HOUSING BILL, 1925—COMMITTEE STAGE.
Question—"That the Title of the Bill be postponed"—put and agreed to.
Question—"That Sections 1 to 5, inclusive, stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
Section 6.—To add at the end of the section a new sub-section as follows:—
"(5) The Council of a County Borough or of an Urban District may, on representations made to them by a Public Utility Society, with the approval of the Minister, put into force the powers conferred on them by the Housing of the Working Classes (Ireland) Act, to acquire land by agreement, or compulsorily, for the purpose of selling or leasing land to any Public Utility Society."
The object of this amendment is to empower local authorities to use the powers conferred on them under the Working Classes (Ireland) Act to acquire land by agreement or compulsorily for the purpose of selling or leasing land to any public utility society. Local authorities have that power already as far as building schemes of their own are concerned, and the object of this amendment is to enable them to use that power for the purpose of acquiring land for building purposes for a public utility society. It will be seen from the amendment that that power could only be utilised with the approval of the Minister, and probably it would rarely be necessary, but at all events it would be a guarantee that unreasonable or pig-headed landlords could not unduly hold up a building scheme taken in hands by a public utility society. We know that very admirable schemes have been delayed and rendered abortive by the unreasonable attitude of landlords in regard to giving sites. This would prevent anything of that kind and would give to the local authority power to acquire land compulsorily if they so desire, and to lease or let it to the public utility society for the purposes of this Bill. I think the amendment is fairly expressive.
This power is already possessed by local authorities under Section 8 of the Housing of the Working Classes (Ireland) Act, 1919. It might be said, in fact, apart from that Act, to be in operation under the Housing of the Working Classes (Ireland) Act, 1890, where they could acquire lands for housing schemes and where it would be open to them to dispose of it to a person or persons who would promulgate the housing scheme. If there were any doubt about this under the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1890, it is undoubtedly right under the Act of 1919. When I was first appointed Minister for Local Government in 1919 under Dáil Eireann, I remember circularising local authorities, and I think I laid stress that this power, which was practically unknown, might be put into operation forthwith.
In view of the President's statement, I withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question—"That Section 6 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
New Section.—Before Section 7 to insert a new section as follows:—
"(7) A local authority may make advances to a public utility society under the Small Dwellings Acquisition (Ireland) Acts, 1899 and 1919, but where an advance is so made the amount of any grant made under this Act in respect of any house to be acquired under those Acts shall be deducted or repaid from the amount of the advance."
The foregoing amendment was drafted hurriedly under circumstances over which I have had no control. I am not enamoured of its wording and I do not propose to move it, in view of the fact that it might delay the Bill.
Amendment not moved.
During the year, with regard to this point, the Local Government Department and I intend to consider the application of the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act towards small schemes in the future. The difficulty in the way is the provision of money. At the present prices it is unlikely that it will be possible to fund the particular sources from which this money is made available, and in consequence the Small Dwellings Acquisition (Ireland) Acts may be interfered with. We will undertake to give the matter careful consideration during the year and see if it is at all possible to avail of the useful class of legislative facilities afforded under the Act.
Question—"That Section 7 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
(1) Any local authority having power to levy rates may, and when required by the Minister shall in every of the first nineteen local financial years after the valuation for rating purposes of a house in respect of the erection of which a grant shall have been made by the Minister under this Act to a person or public utility society, remit a portion of the rates leviable in respect of that house in that year by the local authority.
(2) The amount of the rate leviable in any such year as aforesaid which may or shall be remitted by a local authority under the foregoing sub-section shall not exceed the proportion of such rate specified in the second column of Part II. of the Second Schedule to this Act opposite the number of such year in the first column of the said Part II.
(3) The provisions of Section 69 of the Local Government Act, 1925, shall not have effect in the case of any house in respect of which a grant is made by the Minister under this Act.
(4) For the purposes of the assessment and levying of any rate raised by a local authority for the service of any local financial year ending within seven years from the completion of reconstruction by a person or public utility society of a building in respect of which a grant shall have been made by the Minister, the valuation of such building under the Valuation Acts may, and when required by the Minister shall, be deemed by the local authority to be the valuation which was in force in respect of such building under the said Acts immediately before such reconstruction.
Question proposed—"That Section 8 stand part of the Bill."
In connection with Section 8, I should like to call attention to an amendment made by the Dáil on the last day the Bill was before them, which, it seems to me, is conflicting with the principle which we discussed very fully in connection with the building clauses of the Local Government Act which the Dáil subsequently accepted. It is the provision attached to sub-section 4 of clause 8, to this effect: "The valuation of such buildings under the Valuation Acts may and when required by the Minister shall be deemed by the local authority to be the valuation which was in force in respect of such buildings."
I do not think any such power was given to the Minister under the Local Government Act building clauses. I do not think it is contrary to the principle which this House adopted in that Act and which the Dáil subsequently adopted. I may be wrong, and probably the President will throw some light on the matter. I suggest that the words "may and when required by the Minister" be eliminated so that the section shall read: "The Valuation Acts shall be deemed by the local authority..."
I regret I was not here when the Seanad passed that particular amendment of the Local Government Act. I know I had a load to carry in the Dáil in persuading them to accept the recommendation of the Seanad in that respect. As regards sub-section 4 of Section 8, let us take a house the value of which is, say £X, which is reconstructed, and put into such a condition that its value is £X plus X/10 pounds In that case, if the valuation had been increased from £20 to £22, I do not think it was the intention of the Seanad that such a small increase in valuation as that and such a small expenditure upon a particular house ought to warrant such large relief as was proposed under Section 69 of the Local Government Act—that is, to be liable only for one-third of the assessment for a period of six years. Even if it were the case, the fact is that here the money is supplied in the first instance by the Government, and at the election of the local authority by the local authority. What the Minister seeks to carry into force here is that the cases would be weighed up in such a way as that an amount which would be inconsiderable should not warrant a person getting such a large relief from local rates as was contemplated. When the amendment to the Local Government Bill was being discussed, and when it was passed, the main case for its acceptance was the cost of building during those years was so high that a person investing in building might not be sure in the majority of those years that he was getting the market value for his money, and it was a compensation to him for the big expense he was incurring to get relief from the burden of rates. In this case it was plain that there might be such an instance as this: the expense of reconstructing a house might be £100. The State would contribute £20 and the local authority £10, and the actual cost to the individual would be only £70. If the annual valuation were only increased by 10 per cent. there would not be an equitable case there to warrant that person getting a reduction of two-thirds of his rates for a given number of years. What is proposed by this clause is the equalisation of the matter: that, where there is minor reconstruction carried out, instead of the big slice which was proposed to be given under the Local Government Act, the old rate should stand for seven years. In connection with the reconstruction of Dublin in 1916, and, more recently still, in 1922, I think the number of years given was eight, in one case, and twelve in the other. This is not as good a case as that, and we are proposing to give seven years. We believe that that will do justice to the individual and, at the same time, that it will not place an undue burden on the local authority.
Having regard to the explanation of the President, I withdraw my objection.
Question put and agreed to.
Sections 9, 10, 11 and 12, First and Second Schedules and Title of the Bill, put and agreed to.