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Wednesday 23 October 2019

'Our staff are scientists with PhDs - we pay them well but they can't afford homes'

Optimistic: Eileen McCleary, director of Megazyme. Photo: Tony Gavin
Optimistic: Eileen McCleary, director of Megazyme. Photo: Tony Gavin

Companies are now working with a housing co-operative to try to convince the IDA to provide land to allow homes to be built for workers priced out of the market.

The Ó Cualann Cohousing Alliance, which has developed affordable homes which sell for under €200,000 in Dublin, is working with staff from a number of Wicklow companies.

It wants to convince the inward investment agency to hand over 12 acres of land it owns in Greystones to build homes.

Ó Cualann Chief Executive Hugh Brennan said 50 workers from up to eight companies in Bray and surrounding areas had formed the Bray Employees Housing Co-operative.

The IDA owned a 63-acre site in Greystones, earmarked for industrial units, but it was largely unused, he said.

"The IDA has said one of the biggest barriers to attracting companies is housing," he told an affordable housing conference in Dublin. "It has a 63-acre site in Greystones, and we want 12.5 acres to build 200 homes. We need policy where the IDA set aside 20pc of its land for affordable housing for workers. Imagine the companies you could attract. We've had discussions with the IDA about getting access to land in Greystones. They're saying no initially, but we don't mind that because we'll keep at them."

Among the companies involved in the initiative are biotech company Megazyme, which employs 50.

It has provided a low-interest loan to Ó Cualann of €100,000 to help fund its operations. An Australian firm, it moved to an IDA business park in Bray around 20 years ago, with director Eileen McCleary saying its employees are increasingly priced out of the market.

"Prices in the private market are too high and most of our employees couldn't access social housing. Nobody is talking about the middle.

"We have people coming from all over the place - Arklow, Maynooth, Citywest - and sitting on the M50 for an hour or an hour and a half each way. Thirty of our staff are scientists, seven are PhDs. We pay them well and their time on the M50 is expensive.

"We approached Ó Cualann when we heard what they were doing, and asked how do we get that model out to where we are? I contacted the HR reps in other companies, and we now have a Bray Employees Housing Co-Op.

"I went to talk to the IDA as well. The answer back was they are set up to attract companies, and that's what that land is for. My issue is why attract more people to an area when you can't house the people who are already there?"

The IDA said it could not comment at the time of going to press.

Irish Independent

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