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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 20 Jul 1949

Vol. 36 No. 20

Housing (Amendment) Bill, 1949—Second and Subsequent Stages.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I hope I will secure the goodwill of the House for this measure by explaining that the Bill is of a standard type dealing with housing which has been before the Oireachtas a number of times in the past. Its two general principles are, first, the extension of time for the completion of certain building operations to comply with the conditions for grants under the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1948; and second, to increase the aggregate of the moneys made available by the State by way of grants under that Act.

The classes of operation affected by the measure are the building of new houses by private persons for their own occupation, by public utility societies for their members, the building of new houses for letting and also the reconstruction of existing houses in rural areas. It, therefore, covers that very valuable contribution towards the solution of the housing problem being made by private building which has for many years been given support and encouragement by different Governments.

The effective provisions of the Bill are contained in Section 1, which provides for two amendments of the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1948, dealing with the qualifying conditions for grants for houses built or reconstructed by private persons or public utility societies.

The first amendment is contained in paragraph (a) of Section 1. It extends to the 1st April, 1952, the latest date for the completion of houses, the erection or reconstruction of which was begun on or after the 1st November, 1947, or on or after the 1st November, 1945, in the case of houses erected by persons for letting. The latest completion date at present is the 1st April, 1950.

The second amendment is contained in paragraph (b) of Section 1. It increases the aggregate of the grants which may be paid by the State towards private building operations under the 1948 Act from £580,000 to £1,750,000. The amounts of the grants to individuals are not reduced by the Bill. So far as new houses and reconstruction commenced on or after the 1st November, 1947 are concerned, they will still remain at the amounts shown in the Schedules to the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1948. When the Housing (Amendment) Bill, 1947, was being discussed in the Seanad, the Minister indicated that an exact measurement of the financial requirements under the Bill was not then possible and that, if the aggregate inserted in that Bill proved to be insufficient, a short amending Bill to increase the amount would be introduced.

The position now is that the aggregate of £580,000 allowed under Section 26 of the 1948 Act has been practically exhausted. This is due to the rapid growth in the number of grants allocated and the exceptional acceleration of the administration of the grants in the past 12 months. Up to the 30th June last, grants had been approved for 6,292 new houses. Of these, 867 grants had then been fully paid and instalments had been paid in 1,364 cases. As regards reconstruction in rural areas, grants had been approved in 4,247 cases of which 450 were fully paid and 601 had received instalments. The total expenditure under the several relevant sections of the Act up to 30th June, 1949 was distributed as follows:—

1. Section 16. Grants for erection and reconstruction begun on or after the 1st November, 1947—approximately £425,000.

2. Section 17. Erection begun on or after 1st November 1945—approximately £55,000.

3. Section 18. Extra £20 grants for reconstruction begun but not completed prior to 1st November, 1947— approximately £7,000.

4. Sections 19, 20 and 21. Recoupment of letting grants paid by local authorities—Nil.

In the cases of letting grants, applications for between 400 and 500 houses have been made to local authorities, who are at present investigating these claims.

It is obvious at present to everyone acquainted with the measure of the housing problem that private enterprise is an essential supplement to the efforts of local authorities towards its solution. Uncertainty as to future policy in the matters of grants is, therefore being removed by this Bill so as to allow full scope to persons intending to plan for the building and reconstruction of houses within the next two or three years.

It was the intention to consider a larger Bill which would include the provisions in the present short Bill. It would be unfair, however, to Deputies and Senators in the present pressure of Parliamentary business to press for the immediate passing of an amending Bill involving changes in important points of policy without giving them a reasonable opportunity to consider fully a wider Bill so that they would be able to study carefully the need for such amendments as they might consider necessary.

There are a number of important aspects in which the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1948, has not yet been given sufficient trial and I feel that we should have greater experience of its working before proposing amendments either in that Act or in earlier legislation. I hope, however, to introduce a more comprehensive Housing Bill dealing with some general aspects of housing policy later on. The present urgency for providing further moneys before the summer recess makes this short Bill of limited scope necessary, and I accordingly submit it for the approval of the Seanad.

As the Minister pointed out in his statement, this is just a continuation Bill and I do not think it would be fair to the Minister or the House to engage in a full-dress debate on housing at this stage. We have been promised that at a later stage a comprehensive Bill will be brought in but I would like to avail again of the opportunity of drawing the Minister's attention to something to which he has already given expression and that is the question of a reexamination of the whole system of carrying on housing, particularly as it is carried on by local authorities. It is a big burden on the rates at the present time and while that burden is being placed on the shoulders of many people to provide houses, in a great many cases the people who are paying the rates to subsidise houses so that they can be let at an economic rent are people of lower income than those who are getting the houses to rent. I think, some scale—a sort of sliding scheme— could be devised to meet this case, at the same time placing the obligation on the local authorities to provide the houses because they are the only people able to do it. I think it is becoming a very serious matter which requires consideration.

I welcome this Bill and I welcome still further the statement of the Minister that he is looking into some of the wider aspects of the whole housing problem. I suppose everyone is agreed that the provision of housing for the working classes is a very desirable matter which should be carried out with the utmost speed. The Minister has made some progress in this regard but I take it that he would not for one moment suggest that the full powers of the building trades have been mobilised in producing houses. I think houses that are built under contract for local authorities or for public utility societies are being proceeded with in a fairly satisfactory manner, but the housing question is one that calls for steady progress. If the progress is interfered with and employment is stopped even for a short period the workers cannot be hung up on hooks until the next job is available. I would like to suggest to the Minister—and I rather think he is aware of it—that one whole section of the building industry has not been able to give its full powers to the work.

