Committee on Finance. - Housing (Amendment) Bill, 1954—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. The Bill continues and extends the policy of encouraging the provision of new dwellings and the reconditioning of existing dwellings by private individuals and public utility societies, with the assistance of State grants and where appropriate, supplementary grants from the housing authorities.

Section 6 proposes that grants for the erection, purchase and reconstruction of houses and the installation of sanitary services be continued at the present rates for a further two years.

The grants under the 1952 Act terminate on the 1st April, and, in order to avoid a break in building operations, it is proposed to continue payment of the grants in anticipation of the passing of the Bill. In the period from 31st March, 1952, to 28th February of this year a total of 10,752 new house grants and 6,380 reconstruction grants have been paid. The allocation of new house grants was 4,910 in 1952-53, and 4,798 in the 11 months of 1953-54, the figure for the 12 months being estimated at 5,198. The allocation of reconstruction grants showed a remarkable increase from 2,852 in 1952-53 to 6,654 for the 11 months to February last. The combined total of new house and reconstruction grants allocated in the 11 months of 1953-54 to 28th February last is higher than the total in any complete year since the war. The total number of new house grants paid in the first 11 months of this year was 4,937 as against 5,815 for the whole of the previous year. Final payments of reconstruction grants numbered 3,948 in the 11 months to the end of February as against 2,432 in the full year 1952-53. These figures reflect a satisfactory level of housing activity by private enterprise which, I hope, will be at least maintained in the coming 12 months.

Reconstruction grants are of obvious importance in the national housing effort, and the Bill aims to widen the scope of these grants.

Section 9 of the 1950 Act enabled the payment of a reconstruction grant for work involving the provision of a new roof or additional accommodation necessary for the relief of overcrowding, notwithstanding that a grant under the Housing Acts had been made at least 15 years previously in respect of the house. As Deputies are aware, the restricted scope of this provision prevented essential work ancillary to reroofing from qualifying for grant and made it necessary to reject applications for grants in respect of the provision of additional rooms which were strictly not necessary for the relief of overcrowding. It will readily be agreed that the State should encourage and assist small farmers and agricultural labourers to carry out all types of reconstruction work which will improve the amenities of their houses, including the provision of additional bedrooms, extra living-room space, kitchens or wash-houses, and that eligibility for a grant for the work should not be contingent on whether the work is strictly necessary or not. I propose, therefore, in Section 14 that even if a previous grant was made for erection or reconstruction of a house, a further grant should be available after 15 years for the carrying out of any approved scheme of reconstruction, whether or not a new roof is put up and whether or not additional accommodation provided is essential because of the number of persons in the house.

At present, a grant is available ten years after payment of a previous grant where a thatch roof is replaced by slates or tiles. I consider it unnecessarily restrictive to make this grant available only in respect of the replacement of thatch and I propose that any man who takes the initiative to replace a roof by durable materials in the form of slates or tiles should qualify for a grant to do so provided he has not received a previous grant within ten years.

Many Deputies will have met the situation where the occupier of a house which had been damaged by storm, flood, fire or other cause outside his control was ineligible for a grant towards rebuilding it for the reason that a previous grant had been made in respect of the house. Section 14 of the Bill enables payment of a grant in such circumstances without reference to the period since a previous grant was made.

Reconstruction grants are already available to farmers of up to £50 valuation and agricultural labourers in rural areas reconstructing houses in their own occupation. Members of the working classes and agricultural labourers in urban areas whose valuation does not exceed £12 are eligible for grants for the reconstruction of houses in their own occupation. A grant of £80 is also available in urban and rural areas to persons having control of unfit houses who repair them by direction of the housing authority. All the foregoing grants may be supplemented by grants from the housing authority.

No grants are at present available in urban areas to occupiers over £12 valuation or to landlords unless the houses are unfit for human habitation and repairs specified in a notice served by the housing authority under Section 19 of the 1931 Act have been carried out.

Houses approaching unfitness or which are unfit, whether or not a repairs notice is served in respect of them, should, in my view, be eligible for repair grants, the housing authorities being free to supplement the grants with local grants. The Housing Acts require unfit housing conditions to be eradicated. The process is so costly, both on private and public account, that whatever steps are practicable to prevent houses from becoming unfit must be taken. Housing authorities have very limited powers in this connection. On the other hand, owners of houses plead high costs, fixed rents and the restrictions on the securing of possession in defence of their failure to check the decay of their property.

Apart from their merits in conserving capital assets, grants for the repair or improvement of dwellings irrespective of their valuation would have the effect of reducing the demand on local authority housing accommodation by encouraging the preservation of existing dwellings and the conversion of houses suitable for the working classes into separate dwellings. The control of tenementing under Sections 11 and 12 of the 1948 Housing Act—and, as a consequence, the control of overcrowding at its source—would be made more effective if landlords carried out conversion works by creating separate dwellings of a reasonable standard of fitness. Single family houses may be in reasonably good repair but may fall below current standards of amenity, with the result that the owners or occupiers are not inclined to maintain them. Grants for improvement works would be very desirable in such cases.

It is proposed in Section 12 that a grant from State funds not exceeding £80 per dwelling or one-third of the cost of the works (excluding decoration) whichever is the smaller should be payable to the person executing the works whether or not he is the occupier. The housing authority would be free to pay a grant not exceeding the amount of the State grant, and rates remission would be available. It is proposed that the existing provisions relating to grants for the reconstruction of houses of up to £12 valuation and for the repair of houses by direction of the housing authority should be continued. The new grants would embrace the type of reconstruction and repair work hitherto covered by these provisions, but would not be contingent upon the execution of repairs at the direction of the housing authority or upon the grantee being in occupation of the house and the total valuation being less than £12.

It has been represented to me that more houses would be provided for letting if lump-sum grants were available in place of the grant now payable by annual instalments over ten years under Section 19 of the 1948 Act. In Section 13 of the Bill, I propose to give a trial for two years to the alternative form of grant, which would be of an amount equal to that payable for an owner-occupied house. The housing authority would be empowered to allow rates remission of two-thirds for seven years where a grant is paid under this section. The grant would be available to a builder who prefers to let a house rather than sell it, to investors who purchase new houses for letting, or to any firm or group who provide houses for letting to their employees or to others. If a farmer builds a house for letting to a workman, he also can qualify for the grant. Houses qualifying for these grants would be subject to the same conditions as to resale which apply to houses for which letting grants under the 1948 Act are paid.

Section 7 makes it clear that the recipient of a grant for an owner-occupied house must occupy the house as his normal place of residence, not, for instance, as a holiday or summer home. Section 8 makes it clear that letting grants under the 1948 Act may be made to a local authority—for example, a mental hospital authority —though not to a housing authority providing houses which are otherwise subsidised by the State.

Section 9, 10 and 11 propose to give effect to representations made to me that housing authorities should have discretion to make supplementary grants of amounts less than the maxima specified in certain sections of the 1952 Act. It is better that this discretion should be given than that housing authorities should be prevented from awarding any grants on grounds of expenditure.

Section 10 of the 1952 Act provided for the payment of supplementary grants by housing authorities to persons with family incomes not exceeding £416 per year. Section 11 provided for supplementary grants irrespective of income to an applicant who is a tenant of a local authority house or is accepted by the housing authority as eligible for selection as a tenant of such a house. In the Dublin City and County areas particularly, a high proportion of the applicants under Section 11 have been clerical and similar workers whose incomes exceed £416 and thus render them ineligible for grants under Section 10 of the 1952 Act. Many of these applicants have been rejected by the housing authority on the grounds that they are not of a class whom the corporation or county council, for example, ordinarily rehouse.

It is proposed to rectify the position in favour of those with low income by increasing the family income limits in Section 10 from £208, £312, £365 and £416 to £260, £377, £442 and £520 respectively. The increased limits would apply only in the four county boroughs, the Borough of Dún Laoghaire, Dublin County and those portions of County Cork which are included with Cork City for the purpose of the higher loans to borrowers under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts. These housing authorities could, therefore, make to any person having a family income of less than £10 per week at the time of his application, a supplementary grant graded according to the amount of such income.

Section 9 of the 1952 Act provides for supplementary grants to farmers in grades of valuation up to £35. No change in the present valuation limits is proposed as a relatively large number of grants have been allocated under the section and the £35 limit brings in the vast majority of farmers.

Cases have arisen where the tenant of the housing authority has provided himself with a house in the area of another housing authority. Doubt has been expressed as to whether the authority which benefits by the surrender of the tenancy can pay the supplementary grant and it is proposed to clarity the matter in Section 11. The section would enable Dublin Corporation, for example, to pay a supplementary grant to the tenant of a corporation house who surrenders his tenancy to the corporation and provides himself with a house in, say, County Dublin

Section 8 of the 1948 Act prohibited in the period up to 31st December, 1950, the demolition in whole or in part or the use otherwise than as a dwelling-house of any habitable house, unless with the permission of the housing authority, or on appeal, of the Minister. By virtue of Section 19 of the 1950 Act, the section was continued to 31st December, 1955. It is considered that while substantial grants are available for the provision of new houses, the provision should not lapse. The extension to 31st December, 1956, proposed in Section 15 will permit of a further review in the next Housing Bill.

The Rent Restrictions Acts by virtue of Section 3 (2) (c) of the Rent Restrictions Act of 1946, do not apply to houses provided by a local authority, of which the local authority is for the time being the landlord. By virtue of Section 3 of the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1931, the Landlord and Tenant Acts do not apply where buildings on any land or premises are provided by a local authority, if such property is held by the local authority in feesimple.

Housing authorities, from time to time, acquire private dwellings and other buildings for reconditioning or conversion under the Housing of the Working Classes Acts and the Labourers Acts. Sometimes existing dwellings in good condition are acquired for the purposes of the Acts. House property also becomes vested in a housing authority as a result of boundary extensions or otherwise. Arising from a number of court decisions, considerable doubt exists as to whether the housing authorities can be deemed to have "provided" the houses acquired by or transferred to them. It is proposed to remove these doubts in Sections 16 and 20. For the proper management of their housing property, housing authorities should be free from the statutory restrictions in the Rent Restrictions Acts on recovery of possession and should be enabled to adjust rents without incurring the expense of having lawful rents determined. Houses acquired or transferred should, as far as the Landlord and Tenant Act is concerned, be subject to the same conditions in regard to leases, improvements, etc., as houses built by the housing authorities under the Housing of the Working Classes and Labourers Acts. Sections 16 and 20 would clarify the position of such houses also.

The 1950 Act continued the Labourers Acts in force until 31st December, 1955. The Expiring Laws Act of 1952, which does not include the Labourers Acts, continues in force until 31st December, 1960, the laws referred to in the Schedule to that Act. There is no recurring Bill in which the continuance beyond 1955 of the Labourers Acts could be included, and Section 17 of this Bill, therefore, makes provision for the continuance of the Labourers Acts until 31st December, 1960.

With regard to the proposal in Section 18 of the Bill, I would like to refer the House to the Private Members' Bill introduced by Deputy Lehane on this subject. The principle of the Labourers Bill, 1953, is met in the section. I would like to have been in a position to propose a wider measure of amendment. The subject is, however, highly technical like most land laws where title is involved and will require further examination before the way is clear to tidy up a number of complexities that exist.

Deputies who have had an opportunity of refreshing themselves on the debate on the Labourers Bill, 1953, will remember that Section 11 of the Labourers (Ireland) Act, 1906, enables housing authorities to treat as absolute owners for the purpose of compensation for acquisition of land, certain persons who have been in possession of the land for not less than six years. The section applies only where the compensation payable does not exceed £60. Because of the fall in the value of money since 1906, it is considered reasonable to increase this sum to £250.

Sub-section (8) of Section 11 enables housing authorities to pay into the Circuit Court compensation not exceeding £100 in certain cases where there are title or similar difficulties. The jurisdiction of the Circuit Court generally in similar matters has recently been increased to £600 and it is proposed to amend sub-section (8) accordingly.

The amendment proposed would apply also to operations under the Housing of the Working Classes Acts, to which the 1906 Act provisions were applied in the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1931.

Section 17 (2) (d) (iii) of the Labourers Act, 1936, provides that a vested cottage "shall not be alienated otherwise than by operation of law or by sale with the consent of" the housing authority.

