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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 23 Oct 1946

Vol. 103 No. 1

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Facilities for House-Building.

asked the Minister for Local Government and Public Health if he will state what financial assistance by way of grant, subsidy, or loan, it is intended to make available for private persons and public utility societies providing houses (a) for sale, and (b) for renting.

asked the Minister for Local Government and Public Health whether, in view of the high cost of building materials at present, he is prepared to increase the housing grants for the erection of new houses and the reconstruction of old houses.

I propose to take questions Nos. 17 and 18 together.

I would refer the Deputies to the reply given to Deputy Dockrell on the 14th May last on this subject. As I pointed out, the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1946, provides for the continuance up to the 31st March next of the provisions of the Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) Acts, which enable grants to be paid to private persons in rural areas and public utility societies in all areas for the erection of new houses.

The position with regard to supplies of building materials is being kept under close examination in my Department, and, as soon as I am satisfied that the supply position warrants, consideration will be given to the question of affording assistance to private persons and public utility societies for the provision of houses, due regard being had to the need for conserving supplies for local authorities' housing schemes, which, in the main, will be devoted to the rehousing of persons in slum clearance areas.

Do I understand that the only financial assistance which private persons and public utility societies proposing to build houses will receive is the amount of assistance given them pre-war?

Yes, until the supply position becomes easier.

Is the Minister aware that an £80 or £40 grant, as given pre-war, is not sufficient to meet the present high cost of materials? An £80 grant pre-war would now be valued for only about £40 while a £40 grant would be equivalent to about £20. What could be done with £20 today in the reconstruction of a house?

So much is being done with the £20 grant, if the Deputy likes to put it in that way, that all the supplies of building materials available for private enterprise are being taken up.

Do I understand that the policy of the Government is to discourage the building of houses by private persons and public utility societies?

Not at all, but to allocate the materials fairly amongst all those who want them.

But the Minister insists that private persons and public utility societies who propose to build now will not get any additional assistance to meet the higher cost of building?

If private persons find it profitable to build, with materials at existing prices, without State aid, does the Deputy suggest that we should tax the community to make it easier for those private individuals to build?

Are we clear now that the policy of the Government is one of discouraging building of houses by private persons and public utility societies?

No. The position is that, with the supply of building materials available, no further encouragement to private builders seems to be required.

asked the Minister for Local Government and Public Health if he will state the terms upon which it is proposed to make money available for local authorities for the purpose of the provision of houses under the Housing Acts; whether any local authorities will be excluded from such loan facilities; and also what financial assistance by way of grant or subsidy it is intended to provide for such local authorities.

As the Deputy is no doubt aware, loans are ordinarily made available by the Minister for Finance from the Local Loans Fund for the provision of houses under the Housing of the Working Classes and Labourers Acts. As was announced in the Budget statement, the Minister for Finance has fixed the present rate of interest at which advances are being made from the fund at 2½ per cent. and the maximum repayment period has been extended to 50 years. Applications for loans from the fund will be considered from all local authorities, but the larger municipalities will be expected to endeavour to raise from sources other than the Local Loans Fund such capital sums as they may require for housing.

Contributions to annual loan charges will be made at the appropriate rates under the Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1932. I propose to ask the Oireachtas to amend the Act so as to enable contributions to be made for a period not exceeding 50 years. In addition to the assistance given under the Act, the Government have given an assurance that grants out of the Transition Development Fund will be available towards bridging the gap between the subsidisable limits under the Act and present building costs. Pending the submission of particulars as to (1) all-in costs, and (2) rents to be charged, it is not possible to determine the amount of the grant in any particular case, but the grant will be sufficient to allow of the houses being let at reasonable rents, having regard to current wage levels, provided that the tenders for their erection are reasonable.

Do I understand that, until a local authority has made out its scheme and has obtained and considered tenders, it will not know what financial assistance it will get from the State?

That information will become available as soon as they make up their minds what rents they will charge and to what extent the rates will contribute to the provision of the houses.

Is it not a fact that, until tenders are received and preparations made up to that point, the local authority will not get any guidance from the Minister as to what assistance it will get?

Naturally, the Minister cannot make up his mind as to what the amount of the grant will be until he knows what the cost of the houses will be.

Has any review been made of the situation which would enable the Minister to estimate what the all-in cost of houses to be built by local authorities is likely to be?

Under the 1932 Act the grants paid were standard grants inasmuch as there was a certain percentage subsidisation of annual loan charges. Do I understand from the Minister's reply that for the future it is contemplated examining each particular scheme and making grants, not on a standard basis, but in relation to the costs of erection of individual schemes of houses?

And the rents charged.

And the local wages.

The position is this, that during the present transition period, when costs are abnormal and conditions unstable, it is proposed to stabilise the grants which will be payable to local authorities.

And if they confer the freedom of that city on de Valera they will get a grant, and if they do not they will not. Fair enough.

What I want to ascertain from the Minister is, whilst he may vary the subsidisation of the loan charges, is it intended from time to time to make standard grants towards these loan charges or does he propose to make grants in each individual case?

The position in this regard was very fully set out, I think, by the Minister for Finance in his Budget statement, the statement announcing the fact that the Government proposed to establish a transition development fund. In the course of that statement he pointed out, as I have said, that each particular scheme would be considered in relation (1) to the rents it was proposed to charge, (2) to the cost of the houses, and (3) to the contributions that were going to be made by the rates. All these circumstances will vary in each particular case, and therefore as long as the present transition period lasts, it is not proposed to announce any fixed grant which would be generally applicable.

And each case will therefore be considered on its merits.

We cannot have a debate on every question. Question 20.