The giving of extra facilities to people who come together to build group schemes of houses is a matter which the Minister should consider and if he could increase the amount of the grant to something more substantial, I believe it would encourage group development. If he could also do something similar where employers, owners of industries, are anxious to build or assist in the building of houses for their employees, it would stimulate building in the country districts.
There is another matter to which the Minister should devote attention, that is, the acquiring of sites for group schemes. I am not quite clear but I think under the Labourers Act the local authorities are entitled to acquire land for building. That power should be made as wide as possible so that where people are anxious to have houses built, and where sites are not being procured too quickly, he might possibly give the local authority power to acquire such land and thereby stimulate building. In Laytown, where I live, the Meath County Council were far-sighted enough some years ago to acquire quite a sizable piece of land. They have developed it themselves and have encouraged local building on it. In the village, there are a number of sites which, for one reason or another, do not seem to be coming on the market and perhaps the Minister might arrange that the sites should be acquired and, it necessary, have a system of arbitration to decide the price which should be paid for them. I am not suggesting that they should be grabbed or taken over without compensation.
The amount of loan is to be increased at the discretion of the Minister. While it is desirable to increase the amount of loan to people who want to build their own houses, I fear that one of the snags which will prevent it from being availed of to any great extent is the fact that the repayment over 35 years is usually too high. There are two alternatives. One I suggested earlier to the Minister. If he is not disposed to give a higher grant, he might consider subsidising the interest on the loan and thereby reduce the repayments. If he is not prepared to do that, perhaps he would consider extending the loan period to 50 years.
I know that people who want to be smart can always say that this involves a greater amount of money and they are able to tell the people about all that they will have to pay back. But it is preferable that they should have the longer period rather than attempt the impossible and try to pay the large amount over a short period even though the amount would be less. Perhaps the Minister would have a look at that and consider whether it would be possible to extend the law. I am sure he will have representations from more than myself on this matter.
There is another section the amendment of which I would like the Minister to consider. This is something on which I would ask the indulgence of the Ceann Comhairle because I would not like to step outside the bounds of order. There are certain people living in the country who are tenants of good houses but have no security of tenure. Generally it arises when two young people wish to get married. They say that all the world loves a lover and for that reason, when these young people get married, some neighbour will let them into a house, on condition that they will get another as soon as possible. However, the other house does not turn up and their family begins to grow. They are there as unwilling tenants because they do not want to be there and the landlord does not want them.
The local authority is not entitled to build a house for them as they would get only one-third of the grant and I would like to ask if there is any way in which the Minister could add a section to the Bill to cover these people. They are usually people living on a week's wages who cannot afford to put down a sum of money for a house. Somebody referred last night to a farmer who can have a cottage built on his own land and pay the rent for it and the suggestion was made that the rent should be put into his annuity. Something similar might be tried in the case of the people to whom I refer. I admit that I have no ready solution for the problem but my suggestion would be the giving of a two-thirds subsidy to the local authority. That is not possible at present and perhaps the Minister would think of some way of assisting them. There are not many of them but they are not in a position to build houses for themselves and they cannot qualify for a local authority house. If they get a tent and go out and live on the side of the road, they do qualify. Most of them would be able to acquire sites fairly easily and perhaps the Minister could do something to help them out.
There was a suggestion that one of the biggest snags in doing reconstruction or repair work was getting contractors. That is partially true but the reason for it is fairly obvious. The amount of money available in the local authority grant is so small that the normal contractor does not want to be bothered with it. While trade union rates must usually be paid, that seldom applies to reconstruction work. The building of houses is a different matter. In that case, trade union wages must be paid but in the case of reconstruction, many people try to get the cheapest contractor they can to do the work. These people do not pay trade union rates and the big contractor who does cannot compete against their prices. The present grants for the reconstruction and repair of houses are unreal in the circumstances of 1962. The amount given is unreal and the Minister should have a good look at it as it is one of the matters that must be attended to.
I am very glad the Minister has included in the Bill the section which will allow a local authority to make money available to a qualified person who wants to purchase a vested council cottage. I congratulate the Minister on having that done. Four or five weeks ago, he did not think it could be done and I am glad that when he found it could be done, he included it in the Bill. I would suggest to him that he advise local authorities to do these things with a minimum of red tape. If there is one thing that discourages people in this matter, it is the horde of inspectors who come to them and the long list of queries they have to answer. The ordinary man in the street likes to be able to do his business with a minimum amount of trouble and in the shortest possible time.
Would the Minister also remember that when somebody in a country district starts to build a house with the aid of a grant, he is generally a person who must look to the local supplier to give him credit? Where a big number of people begin to look for that credit, the local supplier is put in an awkward position because he has to ask for some of his money pretty quickly. I would ask the Minister to ensure that payments to be made on foot of the building of a house will be made with the minimum of delay. It is very disappointing to go around the country and see houses half built and left there because some small technical hitch is holding up the payment of the money.
I am aware that the inspectors whom the Department have been sending around the country are working as hard as they possibly can and I am offering no criticism of them when I say that the job is not being done quickly enough. The Department must provide more inspectors.