It is not an uncommon practice as the House knows for a tenant in whom a cottage is vested to bequeath it by will to a friend or relative who may not have been living with him at the time of his death. Experience has shown that in the majority of such cases the person to whom the cottage is willed is an agricultural labourer who would normally be eligible for tenancy. There is doubt, however, as to whether the law empowers a tenant-purchaser to dispose of his interest by will or bequest and various housing authorities have received legal advice that the proper procedure in such circumstances is for the council to take proceedings in court for the recovery of the cottage in accordance with Section 24 of the Act and to reallocate it, if they so decide, to the beneficiary if he is otherwise eligible for tenancy.

It was not contemplated that the Act should purport to deprive a tenant-purchaser of his right to dispose by will of his interest in a vested cottage and the proposal in Section 19 of the Bill is designed to clarify the point.

Where advances under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts are made to farmers some local authorities are prepared to take a charge on the entire holding, while others insist on sub-division for the purpose of protecting their charge in the event of sale of the holding. One of the principal objections to sub-division is that it divorces the occupier's residence from his holding and another objection is that the grant of the advance under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts is delayed.

The proposal in Section 21 is that protection should be available to local authorities in respect of advances on holdings in the same way as protection is afforded in respect of charging orders under sub-section (5) of Section 9 of the Housing (Gaeltacht) Act, 1929, in order to encourage local authorities to take a charge on a complete holding without insisting on subdivision. At the same time it would facilitate farmers who object to subdividing their holdings to avail of the Small Dwellings Acts procedure for erection of new houses.

A local authority is required, under sub-section (1) of Section 18 of the Labourers Act, 1936, before making a vesting order to carry out all works necessary to put the cottage into good repair and sanitary condition. Sub-section (2) of that section provides that the Minister shall determine any doubt, dispute or question which may arise as to whether or not a cottage was in or was put into good repair and sanitary condition before vesting.

It has been the experience that local authorities generally fulfil their obligations under the section satisfactorily. Owing to the extent of housing operations requiring the supervision of departmental technical staff, a considerable period often elapses before an appeal can receive the necessary personal attention. Vesting of cottages is delayed in such cases pending determination of appeals. Having regard to the improvement in numbers and standard of local technical officers, it is considered that all questions relating to repairs could reasonably be left to be dealt with locally and, with this object in view, the First Schedule to the Bill proposes the repeal of sub-section (2) of Section 18 of the Labourers Act, 1936.

The proposals I have outlined relate to the more immediate aspects of housing which require early consideration, and I, therefore, commend the Bill in its present from for the earnest and speedy consideration of the House.

When the Tánaiste sent for the Whips after the general election had been announced, it was indicated that a Housing Bill would be introduced, and that that Housing Bill would deal purely with the repeating for a further period of time the existing legislation and, apart from that, only detailed amendments—that no principle would, in the midst of what I might term the election atmosphere, be involved. The Bill is introduced on that basis, and, so far as our Party is concerned, we propose to consider it rather on that basis.

I may say that I am sorry that the Minister for Local Government is indisposed and unable to speak personally on the matter. I trust that his voice will recover itself in the immediate future so that we will be able amongst other things to have his statements as a most useful basis of propaganda for us in the election campaign, because sometimes they are of assistance to the other side.

I must further, without going into any detail on it, say that I cannot accept the Minister's statement that the figures he has mentioned represent a satisfactory level of housing activity. I am afraid that they do not. I think that that is the experience universally of Deputies throughout the House. As I say, I merely say that so that it would not be on record or could not be interpreted from the record that we accepted it. I do not propose to go into the controversial atmosphere that there might be on housing legislation.

The detailed provision that has been introduced so that reconstruction grants can be paid when what is commonly known in insurance circles as an act of God arises, is one that is very desirable. I came across myself, six months ago or thereabouts, a case where a widow had completed the reconstruction of a house under a grant. A very short time after the work was completed, the house was struck by lightning and the work that had been done was completely set at naught, yet, under the provisions of the Act, it was impossible for her to get a new grant to repair the ravages that had taken place.

The existing arrangement in connection with grants for houses for letting that was in operation under the 1948 Act, has undoubtedly proved a complete failure, and I am doubtful whether the method which the Minister is introducing here of the payment of a lump sum will be any more successful. I am afraid the causes of the failure are more deep-seated than the Minister appears to think, but the new arrangement, at any rate, is worth trying, to see whether it might not result in some effort being made to provide houses for letting.

There are a number of old houses for letting which are controlled by the various Rent Restrictions Acts but as each one gets too old for use, or comes into the possession of a person who purchases it and who perhaps had been the tenant prior to that, no new house is provided to replace that old house and the number of houses available for letting has been consequently reducing very substantially each year. While it is highly desirable that as many people as possible should become owners of their own houses and buy them out, it is also at the same time desirable that there should be a certain pool of houses available for letting for that part of the population that will flow in and out of any particular area according as the immediate needs in the area come to light from time to time.

I do not understand the provision in regard to small dwellings grants. I always understood that the reason the local authority had to insist on a subdivision of a holding, was not because of the size of the holding but because the whole holding had to pay a Land Commission annuity. Do I understand the intention of the proposed section to be that the local authority can now take a charge under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts, notwithstanding that that charge will not be a first mortgage? As I understand it, the provision of the 1899 Act provided that the local authority must get a first mortgage. In the case of any holding bought out under the Land Acts, the Land Commission annuity is a first mortgage and if, therefore, the local authority were to get a charge on that holding, it would be a second mortgage. It has been interpreted by many local authorities as beingultra vires their powers to take such a mortgage. The whole purpose of the sub-division of a holding was to set aside a small part of the holding which was supposed to be the size of the site of the house, and then to redeem the Land Commission annuity on that part, so that the mortgage to the local authority would be a first charge. If the intention of the section is to provide that the local authority can take a second charge, a charge that will rank behind the Land Commission annuity, and that for that reason the sub-division is not necessary, then I think it does away with a matter that has caused substantial delay up to the present and has been the cause of unnecessary expense to the borrower under the Act.

One of the difficulties in the City of Dublin—and when I use the term City of Dublin I imply not merely the Dublin Corporation area but the suburbs that are in the administrative area of the County of Dublin which are normally considered part of the city—is that there have been constant complaints that the valuations placed by the valuer for that local authority upon houses built in that area have been entirely out of line with the actual facts. There is no system of appeal from that valuer at the present moment. The valuer is a complete dictator, if I might so use the word. He is the final arbiter and his decision is absolutely final as to what is the value. I have always felt that it would be desirable to provide some type of appeal in such cases. If an applicant for a loan feels that the valuation that has been placed upon the house by the valuer for the local authority is unreasonable and unreal, I think he should have an appeal to a board of independent assessors, if you like, set up by the Minister, one of whom could be chosen in each particular case. There should be some method to ensure that the person aggrieved could bring his case elsewhere, to see whether, in fact, the valuation made in the particular case was reasonable or not. I do not want to say anything that might be taken as personal by anyone but there is a very substantial volume of opinion that the basis of valuation upon which the Dublin County Council operates is entirely unreal, that it has no justification in theory or in practice, and that it is one of the real snags that prevent the complete and adequate operation of the Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts in that area. I have also myself had experience of delay in that office which should be obviated. It is most unreasonable.

Did the Deputy say the Dublin County Council?

The Dublin County Council. There have been most unreasonable delays. As against that, it may be for all I know—I am not a member of that local authority—that the size of the staff is not adequate to deal with the volume of work. The volume of work that we would have to deal with under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts in Kildare would be very substantially less, but the speed with which decisions can be obtained in Kildare is very much greater. I have personal experience of one case in County Dublin where it took 12 months to get through a case that should be quite simple in the Dublin area. Delays of that kind mean that builders, who are waiting to be paid by the applicants when they get their loans, are held up.

The applicants obviously have no funds of their own to finance the building and the builders have to wait. There is stopping and starting in the housing effort unless the builders happen to have very large capital indeed. The best way to ensure cheap and efficient building is to make certain that there will be an even flow in the building operations. Stopping and starting, taking men on and letting them off, not merely causes great hardship on the personnel concerned but inevitably puts up the cost of the finished article. Everything that can be done to ensure that even flow, should be done as it would have the effect of reducing costs. There are other matters which one would like to deal with in regard to this Bill, but having regard to the indications that were given to the Whips by the Tánaiste, I do not propose to go into them now as they might be considered controversial. Early in the life of the next Dáil, there will no doubt be an adequate opportunity of considering these points.

Quite apart from the general election atmosphere, spoken of by Deputy Sweetman, I welcome this measure and congratulate the Minister on its introduction. Irrespective of the result of the elections, and irrespective of what Party will be running the country, the matter of housing must have the unanimous co-operation and support of every section and Party in the House, and, as I say, I congratulate the Minister on having introduced this measure at so timely a point. The financial provisions would have expired at the end of the coming month, if we did not have some such legislation, and anything of that kind would be disastrous.

Reading the terms of the Bill rather hastily, they seem to me to fit in pretty well and to offer many improvements. Other improvements will suggest themselves and I can recognise several very useful improvements in the proposals before us. The extension of the grants for reconstruction is very desirable from the point of view both of the individual and of the State as a whole, as it will help to preserve very many valuable buildings which would otherwise fall into decay. At a time when we are engaged in a nation-wide struggle to grapple with the housing situation, anything that will tend to preserve houses in a fairly reasonable state of repair and preservation ought to be welcomed. I suggest, however, that we need keep some kind of firm grip on the landlords who will be getting these grants, so that excessive rents will not be charged to the people coming into these houses. They are probably getting a contribution from the local authorities and from the State and tenants ought to be preserved from any rapacity on the part of the gentlemen getting these grants.

I am also very glad to see a loosening or easing of the conditions relating to applications for reconditioning grants because we were perhaps somewhat cast-iron in our system, and probably had to be, with the result that great hardships were caused in many cases throughout the country. I have in mind the case of a man who built an additional room to his house. He and his wife had no family and he did not get a grant. He had done a decent job, but the Act said that there was sufficient accommodation for himself and his wife and additional rooms would not be permitted. In other cases, we found people adding on porches and bits of rooms which they did not want in order to qualify and a little more common sense in the application of the regulations will be for the good of the citizens and the State.

I am particularly glad to notice the increased figure in respect of the income of persons qualifying for a local authority grant. The conditions operating in that respect were, to my mind, a grave deterrent, because the ceiling was too low and people were unable to avail of the grants. Anybody who is inclined to build ought to be encouraged as an asset to the State and anything preventing him from doing so should be regarded as a detriment. Because of the ceiling in the existing legislation, coupled with the high rates of interest, many very desirable people have been driven back on to local authority housing schemes who otherwise might have done the jobs for themselves.

I am satisfied from my cursory reading of the Bill that it is very desirable in all its aspects, but I am somewhat perturbed by the last paragraph of the Minister's statement in which he refers to the repeal of sub-section (2) of Section 18 of the Labourers Act, 1936. That may read very innocuously, but the point is that labourers who all their lives have been looking for a purchase scheme for their houses and who held off since the 1936 legislation was passed in order to get the same remission as is given to farmers and purchasers of their holdings, are more readily availing of it now, since the remission was reduced 50 per cent. The Minister's statement was:—

"It has been the experience that local authorities generally fulfil their obligations under the section satisfactorily. Owing to the extent of housing operations requiring the supervision of departmental technical staff, a considerable period often elapses before an appeal can receive the necessary personal attention. Vesting of cottages is delayed in such cases pending determination of appeals. Having regard to the improvement in numbers and the standard of local technical officers, it is considered that all questions relating to repairs could reasonably be left to be dealt with locally and, with this object in view, the First Schedule to the Bill proposes the repeal of sub-section (2) of Section 18 of the Labourers Act, 1936."

That is a most unsatisfactory suggestion and completely inequitable, so far as the labourer is concerned. The effect of it will be that the men who are to give the guarantee as to a house having been properly repaired are the men doing the repairs.

