo we have always said goodbye to our young people and because we never expected them to return it was dramatic.

An American wake was a final goodbye and, later, for émigrés of the 80s it meant prospects were always going to be better abroad.

Fortunately this is no longer a definite.

The work of the Western Development Commission in attracting businesses to the western seaboard is commendable, the growth of multi-national corporations in the county a testament to the county as is the forward thinking strategies of other groups with ties to this county who have always seen the potential, even during the darkest of days.

From small holdings to remote workspaces Mayo has come a long way, with a lot more yet to be done.