While nobody in the House will disagree with the broad statements in the motion, one must examine the arguments put forward in support of it. I listened here last night to Deputy O'Leary of the Labour Party talking about this issue, and he seemed to imply that the urban housing drive was held up because of the scarcity of land. The supply of land anywhere is limited, but even under existing legislation a worth-while local authority can take steps which will curb the activities of the speculators and, at the same time, give adequate but not exorbitant compensation to the bona fide owner of land, the man of good intention.
We who believe in free enterprise and free negotiation will uphold the principle that we should pay a just price for land or any other commodity. Of course, people are attracted to buy land in order to make quick money, but they do the same with other commodities as well. I am glad to say that the Dublin city manager has acted in such a manner that he has been able to build up a pool of land which will enable the Dublin Corporation and, indeed, the county council, to provide in an ordered way and at an accelerated rate dwellings for those people in the city and county who need them.
Deputy O'Leary seemed to think this scarcity of land was a great barrier to the progress of the housing drive. This is not so. I saw a communication from a person in Moscow about two years ago. The man who wrote it was not a critic of the regime, and I am not being critical of that regime, but he said: "They will never overtake the housing problem here." Do not forget that the Moscow equivalent of our city council has confiscated land, nationalised banks and regimented workers; yet they have a housing problem. In any living city there will be a housing problem, because nobody has yet invented instant housing. Until such time as somebody does invent instant housing the provision of housing will be a matter of toil, tears and sweat. When we face the housing problem in that light and realise the difficulties which are there, we shall get round to solving it.
Never before in the history of the country, or of the city, anyway, have we made such progress as under the present Minister and his immediate predecessor. Even today if we had another 500,000 acres of land we could not build one extra house because, in the words of the Dublin city manager, we are taking all the dwellings the building trade can give us at the moment.
Thank God, we are not short of money nor are we short of land, but I do agree with the mover of the motion that we must be vigilant in the matter of land and we must also be fair. Not so long ago a Labour member of Dublin Corporation had an article published in which he advocated the confiscating of land for building. He was probably playing to the gallery. We do not stand for the confiscation of land; we believe that adequate compensation should be paid for land. Nor do we believe in anybody making exorbitant profits on it. The point I am trying to make is that under existing legislation a local authority can acquire for itself all the land it needs for its housing drive. It is very easy for a local authority, if it requires land for housing or any other purposes, to apply a compulsory purchase order to that land. It is a democratic way of doing things. We cannot afford to let people live in hovels because somebody owns the land, but, at the same time there must be compensation for the person who owns the land. In their wisdom the Government have set up a procedure whereby a local authority can apply a compulsory purchase order to land which is required for housing. It goes to arbitration and in all cases the owners get fair compensation, and this is as it should be. If the Minister thinks they are not getting fair compensation he has the solution in his hands.
For every one of the many people who are on the housing waiting lists, whether it is in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Waterford or Limerick, the problem is much the same. The price of land will influence the price of the housing, just the same as the price of labour, bricks, mortar or slates will influence it; they all enter into the price of the house. But the local authorities can again help. Dublin Corporation, of which I am a member, have given to young couples who want to provide their own houses, free fully-serviced sites which have cost the rate-paying public about £700. We have package deals with two of the large builders in the city, which will give us immediately about 2,000 houses.
When the former Minister, Deputy Blaney, wanted to get the Ballymun housing project under way, he was faced with all kinds of problems. He was faced with people saying the land could not be acquired, could not be drained and so on. But he pushed very hard, and this year will see the completion of the original Ballymun project. Now we are going to extend it, despite all the handicaps we had to overcome. We will have 3,000 families living there in very good conditions because the Minister at the time was not afraid to face difficulties and to use the powers which still exist to acquire the land to get this great project, one of the biggest single housing projects in Europe, under way.
When looking at this motion here I read into it a searching for an excuse as to why we are not building more houses. I am disappointed we are not building more dwellings, but the point is we have to find the people to build them. We are faced with the fact that neither land scarcity nor lack of finance is holding up house-building. The building trade is working to full capacity. If they were able to work at a higher capacity we could produce more houses. If we could produce 100,000 acres and £1 billion in the morning it would not give us one more dwelling than we are getting at the moment. At the same time, I share with the movers of the motion that little bit of uneasiness as to what might happen unless we are vigilant. On the other hand, you have got this guarantee against exploiters in the various Housing Acts and Local Government Acts, which prevents them acquiring some land, but you cannot control the price.
Some years ago there were speculators who used to buy land in the next field to a Dublin Corporation housing scheme. They got drainage at very low prices. The fact that Dublin Corporation had built there increased the price of their land, but since that time we have taken steps to curb the activities of those gentlemen. Some of them have got their fingers burnt. In Dublin Corporation we stand for fair compensation for land. We will ensure this and there should be no such thing as confiscation of land.
It is not very easy to acquire land for housing, particularly in the older parts of an area where there is house clearance. There are people who claim rights over many years and who hold up the acquisition of that land. In Sarah Place, Islandbridge, we were faced not alone with landlords but with disruptive elements who sought to prevent Dublin Corporation taking over this area. This was a place which the British Army built to house their horses. The disruptive elements came along and threw themselves on the ground outside those houses to prevent the corporation taking them over. Despite all this the corporation went ahead and the flats are now under construction on that site. We decry the fact that there are unscrupulous landlords who hold on to land and impede the housing programme, but there are those disruptive people who are quite vicious and who deprive people of housing as much as they can.
I am glad to say that in the city council all Parties are determined to overcome all obstacles to the housing problem. In conclusion, I should like to say that land scarcity, although it is a factor is not the overriding one in the housing shortage in the city. We will make every endeavour to acquire as much land as we can and to complete our housing programme as soon as we can.