We find throughout the country, where a final repair or a maintenance repair is being done, that they are being done in anything but a satisfactory way, and it is a very unjust suggestion that the labourer should be asked to get a final and comprehensive repair carried out and that from that date on the responsibility is his. I feel that the situation requires to be safeguarded and the suggestion in the Minister's statement is not by any means satisfactory, because you are going to ask the man who did the repair to certify that it has been properly carried out. Up to now, there was an appeal against the local authority to the Minister who would send down his housing inspector and he, in turn, would say: "This job has been done, but the tenant objects to it, and I believe he is right." Alternatively, he can say that the tenant is wrong, but it is obviously unfair that the determination of the question should lie with the people who are instructed by the county council to carry out the repairs, and that is what it means.

I urge the Minister to reconsider it and to agree, if he is going to take away the right of appeal to the Minister, to put some guarantee in rather than ask the man who does the job himself to declare whether or not it is satisfactory. It may seem rather a small part of the whole Bill, but I am surprised by the introduction of that repeal and suggest that the matter be reconsidered, with a view to providing some better guarantee that the house will be properly repaired when the man is making his purchase.

Mr. Brennan

I, too, congratulate the Minister on the extension of this legislation which is so important and under which such great work is being done. No Deputy and no person in the country could say that the present arrangements in respect of building by private persons or local authorities are anything but generous, but there are certain things which could be done which would expedite building, apart from the enactment of legislation and within the framework of existing legislation.

I should like to take this opportunity of appealing again to the Minister to consider the desirability of calling together the county managers of the various counties for the purpose of arriving at some uniform system of assessing means for the payment of supplementary grants. Each housing authority seems to have a system of its own and I have no doubt that the officials concerned, particularly in our county, are entirely guided by their desire to save public money and to be as careful as possible with the public purse. At the same time, one can easily be too stringent and go too far in that direction.

There are various items which one would like to have seen cleared up. One which strikes me forcibly concerns this question of gross income as against net income. You have, for instance, the question of a family whose income in the aggregate is over the statutory limit of £8 per week. You have the case of the man who has probably only to look after himself and his wife and whose income does not just reach that figure. I think that the man with a family, despite the fact that the gross earnings of the family are over the statutory limit, should get some benefit of the doubt. In that case the income should be assessed on the net income and not on the gross income. It is quite simple for a county housing authority to send round its home assistance officers to assess the means of an applicant for a supplementary grant and arrive at a figure calculated on the gross earnings of the family or the wages earned in the house. I have known children's allowances and even home assistance to be taken into account. These things in the aggregate can result in the payment of a smaller grant or deprive the applicant of the grant entirely.

On the other hand, in some counties the means test does not seem to be so strictly pursued as it is in others. For that reason, I think, with a view to a general easing of the method of assessment of means, the Minister would be wise if he would have a conference possibly of county managers or, better still, of representatives from each housing authority to discuss the whole question of a uniform system whereby a scale would be arrived at for assessing means for payment of these supplementary grants.

The other question is one which has cropped up here time and again. It relates to the payment of loans. I think there is too much delay in regard to the payment of loans, so much so that I doubt if people find it advisable to go to the trouble of applying to a local authority for a loan any more. I have known instances where a period of two years elapsed from the time the application was made to the payment of the loan.

Was the house being built?

Mr. Brennan

The house was being built and the builders' provider was waiting for his money. That is where the whole trouble arises on this question. If payment of grants or loans is to be effective, it will only be effective if the payment is made promptly to enable people to take advantage of grants or loans in order to be able to build their dwellings. The man who has money of his own does not care when the grants or loan is paid. These grants or loans are to assist people who could not otherwise afford to build.

The first step is to go to a builder's provider. The person says: "I am going to build a house. Will you trust me with the necessary materials until such time as the grant or loan, or both, are paid?" The builder's provider meets ten, 15 or 20 people of that type to whom he gives materials. He may give out materials to the value of £7,000. Time drags on and the grants are not paid. It is impossible to expect that these extended credit facilities can go on indefinitely. The result is that the builder's provider becomes indifferent towards people and very often refuses to supply materials when the applicant goes to purchase them.

I think that within the existing legislation a lot could be done to expedite the payment of loans and grants in cases of this kind. A year and a half ago, when the matter was first discussed, the position was much worse in Donegal than it is to-day, but since then considerable improvement has been effected by the appointment of an additional housing inspector or an inspector designated to deal with that county alone. That has improved things considerably, but there is still much leeway to be made up, so much so, that many would-be applicants are slow to embark on this task of rebuilding their dwellings, knowing how their neighbours have been dealt with. In those circumstances, I should like to appeal to the Minister again to see whether it would be possible to further expedite the payment of loans and grants in such cases to ensure that the builders' providers are kept reasonably promptly paid to enable them to continue their extended credit facilities to applicants building houses.

I should also like if something could be done regarding the question of whether it is the net or gross income which should be taken into consideration in regard to the payment of supplementary grants. It is quite easy to see, as I pointed out before, that you could have one man with an income of £800 who would have charges of £700 in order to meet the needs of his family, whereas another man with the same amount might have no such charge at all. Under the present system of arriving at the means both will be debarred from receiving a grant. I think that is unfair. There should be some definition as to whether the means will be assessed on the net income or the gross income. There are many other things in relation to building, but I do not intend to go into all these little items now. If we are to accelerate the present building programme and take the fullest advantages of the generous grants available, the two most important items really are to ensure that some uniform system is arrived at by which means will be assessed for the payment of supplementary grants and that payment of loans and grants is expedited to the builders' providers. Inspections should take place as soon as possible and, on receipt of the report of these inspections, and when the job is finished or half finished, payment should be made with the least possible delay. That would mean that the builders' providers would be enabled to extend the necessary credit facilities to potential builders and thus encourage and accelerate considerably the present building programme.

I congratulate the Minister on certain improvements in the Bill. I should have liked to see the statutory limit in connection with the supplementary grants extended in the case of all local authorities as well as the few areas mentioned. Perhaps that would be too much to hope for. If the Minister had come along with a more generous provision in that respect, I am sure the Opposition would say it was a good election Bill. I have no doubt that the Minister has gone as far as he considers it advisable with the means at his disposal to provide for building in this country.

I do not agree with the speaker who said that the present rate of progress is not satisfactory because it is quite obvious from the activity throughout the country that there is a very big building programme in hands. I am quite sure that the particular amount of money being paid out shows a considerable increase over that of previous years. Nevertheless, I should like to see a greater rate of progress. I am sure that with the present legislation and a little gearing up to accelerate the housing programme we could easily double the programme which is at present on hands.

I welcome this Bill and I am glad that the opportunity is available of passing it into law before this House dissolves. It would be a mistake, however, if, because we know that there will be a dissolution in approximately a month's time, we were simply to take the Bill as it stands and make no effort to improve it. I am perfectly certain that were it not for the fact that the House will be dissolved the Minister would have brought in a more comprehensive measure. Within the limits of the measure he has introduced it is the duty of the House to examine it and to improve it in every possible way, because, whether or not the House is dissolved, this Bill, when it passes into law, will be in operation for a considerable period before the new Dáil will have an opportunity of dealing with housing. For that reason, I hope the House will treat this measure seriously. The future of a considerable number of citizens depends on whether or not this measure will cure the defects in existing legislation.

This Bill, when passed, will become the law in relation to housing and I would prefer that the Bill should be interpreted here rather than have its interpretation left to a committee of county managers, as suggested by Deputy Brennan. If we leave the interpretation of the law to a committee of county managers that might result in an administration and an interpretation that this House would not desire and I sincerely hope that no such committee will be formed. It is for us to say what the law is. If there are county managers who want to put a miserable interpretation on the law it is the duty of the Minister and of Deputies to see that steps are taken to correct such views. The danger I see of interpretation by county managers is that the miserable view will inevitably prevail.

I see no trouble whatsoever in regard to expeditious payments. That was the second point mentioned by Deputy Brennan. I see no difficulty in regard to it if everybody connected with the matter does his work right. The builder has to do his work right. The solicitor who is acting for the builder has to do his work right. The solicitor who is acting for the local authority has to do his work right. The local authority itself has to do its work right. If all these people do their work in the right way there should be no delay in the payment of grants. Unfortunately, there is an idea amongst certain people that where money is being provided by the Government, whether under the Small Dwellings Act or otherwise, it is Government money and should be taken easily. In the long run the citizen who is buying a house has to pay for it through the nose. We are in duty bound to see that that man is protected against those who would exploit him and I think it is the endeavour to prevent that exploitation which has caused some of the delay in regard to administration.

I know there are other considerations. Deputy Sweetman mentioned some of them. He mentioned a particular area in which the gravest injury has been done to many builders because of the unreasonable delay in putting the machinery of the Small Dwellings Acts into operation. As far as Dublin is concerned there is no hold-up and the Dublin Corporation is both willing and anxious to facilitate everybody in relation to the payment of these moneys. Not only that, but the Dublin Corporation, in consultation with the Incorporated Law Society, altered the machinery in order to enable the more expeditious payment of grants to owners of houses.

I, too, welcome the extended provisions in relation to reconstruction and reconditioning. On a prior occasion I recommended that it would be a good thing to maintain structurally sound houses as long as possible. In so far as the provisions of this measure enable that to be done, the Bill is a welcome one. I hope there will be some propaganda and publicity in relation to the importance of these particular provisions. I hope that these provisions will be interpreted in a generous way because it is only by a reasonably generous interpretation that citizens will get the full benefit.

I would like to see in this measure a provision to extend the period of remission where rates are concerned. House owners who bought their houses immediately after the emergency find now that the remission period has expired and the payment of full rates is throwing a considerable hardship on them at the moment. Those citizens have organised and representatives of their central organisation met representatives of all Parties here not so long ago and made a strong appeal for an extension of the period of remission. Perhaps the Minister would agree to a remission period of 20 years with a one-twentieth addition every year. Young married couples who purchased their houses under the provisions of the Small Dwellings Act believe that a 20 years' remission on that basis would be better than a one-third remission for a period of seven years. Deputies of all Parties approve of that. They approve of it, or of the other idea, that the period of the two-thirds remission would be extended. That is an important matter and I would like to see it clarified.

There is another matter that I would like to see clarified in this Bill. It is in regard to the user of cottages built under the Labourers Acts. Many of these cottages have been sold under the statutory provisions to the occupying tenants who, to all intents and purposes, whatever the law may say, are the owners. They are buying out their houses by paying the annual statutory charges in regard to them. Some of these persons have made additions to their homes. They have built additional rooms or made other substantial improvements. Some of these industrious people have entered into little businesses. In suitable places, they have entered into the retailing of goods. We find that objections have been made to the local authority against that user of the premises. The objection was not in itself taken by the local authority or by the Government, but rather by competitors in these little businesses.

The result was that when the matter was brought to the notice of the local authority proceedings were taken in the courts to put these tenants out although they had contracted to buy out their houses. The proceedings were brought because they had used the addition to their premises as a little retail shop. The local authorities are under an obligation by statute to do that. I am not sure if they are under an obligation by statute to do so, but when the matter is brought to their notice the county manager can take proceedings. In fact, in cases that have come to my notice, he did give instructions that proceedings were to be taken. The proceedings were taken and in cases that I know of, the court held that it had no option but to grant a decree and to put men and their families out of these houses because their wives happened to be industrious women. I think every Deputy would be opposed to that happening.

There were other cases which came before the Dublin Corporation recently, and which, fortunately, we have stopped. How long we shall be able to do so, I do not know. These, too, were cases under the old Labourers Acts. The cottages were built many years ago. Some of them had been used for over 40 years for the carrying on of the business of a little retail shop. When the cottages were under the control of the county council, nobody objected to their being used as shops. They were then taken over by the corporation when the land in the area was taken in by the corporation, perhaps 20 years ago. The Dublin Corporation did not bother, in view of the fact that they had been used as little retail shops for 20 years before it took over the land. Then organised competitors drew the attention of the city manager to the fact that these premises were being used in a manner that was contrary to the provisions of the Labourers Acts and it was proposed that proceedings be taken in the courts to put them out. I can say, however, as a member of the corporation that we have held up these cases for the moment. I would like to see a very slight amendment inserted in this Bill that would give a discretion in the matter to the courts and a discretion to the local authorities.

To the courts particularly.

I must say that I am a great believer in the courts in certain types of cases. I think myself that there should be no question of having a person of that kind put out, that is where there has been a family business carried on by a grandfather, a son and now by the grandson.

