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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Vol. 1021 No. 4

Local Government and Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (Carrigaline Rent Pressure Zone) Bill 2022: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to make provision whereby the entire Carrigaline local electoral area shall be prescribed as a rent pressure zone; to ensure that where a substantial area of a local electoral area is prescribed as a rent pressure zone, the local electoral area shall be prescribed as a rent pressure zone in its entirety; and for those purposes to amend the Local Government Act 2019 and the Residential Tenancies Act 2004.

I imagine many people listening in are coming to the conclusion that it is unusual to move a Bill that is so local and specific. However, I have been trying to highlight this for four years. It is a matter of legislation. It is a loophole in the legislation. There may be other areas effected - I am unaware of them. The legislation also seeks to prevent that the difficulty created by the loophole does not arise in other areas.

It is a relatively straightforward Bill but could have a huge impact on protecting renters in Carrigaline, Ballygarvan, Crosshaven and the surrounding areas.

Most of County Cork and, indeed, all of the city are prescribed as rent pressure zones reflecting the seriously unstable rental market that we have in Cork. This important prescription as a rent pressure zone is necessary as it ensures that rent increases are kept to the level of inflation and protects renters from uncontrolled rent hikes.

Rent pressure zone protection is not perfect by any means. My party would prefer and has repeatedly called for a rent freeze. However, a rent pressure zone prevents landlords from asking for whatever rent increase they want.

However, due to a crazy loophole, the part of Carrigaline south of the Owenabue river as well as Ballygarvan, Crosshaven and some of the outlying areas are not included in a rent pressure zone. Those renters are vulnerable to landlords who can increase rent to any level that they want with no regulation. Despite it being a much-in-demand rental area, rents could be increased by €300 or €400. There is no restriction on rental increases.

This loophole has been allowed to exist for five years. In 2017, the Ballincollig-Carrigaline electoral area was prescribed as a rent pressure zone. At that time, south Carrigaline, Crosshaven and Ballygarvan were part of the Bandon-Kinsale electoral area, which had not been designated. In 2019, the boundaries were redrawn and the electoral area, as we now know it, was created. However, the rent pressure zone boundary was never amended to reflect this new electoral area to bring these areas into the rent pressure zone and to afford renters there the rental protections that their neighbours would have. To put this into context, there are 3,394 people living in 1,415 rental properties in the Carrigaline electoral area. Because of this loophole, 35.4% of those are currently outside the rent pressure zone and have no protection. Therefore, 500 properties and 1,200 renters have been left vulnerable. They can face whatever rent increases their landlords decide with no protection.

I have raised this with two housing Ministers and numerous other Ministers as well. Initially, the former Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Mr. Eoghan Murphy, sought to suggest that this would be caught by ongoing reviews. However, subsequent replies from the Department make it clear that is untrue and that it requires a change of legislation.

As I said, it is not common that a TD would introduce a piece of legislation on such a specific and localised issue but this is a matter of legislation and policy and I have not succeeded in trying to pressure housing Ministers in relation to this. There are two Ministers and the Taoiseach in the constituency and it is a matter of regret to me that it has not been resolved over the course of all this time. I note comments from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Michael McGrath, that it would be sorted out next autumn and that it will be next autumn before any action is taken. We were given commitments in autumn 2021 by the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, but if we can see progress on it I will be satisfied with that. It has taken far too long. We have been given commitments at various stages over the past three or four years and no progress has been made on it.

I believe it is necessary to take this action here to highlight it in a more specific and concrete way. I hope to have the opportunity to move the Bill on Second Stage and I hope that it prompts Government finally to act on this and to provide that protection.

It is far from a bullet-proof protection. We need a rent freeze. We have a cost-of-living crisis. Cork has the third highest rents in the State averaging over €1,300 per month but the Bill will at least allow some protection from unlimited increases to renters living in Carrigaline, Ballygarvan and Crosshaven. I do not believe that they should have to wait until next autumn for action. They are vulnerable right now.

We need to stand up for renters. We need to close this loophole. It is clear the law needs to change. I urge the Government to work with us and to support this Bill.

Is the Bill opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

: I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.