The move comes after Housing Minister Simon Coveney told Cork County Council that he does not have the power to designate all of Carrigaline — the location of his Cork South Central constituency office — as a rent pressure zone (RPZ).
Earlier this year Mr Coveney signed orders designating 23 towns — including Carrigaline — as RPZs. The measure means that by law rent rises in these areas are capped at 4%.
However, the zones in question are based on municipal district boundaries.
This has effectively split Carrigaline in half as the northern side is in the Ballincollig-Carrigaline district, which is a designated RPZ, while the southern half of the town in the Bandon-Kinsale area has no rent caps in place.
While Cork County Council had called on Mr Coveney to intervene, a letter from the Minister’s Private Secretary was circulated to councillors attending yesterday’s meeting of the local authority.
It said that areas must meet certain criteria as prescribed by law if they are to be designated as an RPZ.
It said Mr Coveney had requested the director of the Residential Tenancies Board to conduct an assessment of the area to see if it meets these criteria, but said he cannot directly intervene in a process that is “transparent, independent and based on clear objective criteria and quantifiable evidence”.
“Under the act, the minister has no further role or discretion in proposing areas for designation as RPZs or in deciding whether they should be designated,” the letter read.
The stance was met with criticism from Sinn Féin councillors, who proposed writing to the Housing Authority to seek a solution.
“It beggars belief that the Minister didn’t envisage this problem arising,” Sinn Féin councillor Eoghan Jeffers told the meeting.
“If he steps out of his constituency office and looks left he will see people whose homes have these protections and if he looks right he will see those who don’t.”
Mr Jeffers said the measures have introduced a two-tier rental market in the town.
Fine Gael councillor Aidan Lombard said he was confident that “the market will correct a lot of this”, and that the issue highlighted a problem with the electoral boundary which divides the town in two.
County Mayor Seamus McGrath (FF) supported the call for the involvement of the Housing Authority, describing the minister’s response as “contradictory”.