Or by a widow?

Or by a widow, as Deputy MacCarthy reminds me. I think, therefore, that we ought to avail of this Bill to close that gap against abuses. I am perfectly certain all Deputies agree that it is something that should be done. It is a thing that, I think, we can do, and even though there is to be a dissolution, let us do our business up to the last minute and not put anything aside because there happens to be an election atmosphere about.

I agree with what the Minister says in his statement about making provision in regard to the right of a person to dispose of a purchased cottage. I think it is right that should be done. These are the only observations I have to make on the Bill. I hope there will be no question of the House saying that we will give the Minister all stages of this Bill this evening. I think that if it is necessary for us to meet ten times between this and the dissolution to do the things that are necessary, to remove any defects that we can remove from the existing legislation and to remove cases of hardship such as I have mentioned, so that they should not be allowed to remain on the Statute Book, we should do so.

I agree that the Minister should avail of this opportunity to amend, in many respects, the law as it stands. Some of these have been mentioned by other speakers. I should like to add my word to urge him to accept our support in making the necessary amendments. There is one amendment that I would submit to him is necessary, that is in regard to houses which have been under reconstruction and which will not be finished by the 31st March of this year, which is to-day. The plans of certain county councils cease from to-day, and they do not propose to extend them. The result is that, in a county like Longford, a fairly substantial number of reconstruction works are in process of being carried out. Some instalments have been paid on the works but, as the final instalment has not been paid before the 31st March, even though the Act is being continued, those concerned will not get the supplementary grant. I think the Minister should make provision in the Bill to meet cases of that kind, that is where a county council fails to extend the provision relating to the payment of the supplementary grant. I am referring now to cases where the work was commenced prior to the 31st March by a farmer, a worker or whoever else was concerned. In all such cases, the Minister should, under this Bill, make it a liability on the council, whether it liked it or not, to pay the supplementary grant. It is a serious matter for the people concerned. When they started to build the houses they planned on the basis of receiving certain sums from the central authority and from the local authority, plus whatever provision they were able to make themselves. Now, because of circumstances over which they have no control, they are likely to lose the supplementary grant.

Cases have been brought to my notice very much in recent months arising from delays in the making of payments. I submit that there is no reason why there should be delay in the payment of the half grant, when the work is half done, or in the making of the final grant when the work has been completed. There are, to my knowledge, business people and contractors under serious financial difficulties because of the delay in payment and the Minister should see to it that payment is made as rapidly as possible. Sometimes recently I said I would give the Minister some examples of the delays. In one case payment has been made but I regret to say that in others it has not and it will be serious if as a result of the delays these people lose the supplementary grant from the local authority.

On the question of the increased valuation, I agree that £35 valuation, does, as the Minister says, bring in the majority of farmers. Nevertheless there are borderline cases and you have some small farms with very high valuations. You have, for instance, in Sligo bad farms of land on which the valuation is very high. The same thing occurs in Longford where the land was described one time either as forest land, wheat land or flax land and where the valuation is out of all proportion to the value of the land. The result is that you have a farm of 25 or 30 acres with a valuation of £45 or £50 and it is not worth anything like that at all. Some of the best land in the surrounding counties, and even in County Longford, would not have as high a valuation and I feel the Minister should adjust the valuations accordingly. It is only the Minister can do it. No Deputy can move an amendment to these Acts without being ruled out of order and I urge the Minister to make that amendment.

The Minister should also take some steps to lessen the fees that would be payable to the professional people for their services on the erection of new houses and where reconstruction work takes place. I know it is not easy to do that, but if a person building a house felt that he had too heavy a charge imposed upon him there should be a clause that would enable him to appeal to some tribunal or some person like a taxing master in the courts, where if you have a lawsuit and you think the costs are too high the matter can be referred to the taxing master. In that way you can make sure that the fees are not exorbitant.

I would expect that in regard to local authority cottages, and so on, the right to sell would be included as well as the right to will. Under the Land Acts if a farmer, a small-holder or even a person who has been an employee gets a farm from the Land Commission and it becomes vested in him, he has the right to sell in a very short space of time; and if he pays any money it is vested in him immediately although the State has paid a very substantial sum towards the establishment of that holding. I feel the worker should have the same right, so that when the local authority sells the cottage to the worker it then becomes his home and he owns it in fee-simple and has the right to call it his castle just the same as anybody else. It may be argued that that would defeat the object for which the Local Authorities Housing Act was passed, but it is only reasonable, as Deputy Captain Cowan and others have said, that where people have been in cottages for 20, 30 and 40 years they should be able to call them their own. As it stands at the moment no matter how long these people pay rent and no matter what the circumstances are that surround the particular tenancy they can never call these cottages their own. I feel that is a restriction upon the worker of the country that should not be placed upon him. He should have the same right as anybody else, and once he buys out his cottage from the local authority under the Housing Act that should be his home so that he can will it, sell it or do what he pleases with it in the normal way. On no other section of the community is there a restriction on the right of property. It is a mistaken description to say, as was said in connection with the Act, that the Irish worker is the owner of his own home. He is, provided he complies with all the regulations and conditions, provided he never improves his lot and remains a worker and that nobody else belongperty ing to him is ever to be anything better. If, as Deputy Cowan pointed out, the mother or some member of the family displays any initiative and starts up in industry or in anything that will improve their lot in life that is not in accordance with the Act, out they go. That is unreasonable and unfair, and I would like to see the Minister remedying that now. It would be sound politically for the Government to do it, and even though there is an election coming I think they would be entitled to get the credit for it.

They would make sure of that.

More power to them. At the time the Government were passing the Act in connection with the purchase of cottages there was a great headline across the top of theIrish Press:“Irish worker made the owner of his own home.” There never was such an imposture upon the people, because that was not true. He was made the owner of his own home as long as he remained a worker and kept his nose to the grindstone but the moment he did anything to improve his lot he was ejected. He could not sell it or do anything with it; he had to keep it to the same class of person.

The Bill, of course, is a good one. There has been a great improvement in the housing of our people but it is far from being enough. There is a great deal of work to be done and no matter what Government is here they have much to do before the problem of the housing of our people will be solved. In conclusion, let me say that in regard to the reconstruction of a house, if for any reason the numbers of the household increase or if T.B. or anything like that has set in and the owner of the house wishes to extend it further, not only should the local authority be permitted to assist that person but the central authority should come to his aid and give the grant where these conditions apply, that is, where the family has increased and where any disease has turned up.

On the question of remission of rates, it is of very great benefit to young people when they get married, to get two-thirds remission of rates. However, it is like everything else. In the early stages, the family is not so large and the responsibilities are not so great on the young married couple. It is a bit hard at the end of seven years, just when the responsibilities are increasing and when the family is growing, that they should be hit by this increased burden—as much as to say: "Do not go any further, you have gone far enough; if you do, we will come down with a load on you." The principle is not right. I would be in favour of extending that period. I suppose the same thing could be said of a later period, when the children are starting to go to secondary schools and to higher education, with increased cost of clothing and so on, that the burden is even greater then. At the same time, the seven year period is a dangerous period, in my opinion, and should be extended. Whether something like the one-twentieth plan would be better, I do not know. Where a new house has been built and where there is a young pair going into it, the period should be greater than seven years. That extension would be good for them, good for the State and good for the local authority.

I agree, as most of us will, that a lot has been done in the provision of houses, especially in recent years. It seems that, despite what has been done, despite the legislation that has been passed, and despite the goodwill of Ministers and officials in the Department and in the local authorities, we are going to have a housing problem for many years to come. However, this particular Bill and this particular discussion deals mainly with the private builder. I have always said, here and in other places, that the assistance provided by the State and by local authorities has been fairly generous, to put it in mild terms. This progress has been continued by various Ministers and various Dáils. We would all agree that the Bill which the Minister has now introduced is a further improvement—an improvement which we did not expect in this particular Bill. as we assumed it would be merely the annual continuation Bill. The improvements that are contained in this Bill correct certain faults and omissions, even in recent Acts; and, though we may regard them as long overdue, they are very welcome now.

Deputy Cowan says he is anxious to have this Bill passed before the dissolution of the Dáil. Having read the Bill, I do not think the group of which I am a member will give the Minister any particular difficulty. One can say that all the provisions in the Bill are good. There may be some, as Deputy Keyes has mentioned, which may require more explanation from the Minister; but generally speaking the different suggestions proposed by him will be for the benefit of the private individual who wants to build or reconstruct his own house.

There are a few suggestions that I would like to make that cannot be tabled in the form of amendments, as they are a type of amendment which only the Minister himself could move. I would ask him to consider granting— if not now, at some later stage—a bigger reconstruction grant for certain types of people—people who in the ordinary course of events would be regarded as the responsibility of the local authority so far as housing is concerned. I say this even though I believe the reconstruction grant at present is generous—I know many people who would reconstruct their own houses if given a little more financial encouragement. They would not—as some of them have to at present—let their houses, which they own, go into disrepair and become a burden on the local authority, as a result of which the local authority and the State have to contribute five or six times the cost of giving an increased reconstruction grant now to these people. The reconstruction grant as it stands is applied to individuals in all walks of life. I would make the plea for these people and for the local authority that these reconstruction grants be increased so as to relieve the local authority from the responsibility of housing these people and to enable these people to retain the homes they have been in for very many years.

There is provision in respect of reconstruction grants which says that there need not be any limitation as to the rateable valuation. That is very good. I know many examples of such cases. An ordinary working man who happened to live in a very big house which was valued pretty highly is a case in point. It was not a terrific burden on him, inasmuch as he owned it, his people had acquired it in some way or other and the only burden would be the rates—it would, of course, have been a heavy burden if he had to pay rent as well, but he had not. My interpretation of this proposal is that in respect of such an individual in a house like that, he could get the reconstruction grant no matter what his valuation would be.

I do not know what the Minister's experience is of the next proposal with which I want to deal. It concerns the payment under the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1948, of a grant over a period of, I think, ten years to an individual who proposed to build a house for an employee or for some other person. I do not think that grant was freely availed of and it is a welcome change now that an employer, for instance, who wants to build houses will receive a grant similar in amount to that which is paid to the individual who wants to build a house for his own use. In my opinion, this will relieve local authorities in certain places. They felt bound to house certain employees, particularly skilled employees or essential workers, as they are commonly described. The presence of such workers in a town meant that a new factory could operate; without those workers it would not be possible to operate the factory and that would deprive other people of employment. This will be a big encouragement to industrialists and employers generally to build houses for some of their employees and so relieve the local authority of the responsibility of housing them. The Minister mentions that this proposal will be on trial for a period of, I think, two years. I believe it will be of such value both to certain employers and to the local authority that after two years it will be found to have been a success. The provision in the 1948 Act of a grant in instalments over ten years was, in my opinion, useless and not freely availed of.

I would agree with Deputy Keyes in his protest over the deletion of Section 18 (2) of the Labourers Act 1936. That is the section which provides the right to a tenant of a labourer's cottage to appeal to the Minister in any dispute there might be about the final repairs to his cottage before the completion of purchase. It is not generally known to the tenants of labourers' cottages that they have such a right of appeal, but it is a fact that there is the utmost dissatisfaction with regard to the final repairs carried out in respect of a cottage proposed to be purchased by a tenant.

I would join with Deputy Keyes in appealing to the Minister to reconsider the deletion of that particular section and leave to the tenant the right to appeal to the Minister should there be a dispute with regard to repairs.

I am sure that Sections 16 and 20, which enable a local authority to purchase private houses, are welcomed by the local authorities. For some time past local authorities who were desirous of purchasing private houses for letting to people for whom they had responsibility have been held up because of the difficulty with regard to the Rent Restriction Act.

There is only one amendment that I would like the Minister to consider. It is an amendment which an ordinary Deputy cannot move. I will give the Minister examples to emphasise the necessity for the amendment of the Bill. Many local authorities have erected houses for cash sale or on the tenant purchase system. We all know that remission of rates does not apply to persons who pay spot cash for their houses or who contract to buy on a tenant purchase system. A private individual who built a house and who receives a grant from the Department of Local Government and a supplementary grant from a county council gets remission of rates for the first seven years. Unfortunately, that system does not operate in Wexford County or town. There are many examples of tenant purchase in Wexford. I do not suggest that retrospective legislation should be enacted to deal with these cases. In St. John's Road, Corry's Villas and William Street, houses were erected by the corporation and are being purchased by the occupiers. These people have not received the advantage of the remission of rates for the first seven years. I would ask the Minister to try to ensure in this Bill that houses erected and disposed of in the manner I have described will in future be eligible for remission of rates.

As further proof of the anomaly that exists, I could cite a scheme of houses in Wexford town. A private individual built a number of houses for his employees and for certain other people. The people who became tenants of these houses enjoyed remission of rates for the first seven years. There were six houses on the scheme that were not completed by this individual but which were taken over and completed by the corporation. The tenants in these six houses did not get remission of rates for the first seven years. I do not suggest that legislation should be enacted now to cover these cases but I would ask the Minister, between now and the Committee Stage, to consider the possibility of introducing an amendment on the lines I have suggested.

This is a very important measure, very sensibly devised and it will remove many hardships. It raises the qualifying standard of income and rateable valuation and removes certain limitation in time for reconstruction grants. The general result will be that it will help towards a solution of our urgent housing problem by preserving many houses which otherwise would be demolished or converted into stores or diverted to other purposes.

There are many houses which are being vacated by families who are being removed to other areas which could be made suitable for small families if certain repairs were carried out. In many cases that cannot be done under the existing law. The Minister is to be congratulated on the provision he is making which will help to preserve some of these houses in cases where their location is not objectionable from the point of view of building schemes and where the housing need would warrant their use pending completion of the various building schemes that local authorities have in hand.

Apart from that consideration, the provisions of the Bill dealing with the willing of cottages are very important. I refer not only to the enabling section, under which a cottage may be willed to a relative, but to the provision whereby a cottage may be willed to a qualified person or sold to a qualified person. By "qualified person" I would mean an agricultural worker, an industrial worker or a road worker, for example. If we widen the scope too much, the possibility is that people will avail of these sections who are interested in acquiring house property in order to rent them and make an income out of them. As Deputy MacEoin said, that would defeat the object of the housing authority of providing housing for deserving people. We should be very careful in that connection.

I had experience recently of an ordinary cottage, the tenant of which had left the area. He had no dependent relatives and he was considering the sale of the cottage. An offer of £460 was made for the cottage but that offer was not made by a person who could be described as a person for whom the housing authority would be obliged to provide accommodation. Generally speaking, we should be particular about what we are doing in that regard.

I admit the general principle that the owner of a cottage should be free, within these limitations, to hold the cottage in his own right and for his family and to dispose of the house and plot which he has acquired to relatives or qualified persons, just as a small farmer is free to dispose of his property or a person who has got land from the Land Commission is free to dispose of it. Of course, there is a limitation in that particular case.

Why not insert a limitation in regard to the cottage?

Perhaps something of that kind could be done.

I should like to support the point made by Deputy Cowan regarding small shops in local authority houses that at one time were under the county council and that subsequently came under the urban or borough authorities. These shops were established before the Town Planning Acts became operative in their particular districts. Under the new schemes, the borough councils and, perhaps, urban authorities set aside particular houses which may become residential shops. They are let and acquired in various ways under regulations made by the local authority. However, before that scheme of things became operative, people in these areas established small shops. Possibly the wife of a casual labourer had some knowledge and experience before her marriage of the management of a shop and that she was thrifty and established a little business. Perhaps a husband was disabled, or something of that kind, and his wife wanted to rear and educate her children in a decent way. In my view, the abolition of these shops should not be insisted upon if it would involve hardship on the family concerned. For the future, the matter is under control in most districts because of the Town Planning Acts. Before the implementation of the Town Planning Acts, certain little enterprises were started and have grown up. It would be a hardship on the people concerned to deprive them now of what they have worked for in that regard and, for that reason, care should be exercised to ensure that they will be allowed to continue.

The provision of a capital sum for public utility societies is very useful. When a public utility society acquires a site for building—particularly if the area comes within the scope of the Town Planning Acts—the first requirement of the local authority is that proper roads will be provided. Unless the public utility society has some capital or can get special loans of some kind, they cannot set out to build the roads before the income from the houses—whether by way of loan or grant—is made available to them. For that reason, I think that this provision is a step in the right direction. People who want to build their own houses should be encouraged to join public utility societies because very often greater care is exercised in the matter of the construction and general supervision of the building of the houses and that, in turn, yields better results both to the local authority and the tenants.

It is to be regretted that many small builders who have acquired land and started schemes are held up by the local authority and cannot proceed with the completion of the houses until they construct roads. Their trouble is that they have not the capital to enable them to construct the roads. I am aware of a number of schemes which are in that position now. The builder cannot proceed and he will be put out of business if there is too rigid an insistence on the construction of roads. The result is that the houses which he intended to construct will not be available for the people who need them. After all, the county council and the corporation will draw rates in respect of these houses, when they are built. Therefore, I feel that more assistance should be given to small builders and that such high standards with regard to the provision of roads should not be insisted upon because the rates on the houses will reimburse the local authority for any expenditure they may have to make in respect of the roads. Even a basis of 50 per cent. by the builder and 50 per cent. by the local authority would get over that difficulty in many instances.

I do not want to delay the House now in respect of the other provisions of the Bill because they have general acceptance. As other Deputies have said, the Minister is to be congratulated on the steps which he has taken in this Bill.

Other Deputies have referred to the matter of plots which are taken over for the building of cottages—plots which, in many cases, cannot be paid for because the administration has not been taken out by the present occupiers of the land. Where these lands come into the possession of farmers as a result of the death of relatives, or otherwise, they cannot be paid for the plots. The rates are collected from these farmers. I have advocated both here and in the local authority that the rateable occupier should be entitled to payment for these plots that are taken over for housing. I know there are difficulties. Very often, there may be certain claims from vested interests and the problem is difficult. However, it is very difficult when local authorities who acquire cottage plots have to go around to these same farmers after another three or more years to get a few more plots from them when, at the same time, they have not paid the farmers in respect of the plot or plots taken over in earlier years. There is something wrong there. Even the lodgment of money in the bank, to be claimed when administration is taken out, and so forth, does not deal with the problem. The expense of taking out administration is so heavy that, where there is no objection to a person's claim to the land, he just carries on from year to year and his family carry on from generation to generation. Nobody disputes their right and they do not see why they should be put to the expense of paying legal charges which sometimes amount to a fairly considerable figure. That point ought to be considered and it might be possible, by law, to reduce administration charges to a figure which would induce people to make themselves the legal as well as the actual possessors of the land they hold.

Mr. A. Byrne

This Bill is a very welcome additional link to a long chain of Housing Bills which I have seen put through this House in an effort to solve our housing problems. This Bill is a step in the right direction but I feel that a good many more steps will have to be taken by the present Minister, or other Ministers who follow him, before the problem is solved.

In Dublin to-day, we have some thousands of applicants for houses. We see young married people with one or two children who have little or no chance of getting a house because of the demand from larger-sized families. I should like to see the building of houses speeded up. I should also like to see bigger grants being given— grants which would enable us to rent the houses at a figure which the tenants could afford to pay. I am sure that these things will come about in the ordinary course of events.

While I welcome the Bill and realise that it seeks to remedy some complaints which I made recently, there is a matter to which I should like to draw the attention of the Minister. It concerns the payment of the supplementary grant. A month ago, or less, I asked the Minister if he were aware —I have not the figures at the moment —that about 250 of the 750 applicants who applied to the corporation for supplementary grants were rejected, that 250 passed and roughly 250 were postponed. Those rejected and those postponed were supposed to be in a category that could not be or was not considered the working class and eligible for supplementary grants. We had cases where men with £10 or £12 a week—I do not know whether that is the actual applicant's or the full family income—applied, and if the allowance had been increased to £14 a week these men planning to build their own houses by getting a loan under the Small Dwellings Acts would be in a position to get the supplementary grants of—I think—£130. Again, I am not saying that my figures are correct but they are approximately right. The Minister in this Bill is introducing a maximum figure of income which will have the result of benefiting about 103 of the 250 who were postponed or disappointed. One can imagine the disappointment the other 150 will feel after waiting for this Bill if they find they do not qualify.

That is leaving out of account 250 who have not yet come up for consideration because of the classification they are in by way of income and the difference of opinion between lawyers, agents of the corporation, Borough of Dún Laoghaire, and the county council. I would appeal to the Minister to give them his sympathetic consideration and, if it is at all possible, to encourage and facilitate the whole 750 and enable them to build houses for themselves so that they will not be a burden to anybody and will get the benefit of the grant and the Small Dwellings Act loan. I would implore the Minister not to disappoint close on 500 people who have saved a deposit and are anxious to go on but, because of the section disqualifying the men with a certain income, they are unable to do so. Take the case of the skilled man with a trade union wage of £7 10s. a week. If he has a son out of his time and earning full rate that unfortunate man is disqualified from getting a corporation supplementary grant because of the ceiling figure in the Bill. I think the Minister would be rendering great service and conferring great benefit on the people and local authorities if he would allow those people to come in and play their part in the building of houses.

A large number of small builders with yards and small stores could build 20 or 30 houses but could not go in for the thousands of houses that the corporation deals in. They are prepared to go ahead with what they can build and give very decent houses and make independent citizens of those people who are prepared to build if the Minister would raise the ceiling figure under which they could get benefits.

We also have in Dublin the newlyweds, the young men and women with one or two children. Every member of the corporation or the county council is getting appeals from them by the dozen every day and we have not touched the problem so far as giving these young people a chance is concerned. I would say that ground rents should not be more than £1 a year instead of £12 a year.

I do not think it is right to put a rope round their necks for the rest of their lives of £10 or £12 a year. If ground rents were reduced to £1 or £2 a year, the type of citizen we would be building up would be a man who would have pride of ownership. At present we are not giving him a chance when we put on £10 or £12 a year in ground rents and fix the income ceiling so that 300 or 400—maybe more— out of 750 applicants have to be disappointed. I think a day will soon come when the Minister or his successor will introduce a £10 deposit and a 50/-a year ground rent spread over 40 years for payment—we will see it introduced in the next Housing Bill. Then we will be doing something to give the people that pride of ownership we all want to encourage in them. The £10 or £20 deposit would give a very big number the opportunity of going ahead with their plans to build their own houses.

The question of remission of rates was raised some years ago when I was one of the agitators for a 20-year remission of rates. The proposed system was that you would pay one-twentieth of your rates the first year, two-twentieths the second year, and so on, until you were paying the full rates after 20 years. A very large number of young struggling men are at present getting the benefit of the seven-year remission but coming on to the fifth or sixth year hardships commence. There are generally two or three children, of whom one or two are getting ready for school and fees have to be paid and clothing provided. These people believe if there was an extension of remission of rates it would be a great benefit to them and help them to pay their way through difficult times. I would support any proposal to extend the remission. A number of my Dublin colleagues and myself met a group of those people recently and we were very much impressed with the case they made.

The Bill is a very welcome one on which the Minister deserves congratulation. I say that in anticipation of the Minister meeting us on the question of the supplementary grants in such a way as will ensure that the full 750 applications will be covered where less than 300 are covered at present.

This Bill will do away with a number of grievances, and I am very glad that the Minister has taken such trouble over supplementary grants. The House, I think, will realise that a great number of people go in for reconstruction, and because of the concessions in this Bill we will have far more people applying for them. It is a very good scheme, because house-building is expensive nowadays and the people cannot always afford to build their own houses but they can afford to reconstruct them. There is one section which I welcome particularly, and that is the one under which a second reconstruction grant can be given where a house has suffered from flooding or has been damaged by wind. Along the seaboard there are sometimes very violent storms or flooding and houses have been very much damaged. Up to now the owners of such houses have not been able to get a second grant. Now, fortunately, they will be able to get one.

There is one thing I was very disappointed that the Minister could not cover, and that is where people get a grant to bring water to their farm dwellings they cannot get a local government grant to bring the water up to the bathroom and the sanitary convenience. A number of people would avail of such a grant if they were allowed to get it. I ask the Minister to look into that matter again and see if it would be possible to allow these people to qualify for such a grant.

There is just one other point, and that is if the Minister could classify domestic servants as people of the labouring classes. I could never understand why domestic servants working for hire in a rural or urban area should be cut out of getting a reconstruction grant. I suppose that has been going on for years and years, but nobody thought of altering it. I cannot see why domestic servants should not qualify for these grants as it is a hardship for some of them. They have their little houses and they badly want to reconstruct them. If the Minister would look into that he might possibly be able to solve that difficulty. Otherwise, I welcome the Bill, and I am sure the people in the country districts will welcome it also.

I regret that it was not possible for me to study this Bill and that I was also deprived of an opportunity of hearing the Minister's introductory speech. There are only two points to which I wish to refer, and I must confess that I do not know whether or not they are dealt with in the Bill. The first is a point which I raised on a motion recently in the House, and that is with regard to the payment of reconstruction grants. While I agree with the principle involved that the occupier of a house should be responsible for one-third of the cost of repairs, I do not think that that should be enforced in all cases, because I think it is the experience of Deputies, and perhaps of the Minister, that in the most necessitous cases where the occupier is not in a position to contribute one-third of the cost the intention of the Act is frustrated. I suggest that it should be left discretionary with the local authorities to enforce that stipulation. They have at their disposal investigating officers who can readily ascertain whether an applicant was in a position to pay one-third of the cost. If, on investigation, it was found that the applicant would not be able to carry out the work if he was obliged to contribute one-third of the cost, I think the local authority should be permitted to make a grant on the same basis as the Government grant.

If the Government are giving a grant of £120 and the investigating officer finds the occupier is not in a position to pay the necessary contribution, he should be able to recommend that the local authority should make a similar grant. I do not believe it would be necessary in all cases, in fact I am sure it would not, but I do know that there are cases of the worst possible type of habitation where, if the occupiers discover that they must contribute one-third of the cost, they abandon the idea of improving the dwelling. Where a person is in a position to pay one-third of the cost, I agree that he should do so. But, unfortunately, in practice the people who need improved housing most are not able to avail of the grants, generous as they are.

I also think it is time that the ceiling with regard to valuation was increased. While it may be considered that a man with £50 valuation has a comparatively good standard of living, that may not always be the case. It should not be forgotten that the man with a £50 or £100 valuation is making an important contribution through rates and other payments to the State and local authority revenue. I do not think it is right that he should be deprived of benefits which are available to people of a lower valuation who may be financially in a better position. If there is to be a limit at all—and I think we are arriving at a stage when we might do away with the valuation limit altogether—I suggest that the ceiling should be increased by 50 per cent. because I know there are farmers who, on account of their valuation, would appear to be in good circumstances but are not because their overheads are very heavy. You often find that a man with a much lower valuation is in a far better position to carry out the work.

What I said in regard to the reconstruction grants I think should be applicable also to the grants for new houses. I think that the present grading of 100 per cent. for a valuation up to £12 10s., 66? per cent. from £12 10s. to £20, 50 per cent. from £20 to £27 10s., and 33? per cent. from £27 10s. to £35 would be improved by substituting a minimum of £20 for £12 10s., increasing by £10; let us say 100 per cent. for a valuation under £20, 66? per cent. from £20 to £30 50 per cent. from £30 to £40 and 33? per cent. from £40 to £50.

These are the only points to which I want to refer. Like other Deputies, I believe that there are definite improvements in the Bill and that the Minister has dealt with many of the things which Deputies would like to be dealt with. I do know from experience that the Minister is concerned about the whole question of housing and I am glad that he is moving in the right direction. I am sure that any Minister who comes to this House with a Bill designed to improve the housing conditions of the people will always meet with a good reception. While we may foolishly boast of our social services, there is one social service that I would definitely always advocate, and that is the best possible housing for the people, because I think that is a step towards a satisfied and happy community. Anything which tends to improve the living conditions of our people is always to be welcomed.

I agree that there are certain good features in the Bill, but having a knowledge of housing conditions in the City of Cork and other places, I think it is very far from doing what we should be doing in regard to housing. From listening to Deputies, I am afraid there is too much complacency amongst Deputies who think that everything is well as far as housing is concerned. I agree with those who have spoken about the increase in the valuations. I am at a loss to understand how those valuations are arrived at. I was asked to meet a number of those men who built their own houses recently and to listen to their cases on ground rents and valuations. It is remarkable how local authorities can keep on putting on ground rents and valuations. Even in this morning's paper I saw that in Cork there are housing sites for individuals who want to build their own houses at £10 a year ground rent. I would be interested to know what we are paying an acre for the land we are acquiring for those sites for building houses for individuals. Even if I were to put it at £800 or £900 an acre as the purchase price for the local authorities, how is £10 a year arrived at, seeing that we may have eight houses to the acre? Surely that is exploiting young men anxious to build houses for themselves, asking them £10 a year ground rent.

I came across a case recently where the valuation of a bungalow was £17. It was a nice structure I will admit. The ground rent was £10. The man borrowed £1,100 loan from the local authority and he is paying £70 a year for the next 25 years for that much money and for the rent of his house. In three years' time he will be paying the full rates on his valuation of £17. The rates are now £2 a £1 in Cork City. That is £34 a year and 13/- a week. The ground rent is £10, and that will be 3/10 a week. Between rent and repayment of capital and ground rent and valuation his weekly rent will be 43/- No young man trying to start off in life and rear a family can pay that rent even if he has £9 or £10 a week, and many of these young men have not £10 or £9 a week. That sort of thing can only be described as exploiting them with ground rents and high valuations.

We hear all this talk about housing. We, in Cork, got a survey from the medical officer of health nearly two years ago and he told us that there were 4,000 families in Cork urgently requiring houses. I heard from the Minister to-day, in reply to a question by Deputy McGrath, that we have not yet reached 500 houses per year—something like 400 this year. That will mean that we will not have those 4,000 families housed for the next eight years. We will not have 500 houses a year for the next eight years. In that survey it was stated that a number of families very badly housed would not make application because they could not afford to pay the rent on houses by the corporation. When we realise that position you see that we are just playing with the housing problem. Some of the tenants in Cork Corporation houses at the moment are paying 50/- a week rent.

No matter how we try to avoid it and talk about housing, the whole question comes down to the financial burden on those who are living in the houses, and how to meet the rent obligations. Picture a demand of 50/- a week rent on a man for his house because two or three of his family are earning for him. While I agree in principle with the differential rent scheme, I am afraid it is not meeting the case of the tenants in the corporation houses who must bear the burden of the differential rent. I suggest to the Minister that the differential rent should be a community burden; in other words, the community of Cork City and suburbs should be helping towards meeting the differential rent.

When we talk about bringing in Housing Bills such as we have before us, we are not dealing seriously with the housing problem. I do suggest to the Minister, for future consideration, that if he is going on trying to get houses for our people we have to talk about how it is going to be financed. I submit to him that the life of the ordinary house is about 70 years. I have gone into some figures recently and I find that for a house costing £1,300 or £1,350 the cost of labour is about the same as the cost of materials.

We are paying roughly an average of about £400 an acre for land for housing, and building eight houses to the acre. That is about £50 per house, and I suggest that we should spread all those charges over a period of 70 years, allowing at least something to keep the houses in repair. Is there anything revolutionary about suggesting that the payment of that money should be spread over a period of 70 years and that we should work out what it would cost rather than trying to pay off £1,500 over a period of 25 years? The new houses we are building are being given to people with an average wage of £7 or £6 15s., sometimes £8 10s. a week. They are paying one-sixth of their income on rents of those houses. If we are going to deal with housing seriously we will have to deal with the financial aspect of it rather than talking about giving reconstruction grants to people who want to reconstruct houses.

There is another matter I would like to refer to, whether the Minister has given it any thought I do not know. There are a number of good houses being let go to ruin absolutely by indifferent landlords who are not even in the country. I have seen terraces of houses with landlords not in the country that are being let go to ruin. The result is that these people have no redress, notwithstanding the fact that they are paying a fairly decent rent. Have we no control over landlords who neglect to keep their houses in decent repair?

The Deputy is widening the scope of this Bill entirely. Landlord and tenant does not come into this at all—the landlord and tenant relation.

I will bow to your ruling, but I must certainly say that while we are talking about reconstruction I am suggesting to the Minister that we will never solve the housing problem until we get down to the real problem and deal with the financial aspect of it rather than anything else. We will never get anywhere as far as housing is concerned unless we do that. I am not exaggerating when I say that that is the position as far as housing for the people of Cork City is concerned, and that a number of families are compelled to live in those slums and tenements and will be condemned to live in them for the next eight, nine or ten years.

The Minister should see the report we got from the medical officer of health that some of those cases have been in for ten years and there is no redress except that we will probably hope to house 300 or 400 families every year for the next eight or ten years. By that time there will be nearly as many more houses required through the neglect of landlords taking steps in regard to keeping houses in good condition.

The various Housing Acts passed in this House down through the years have had as their main purpose to encourage the erection of dwellings, especially by local authorities. One thing we should bear in mind when we are talking about the building of houses by local authorities is the increasing commitments by them in respect of the large-scale housing programme which we must keep in force for many years to come. I can say that in Dublin it is causing a great deal of concern.

And elsewhere.

And elsewhere. I think the time will come when we will have to limit the expenditure on housing especially by local authorities.

What I want to get at is this, that we should try if at all possible to encourage people to provide their own homes, with as little cost to their fellow citizens as possible.

Hear, hear!

We can do that with the aid of those supplementary grants. I agree that if we widen the scope of the supplementary grants it will add a certain amount to the rates to the local authority, but it will be a way by which we can get people to buy their houses under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts and not rent them from the corporation, and it will help to reduce the heavy maintenance costs of a corporation rented house. That is why I am glad to see that the Minister in this Bill has increased the family income limit which governs eligibility for the supplementary grant under Section 10. I suggest that he is not going far enough when he raises the limit to £10 a week.

That £10 a week will bring in people like junior bank officials or junior civil servants, and they will get 33? of the Government grant in the way of supplementary grant from the corporation. I would like to see that increased to, say, £14, in view of the case I am trying to make for getting away from too large expenditure by local authorities on houses for renting. I think it will encourage people a great deal to get houses through their own resources.

What worries us here in Dublin—the Minister was made aware of it by a deputation from the Dublin Corporation—is the interpretation of the regulations governing the payment of this supplementary grant. I think it is a great shame that a man who has been married for some time and who was forced to take a flat of two or three rooms at £2 10s. a week, or who rented a house at £2 10s. a week, as sometimes happened in my constituency, is not eligible for a supplementary grant because it is held that he is not in need of a house. That man in recent years may have been able to put a few pounds together and may be prepared to pay the deposit on a house but still it is held that he is not eligible for a supplementary grant. I think that is wrong. Here is a man who is anxious to buy his own house to save himself the necessity of paying rent for the rest of his life. He wants to become the owner of a house and I think he should be encouraged in every way. We have numerous cases of that kind in Dublin and it is a pitiable thing that the corporation have to turn down such applications. I should like to see a far more reasonable interpretation of that question of the payment of the supplementary grant.

As I say, our main idea is to provide houses for our people. We have a big problem here in Dublin and to meet the demand involved will certainly increase our commitments for many years to come. Where the rates will end when it comes to the matter of housing I do not know, but I do think the more people we can encourage to avail of the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts and other measures to become owners of their own houses, with the aid of the supplementary grant, the better it will be for all concerned. We should facilitate them in every way since it would enable us to deal more quickly with the people in condemned areas and in the slums whom we must house. That is our great social work.

I was glad to hear Deputy Byrne plead for the men who have salaries of £14 or £15 a week. Things must not be as bad as he sometimes pretends they are, when men can earn £14 or £15 a week. I was glad to hear him making a case for them and at last putting the facts before the House properly. We have, as I say, the problem of assisting such people to buy houses and I think the Minister should try to give us some lead in regard to the reasonable interpretation of the question of the payment of the supplementary grant.

I also heard Deputy MacEoin raise the question of the delay in the payment of grants. Many Deputies will agree that there has been a marked decline of late in building costs and it has been pointed out to me by numerous builders, whose operations have been held up owing to the delay in the payment of the Government grant, that in most cases the grant represents the major portion of their profit. I know that the Minister has been plagued with complaints in regard to this matter but I think that anything he can do to expedite the payment of these grants would be very welcome since it would help materially to encourage the building of houses. I know that the Department's engineers and architects must be very careful to see that houses are well built and that the person who buys a house and is getting the Government grant is provided with a properly built house. But I would point out to the Minister that in most cases these people are getting their loans from the corporation under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act and we, in the corporation, satisfy ourselves before we give them that loan that the houses are properly built. We have our own architects to see to it that the houses are well "vetted". The fact that officials of the Local Government Department have to come along later means that the payment of the grant is held up much too long. I would appeal to the Minister to expedite in some way the payments of these grants as the present delay is unfair to builders and applicants alike. In some cases, pending the payment of the grant, the builders allow the people for whom the houses are intended to occupy the houses on a caretaker's agreement—sometimes free of rent or perhaps for a charge of about 25/- a week.

If that happens and a person has to wait for six, eight or 12 months for the payment of the grant, not one penny of the rent paid during that period operates towards a reduction of the loan. It is money which you might say goes down the drain. The builder who gets that temporary rent would much prefer if the grant were promptly paid. He does not want to become a landlord; he simply wants to get the money due to him so that he can move on to the erection of other houses.

I welcome the Bill in so far as it increases the limit of income up to £10 per week. I regret to say that in Dublin that provision will not benefit a great many people. We have many families earning around £10 a week whom we should like to house but unfortunately we cannot do it. The only person to whom I can give a guarantee that he will get a supplementary grant is a person at present in occupation of a house as a corporation tenant. If such a person is prepared to leave the corporation house, so that it can be let under the differential rents scheme at a higher rent to another eligible applicant, we can say with safety that he will get a supplementary grant to enable him to buy another house. These are the only people to whom we can guarantee such grants. That is why I say that the time has now arrived when the question of our commitments on local authority housing is causing a great deal of concern and the more people we can encourage to buy their own houses under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act and with the aid of State grants and supplementary grants, the better it will be for everybody.

A young man who wishes nowadays to buy his own house is given a good contribution towards the cost by the State and the local authority which helps him to meet the increased rates of interest now in operation. It is true that he has to expend more by way of repayment of the loan he has obtained for the house, but I think that these two grants go a long way towards meeting the increased rates of interest. Young people should be encouraged to buy their own homes. I know that most young men nowadays when they are about to get married are anxious to acquire their own houses. That is quite different from the situation which existed in my young days when the sole ambition of young people seemed to be to get a room or two rooms.

It is a grand thing that young people nowadays do not think in terms of rooms or terms of flats. They think in terms of houses. The first thing that strikes a young man about to be married is to get a house where 20 years ago he would say: "I will get a room or two rooms." If we encourage such people to try to acquire their own houses, by making available supplementary grants, in the long run it will take a load off the backs of the local authorities. It is a very big problem, and I can see the Minister's side of it. We in Dublin, however, are housing a very big number of people, and I do not apologise for asking even for preferential treatment for Dublin because we are housing them from all over Ireland. They come to Dublin and settle down here, and we have to give them houses eventually. That imposes a big burden on the rates. So far as we are concerned, we are anxious to house all the people who need houses; we are anxious to meet applications for these supplementary grants if we could get a more reasonable interpretation of the regulations from the Minister.

I do not think we have reached a position in this country when we can say we have evolved a comprehensive housing code. Almost every year since I have been in the House, we have had a Bill of this kind brought before us for discussion and consideration and passage through the Oireachtas, and, when it has been passed through, we have always found that there are still gaps in the legislation which create difficulties and hardships for many of our people.

This Bill refers specifically to a number of matters, and one matter which has had the closest attention of the House is that of supplementary grants. I agree very largely with what has been said in connection with the qualifications laid down for people applying for these grants. No matter what may be said about the rest of the country, we have, in Dublin City and County, a problem which is unparalleled in the whole Republic, a problem which can only be paralleled by examining the circumstances which prevail in respect of some of the smaller cities in England and Scotland.

We have a steady influx from every county in Ireland of young people seeking employment. They come in here and take up lodgings. After a while they marry and later find themselves in a flat for which they are charged far too much rent or in a tenement room where disease is being bred into them and into the children they bring into the world. The local authority, whether it be Dublin Corporation or Dublin County Council, has then the problem of providing houses for such people.

That is a national problem and I do not think that we have yet come to realise how urgent and grave a national problem it is. The contributions which have been made by Acts of this kind towards a solution of this problem have not been too substantial. They have, I suppose, represented certain progress, certain advance from the old conditions, when it was nextdoor to impossible for people to obtain housing accommodation, except of the worst conceivable kind, but I still think that, as I have said, we have not achieved a comprehensive solution of our housing problem, nor have we evolved a comprehensive housing code. This activity we have recurring each year of a Bill being brought in and passed dealing with one or two aspects of the housing problem will not solve the problem which exists here.

Deputy Gallagher spoke of the need to encourage people to build their own houses and he deprecated the extent to which the local authority, and particularly Dublin Corporation, is being called upon to provide houses for people in need of them. That is a very specious kind of argument in a way. How can people save money to avail of the facilities of the Small Dwellings Act when their wages are in the neighbourhood of £6 and £7 per week and when they are trying to rear a family of two, three, four or more children? Is it seriously thought by anybody that they can be encouraged to build their own houses? In order to be able to avail of the Small Dwellings Act, it is first necessary to have at least £150 in hard cash. A sum of £150 takes a good deal of saving and the young couple, the newly - married couple, the couple with a small family, would need to live a very Spartan life to be able to assemble so many banknotes together before they could dare to approach a builder with the idea of having a house built for them.

I often think that you will not find very many examples of a community which has shown such a desire to build houses for themselves as we have here in the City of Dublin. We have relatively huge colonies of houses built under the Small Dwellings Acts on the outskirts of the city. We have places such as Walkinstown, parts of Crumlin. Palmerstown, parts of Finglas and Artane where there are schemes of houses built under the Small Dwellings Acts which are bigger than many of the somewhat larger towns in this country. I do not think you will find that aspect of housing development paralleled in very many cities in the world. We have had in this community of Dublin City and County a far greater evidence of the desire of people to own their own homes by making sacrifices, saving money and building their own homes than you will find in many other places, so that it is unwise and unreal to consider the huge masses of people who are storming Dublin Corporation or Dublin County Council in order to evade the responsibility of building houses for themselves.

I should not like to go through the Gethsemane of applying for a house to Dublin Corporation or Dublin County Council, especially if I were in the position of so many thousands of people of being married with a small family, and of being continually told that under the legislation it will be very many years before I will be housed and of trying to live as most workers in the city and county are trying to live on the wages of from £5 to £7 a week and of paying an exorbitant rent for a room or a flat. I should not like to be told in these circumstances that I have an opportunity to build my own house if I can get £150. That is unreal and you will not encourage that class of people by talking along those lines because you are asking them to do the impossible.

Does the Deputy not agree that every tenant purchase scheme of Dublin Corporation is snapped up, that the local authority is inundated with applications when they advertise such a scheme?

The Deputy cannot make a speech by way of interruption. Further, from the gangway, he cannot make a speech at all.

In common with all other Deputies associated with Dublin Corporation, I have seen that, when tenant purchase schemes have become available in the city area, there has been a considerable demand, but it must be remembered that these schemes, so far, have been limited in number. The total number of houses built under such schemes by Dublin Corporation is so small in comparison with the number of applicants that there is bound to be a huge flood of applications. I also know that many successful applicants for these houses withdrew when they found out how much they would have to put down, what the legal fees were and how much they would have to pay each week. Deputy Gallagher is aware of that, too. It is as well to make the position of the big mass of the people with whom we are concerned clear. We will have to continue to press for the building of houses by the local authorities. This question of housing is one, perhaps, with which local authorities in many cases are unfit to deal in the sense that they may not have the equipment, technical, human or physical to deal with it. Instead of the housing problem being approached from the point of view of regarding it seriously as a social cancer which it is and a fundamental social ill which must be healed, we have often had the experience of seeing local authorities being swayed, perhaps, by the attitude of mind which has not as much regard for what flows from bad housing that it might have. In my view until some administration is set up in this Parliament which will establish a separate Ministry to deal with housing or a national housing board which will be given greater powers so far as the acquisition of land is concerned for the building of houses, and be in a position to acquire land more speedily and enabled to some extent at any rate to control the price at which houses will be built in the future, we will not get any quick results and we will have to make and mend as we are doing in Bills of this kind. That is a bad thing. It is a bad thing that we should approach the problem in that way, but perhaps we may be able to do something about that in the near future.

I want to refer specifically to something which has been mentioned here by Deputies in regard to supplementary grants. We have at least in one area on the outskirts of Dublin in the northern area a large housing estate. In that housing estate there are approximately 500 or 600 houses. I think I have characterised that for what it is in this House before—a rent racket where young people who are married are provided with houses to rent at from 45/- to £3 a week and they can be put out at any time at the behest of the owners.

I indicated to another Deputy that the relation between landlord and tenant does not arise on this.

I am not raising that. I am merely instancing a case to which I want to draw the Minister's attention under the terms of the Bill. I just want to identify the case I am speaking of for him without mentioning the actual name of the estate. If it is permissible to mention the name, I will be pleased to do so. I merely want to say that in this particular area—I referred to this matter before—there are large numbers of young people renting houses at exorbitant rack rents. A number of these people secured building sites, made contracts with builders to have houses built for them under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts and have qualified in every way. When it came to their applying for the supplementary grant under the Housing Acts and when they made their application to the Dublin Corporation, because of the interpretation now being placed on legislation in this regard, they were informed that, as they were not cases which would be deemed by the medical officer to be in need of rehousing, the supplementary grant could not be made available to them.

I discussed this matter with those associated with the housing problem in Dublin Corporation and I was given to understand some short time ago that it was proposed to remedy that matter in this Bill. I am not clear whether it is or not. Sometimes it is very difficult to gather from a Bill exactly what it means. It is very easy to draw wrong conclusions.

I should like the Minister, when replying, to let us know if he proposes to remedy that very anomalous situation. I think most people will agree that it is a bit unfair that that particular qualification should be imposed on those who apply for the supplementary grant. It should not matter in my view what are the housing circumstances of the applicant. If he applies for the grant and if he avails of the small dwellings (acquisition) loans he should qualify for the supplementary grant as well as the ordinary grant. I put that point to the Minister and ask him particularly not to allow the debate to conclude without referring to it so that those concerned will know how they stand.

Finally, I mentioned to-day during Question Time a fact well known to all members of the House that the interest rate on the small dwellings loans was increased to 5¾ per cent. in Dublin City and County some 15 months ago. Recently, I was given to understand that the interest rate was reduced by ¼ per cent. That can be a very considerable sum. When you think of it in terms of the repayment of a loan of, perhaps, £1,800 to £2,000 over a period of 35 years, ¼ per cent. can mean a very considerable amount of money. I was informed by the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, on behalf of the Minister for Local Government, that there was not any legislation extant which would enable him to give the benefit of that percentage reduction to those who were charged the higher percentage of 5 ¾ per cent. from the period when it was first introduced 15 months ago up to its reduction in recent months. I would ask the Minister to take some steps in this Bill to bring about that reduction.

There are many hundreds of people in Dublin at least affected by it. I see a very big problem in so far as the purchase of small dwellings by their present occupants are concerned looming up in the immediate future. We will shortly find that those who availed of the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts, initially, shortly after the war, will be required to pay the full amount of rates which will be levied upon them. At the moment they have a two-thirds remission. Frankly, I cannot see how these people are going to meet that problem. In many cases they are already experiencing difficulty even with the two-thirds remission. Many of them are already paying from 45/- to £3 per week out of salaries of less than £10 a week and trying to rear families and maintain a certain social standard as well.

How are they going to continue doing that? Is there not a very substantial risk that Dublin County Council and Dublin Corporation—the two bodies which have done most in regard to the advancing of loans under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts— may find themselves within the foreseeable future with a large number of untenanted houses on their hands due to the inability of those now living in them to pay the higher charges which will be levied on them when the increase in rates will come? The idea put forward of a 20 years' remission, while it may seem extravagant to some in so far as local authorities are concerned, would be, I think, a very sound economic step for any local authority to take.

I think that most local authorities— certainly the larger ones—concerned with the problem would be more than anxious to put that scheme into operation to ensure that those who made sacrifices to build houses for themselves and scrimped and scraped to get a few pounds together would be enabled to go through the rest of that period of 35 years until such time as they own their own houses. But I do not see that happening unless we take some steps to reduce the very heavy costs imposed at present upon these people. It is in that connection that I mention one possible avenue whereby these high charges might be reduced on that section of our people which is forced to pay 5¾ per cent. for money under the Small Dwellings Acts; they should now be given the benefit of the reduction in that rate to 5½ per cent. Representations on those lines have been made to me. I am sure they have been made to many other Deputies. If legislation is required the Minister should avail of this opportunity to introduce such legislation because we will not see another Housing Bill for quite some time to come. Obviously when the new Dáil assembles some considerable time will be taken to enact whatever legislation may be introduced and we should, therefore, avail of this particular Bill in relation to the matters I have mentioned. I would ask the Minister to give justice to that section of our people which has been victimised in this matter.

I join with other Deputies in congratulating the Minister for continuing in this Bill the provisions of the 1952 and the 1950 Acts and for providing certain reliefs by way of less restriction in relation to the giving of grants. I welcome in particular the provision dealing with reconstruction and reconditioning; it will no longer be necessary to add a new roof or additional accommodation to qualify for a grant under this Bill when it becomes law. Other noteworthy changes have been made, particularly in relation to the giving of more than one grant in respect of the same building because that building contains more than one dwelling. Another notable feature is that grants and rates remission are made available in relation to houses built for letting. That is a welcome advance and it will have the effect of increasing building in the near future.

There are certain things I do not like in the last Housing Act. There are certain things which have given rise to endless trouble in the local authorities. One item that has caused considerable trouble is the supplementary grants. The question of the means test has given rise, as was anticipated, to considerable extra work for local authority officials and it has caused much confusion in the minds of those who are thinking of availing of these grants or who have already built their houses. The section dealing with this matter in the 1952 Act—and that section is practically unchanged—lays it down that if an applicant for a grant is a farmer his valuation is taken into account. The question as to whether or not he is a farmer is left more or less to the discretion of the local authority or the county manager. If his valuation is £12 10s., or less, he automatically qualifies for a supplementary grant. If his valuation exceeds that figure trouble starts immediately. No definite direction has ever issued from the Department in this particular matter. If a man's valuation exceeds £12 10s., his income is calculated on the basis that that £12 10s. valuation is equal to £208 earned income and, by and large, the calculation arrived at is that £1 valuation equals £16 income.

Now it may be true that in relation to land valuation, £1 may well be regarded as £16 income; but there are cases, and I have had experience of these in my own county, where buildings which were erected in years gone by for purposes other than farming are now included in the valuation as part of the farmer's assets. Those buildings may carry a considerable valuation. That valuation is included in the valuation reckoned for the purposes of computing income. If it was a question of £16 per £1 valuation on land possibly that might be quite fair, but where an old range of buildings is computed as earning £16 per £1 in the heart of the bog or on the mountainside one must conclude that the applicant will be very far from agreeing with such a calculation. Generally speaking, a great deal of trouble is experienced in this matter. Some direction should be given by the Department to local authorities stipulating some differential in the £ valuation of land as against that of buildings.

This question of income gives rise to a great deal of trouble. In the case of applicants who are not farmers family income is taken into consideration. If a man is single and he applies for a supplementary grant he will get as big a supplementary grant as a married man with ten dependents even though the single man may be earning exactly the same weekly wage as the married man. The single man with £6 per week is regarded as having no greater earnings than the married man with £6 per week and ten children to support. If the married man has children who are apprenticed in a trade in a nearby town their earnings are added for the purposes of computing income even though they may not be earning as much as would keep them. If he is in receipt of children's allowances for the younger members of his family, those allowances are taken into consideration for the purposes of computing income. If during the 12 months he is unemployed, for one reason or another, his unemployment assistance is calculated for the purposes of computing income. Where the income of members of the family are computed cognisance should be taken of the fact that the members who are earning will not hand over every last penny they earn to their parents.

Secondly, even if they did hand up the last penny which they had earned, it is quite obvious that some allowance should be made to the parents for the upkeep of the members of their families. Due to the manner in which the Act is administered in my county, and I take it that the same applies elsewhere, no such allowance is made. All the income earned by every member of the family is added together, and if the total income exceeds roughly £8 a week, an applicant, no matter what may be his need for a house, is ruled out. It is the man with the family of maybe eight, nine, ten, 11 or 12 children who is most likely to be ruled out. He is the very applicant, I suggest, to whom the local authority or the Government Department, I think, would wish to give a new house.

The position is as I have stated in my county. I am not blaming our county officials for that. They read the Act as they have got it without any instructions, but it is being operated in the way I have stated. While the members of the council in Donegal agree that the Act is good in its purpose and in its outlook, at the same time it is not giving us in our county the benefits which we might expect from it. That has caused, and is causing at the present time, much confusion. It may seem a strange thing for me to say that the Act may actually have hindered people from building houses, people who otherwise would have built houses. Let me put that point in this way. You may, for example, have three people living in the same townland or along the same road. One builds a house and gets the full grant. The second man builds a house and may only get two-thirds of the grant.

The third fellow who is looking on, a cautious gentleman, says to himself that the other two are earning the same amount of money as he is, that one has got the full grant and the other two-thirds of it. He says that he is earning exactly the same amount as they are, but that if he proceeds to build a house he does not know what he will get. That is the kind of confusion that exists at the present time. In my opinion, a direction from the Department to the local authority would go a long way to remove that confusion.

There is another suggestion that I want to put to the Minister. In the 1952 Act, he was good enough to include in it something which had been omitted from the 1950 Act in regard to applicants in the Gaeltacht who build houses. In the 1950 Act, due to an oversight, I take it, because I want to be quite fair about this, no provision whatever was made for the payment of supplementary grants to people in the Gaeltacht who had built under the Gaeltacht Housing Acts. In the 1952 Act, the Minister did insert a section which made provision for retrospective payments to such people and which, let us say, had been unwittingly omitted from the 1950 Act. I would ask him to include in this Bill a provision similar to that in the 1952 Act to cover, not only the new houses of applicants under the Gaeltacht scheme, but as well reconstruction carried out under the Gaeltacht Acts. The reason why I ask that is this. According to the 1952 Act, it was generally taken that the Gaeltacht people were to receive the same grants as those outside of it, that is, in regard to supplementary grants. That was taken to mean at the time reconstruction work as well as grants for new houses. The result was that a number of those people had reconstruction jobs carried out. It was only when the work was finished, or practically finished, that they discovered, to their regret, that they did not qualify for any supplementary grant from the county council.

Our county council, and I am sure other county councils with Gaeltacht areas, would be quite glad to meet such a demand, together with the other demands under this measure. I would ask the Minister to give serious consideration to that matter. It is only a very small one. If the Minister would agree to my suggestion, I am satisfied that a good job could be done in these Gaeltacht areas which so much need any assistance they can get, either from the Government or through the payment of the supplementary grants from the county councils. I am glad, despite the objections that I have made to the Act, that it is being continued, and that its benefits will be available to the people in the next two years as they have been in the past. If the matters which I have brought to the Minister's attention can be remedied on the next stage of the Bill, then I am satisfied that very good results will flow from the operation of this measure.

I am pleased that the proposals contained in the Bill have been so well received by the House. These amendments are the result, largely, of the experience which we gained through the administration of existing legislation. I, naturally, hope that, when the proposals which we have now before us become law, they will serve to speed up the magnificent work that is being done all through the country by private persons in the erection of new houses and in the reconstruction of old houses.

I do not intend to speak at any length on this stage of the Bill. I must confess that, in a way, I should like to. I would like to reply to some of the points which have been made, and to the references that have been directed to what have been described as omissions in the Bill. Deputy Blaney spoke of a difficulty which they in Donegal have experienced in the calculation of family income. I cannot help the people of Donegal, the local body there or its officials. I cannot prevent them from tying themselves up in knots if they want to. Neither can I prevent the Dublin Corporation, the city manager and all the officials employed by that body from doing likewise. It is not my job to interpret the law for them. It is not my task, or that of my Department, to say to the county manager in Donegal that in calculating family income he should have regard to so-and-so. That is laid down in the Act of 1952, and, therefore, I cannot make it any more clear for him or for other people like him with responsibility.

Family income is defined in subsection (2) of Section 10 of the 1952 Act to include "the income received during the year ending on the date of such application by such person and by every member of such person's family who resided with him during that year and who may reasonably be expected to reside with him in the house". As I have already stated, I could make an excellent case, if I felt in the humour of doing so, in justification of the limitation that is there. When the 1952 Act was being discussed in this House, Deputies complained of the ceiling both in regard to valuation, as it affected farmers, and income limits as they affected workers. They complain that I was too niggardly in my approach to these matters but I felt it was better to have some approach than none at all. I knew that if we had no limits and if the limits were not enshrined in the Bill or in the Act of 1952 many local bodies would give no grants at all. My judgment or wisdom in that regard has been borne out since because from a number of these local bodies that have given these grants based upon the limited provisions of the 1952 Act, requests have since been received by my Department to amend the law so as to permit them to give grants of a smaller amount than that provided in the 1952 Act itself. That entirely goes to prove that my judgment in that regard was perfect and showed an awareness of the view that would likely be taken by members and officials of local bodies, county managers and others who had to borrow money to pay these grants and to provide for its repayment afterwards.

There may be a chance at a later stage in this measure of discussing this question in more detail. The question of Dublin was also raised. Some Deputies here did not see why the income limit should not be raised to £12, £13 or £14 and one Deputy, in particular, seemed to suggest that there should be no limit at all. It occurred to my mind that it would not be a bad idea if these generous people —and some of these tremendously generous people are always generous at the other fellow's expense—were given the task of making a decision on some of these matters.

Listening to the loose approach of some speakers here one might be tempted to take an unwise course but, as I have tried to convey to Deputy Blaney, this problem is no different from that raised in regard to the Dublin Corporation. Other counties did not seem to experience any trouble in handling this. They seem to be able to get over the difficulties without suffering the effect that Deputy Blaney suggests it has in Donegal. When I was told here some time ago that in Donegal the local body insists upon a guarantor where a small dwellings loan has been given to a farmer, I said it was a matter entirely for the local authority of Donegal to decide whether that was reasonable or not. If the elected representatives of Donegal cannot persuade the manager there to waive that requirement surely, since it is the people of Donegal and their elected representatives who must borrow the money and must repay it, it would not be reasonable to expect the Minister for Local Government and his Department to tell them the type of security they should insist upon before making these advances.

All we can do in the proposals that are now before us or indeed in regard to any measure we are considering here is to lay down general principles that local bodies will follow. They will have trained local people to advise them from time to time. Sometimes the legal advice that is tendered by those employed by local boards to give advice does not conform to the legal advice we have got but as a layman I cannot see any way to overcome that.

I believe the proposals contained in this measure are thoughtful proposals. They are the result of watching the operation of the law as it stood and of seeing the shortcomings of the law as it stood contained. We have endeavoured to broaden the scope, to remove the snags and obstacles that sometimes arise in certain circumstances. We have also widened the scope inside which grants from both the State and local bodies are payable for certain types of work. After all the House and the country has considerable experience of housing legislation now and the officials of my Department have a tremendous amount of experience of all the problems that are associated with private housing and housing by local bodies. We are coming to a time when the code of housing legislation is not capable of very substantial improvement. This Bill will help considerably and in the course of its operation during the next few years it will tend to bring us nearer to the solution of the problems which it is vitally necessary for us as a community to solve as quickly as possible.

Question put and agreed to.

In regard to the Committee Stage, there is one amendment in particular I would like made, that where the reconstruction has started, a local authority should not be allowed stop right off the reel.

That would not arise.

But they have notified they are stopping.

It could not happen.

Would the Minister and his staff stay up all night and provide these few amendments we mentioned?

Staying up all night would not meet the problem.

Committee Stage ordered for Thursday, 1st April, 1954.