I am referring to the speculative builders. I am sure the Minister will forgive me for pointing out that speculative building is a very important section of the industry and provided almost as much employment as any other section in that houses used to be built in advance and there were many circumstances which rendered that most desirable. Prospective purchasers could come along and inspect the houses being put up and suggest that they would suit or that with minor modifications they would be most suitable. The function of the speculative builder was then to cater for that trade.

The Minister has mentioned with pride that there have been some houses built for renting but I think that is due to the very exceptional circumstances of a minority of very large employers. I would like to suggest to the Minister that houses for renting are houses that will have to be built by the speculative builder and I think the Minister is quite well aware of it. The restrictions on that progress will have to be removed by the Government itself.

I think Section 16 and Section 19 of the Housing Amendment Act, 1948, contain many matters that require revision. Surely it is an absurd position that a person who puts up houses to rent can never sell them afterwards. I would like to suggest to the Minister that once he has got the house built for renting and it is put upon the market it really does not matter if somebody comes along and buys that house. The purchaser may be the tenant who was renting it. The position at present is that the owner of such a house cannot sell the house to the tenant because he is debarred from doing so. This and some of the other provisions, which I hesitate to call absurdities, are standing in the way of a large section of the building trade being mobilised for the purpose of producing houses along the lines that have been carried out for generations. Surely it is an absurd position when this country is gasping for houses, that men are being prevented from earning their living in the traditional manner that has been theirs for generations.

There is no use in my labouring this matter if the Minister can give us an assurance that in the amending Bill a section dealing with these matters will be introduced. But I would hate to think that this Seanad would regard with complacency this Bill as a solution of the housing problem. I do not for one moment suggest that it is not necessary, but it is only one section of a very complicated measure that calls for the united effort of the whole community.

I regard this Bill as a gift to the builders. It continues the giving of the grants for a further period and I have never yet come across a case where the grants given lowered the price of a house to the prospective purchaser. I directed the late Minister's attention to an advertisement that appeared in the newspapers offering houses for sale at a certain price plus £275. I showed him that the purchase price of identical houses built in the same area by the same builder two years before was £275 less. All the builder did was to add £275 to the cost of the house. If that £275 or any part of it went to the buyer's credit, something could be said for this principle, but in no case did it go to the buyer's credit. If a newly-married couple want to buy a house, look for one, go to a building society or anywhere else and finally decide on one, they will have to put down a deposit, £100 or £150. They have to scrape that up and their difficulty is as great as ever it was before the Oireachtas passed an Act subsidising these houses. The £275 or whatever the amount may be will not ever count to the purchaser's credit. I had, as I say, drawn the previous Minister's attention to this. He had the case investigated and his reply was that the builder was building the same type of houses in the same place but with an area increased by 50 square feet. He had set out the front wall six inches in order to say that there was a difference between the new house and the old.

A difference of six inches in the front wall will not justify an extra charge of £275, and I want to know if the Minister, when he is considering some new legislation to deal with housing, will see whether any method can be provided to help financially the small purchaser. A newly-married couple may be put to the end of their resources to provide something in the way of furniture. They have to put down a deposit of £150 perhaps and pay for 30 years charges amounting to £2 or £2 10s. a week. They are tying a mill-stone around their necks for the whole of their married life and the speculative builder gets away with a grant of £275. Building costs have not gone up since the Act came into operation and I can see no justification for putting up the prices. As far as my inquiries go—and I have spoken to a lot of people who are looking for houses—in no case has the cost been reduced by anything as a result of the grant. I will not be the one person to say "discontinue the grant." Maybe it does good in some way I do not know about, but it does not do good in the way it should. The man with £150 or £200 who wants to get a house is as badly off as ever he was in spite of the State being prepared to make a grant. If he could keep his limited amount of money to buy necessary things for the house it would be an advantage. I cannot see exactly how the State would put the £275 to his credit. If they found a way, perhaps people would claim that they wanted a house and get the State to pay £275 and then default afterwards. The trouble of removing them after they had been in a house for some time would be considerable, but some way should be found to improve the present position.

There is another matter to which I want to draw attention. Whether it is relevant to this Bill or not I do not know, but as the Minister has promised that he will introduce new legislation I will draw his attention to this matter. Large housing schemes have been undertaken by private builders. In one case 800 houses of exactly the same type were put up. They were not put up by a local authority but for sale to the public. There was not the difference of a knob of a door between one house and another, but every person who went to the builder's solicitor had to pay the same fee, so much for investigation of title, so much for this and so much for that. They went to building societies and the same couple of building societies handled 800 houses but they demanded the same amount, £50 or more, from each purchaser for solicitor's fees for investigation of title, maps and the dickens knows what else. Multiply that by 800 and see how much was taken out of the pockets of the newlyweds who were looking for houses. Building societies could co-operate with the State and with the public in a case like that. Where houses like these were inspected and looked at by architects, where an investigation into title was made and every possible matter probed into, they should be satisfied with a nominal amount and to that extent relieve the prospective buyer.

When I mentioned here a week ago that the lowest tender for cottages in Castlerea was £2,000 Senators seemed to think that I was dreaming a bit, but it is a fact. Is the Minister satisfied that the specification for those houses is not a bit above the standard? I understand that corkwood has been mentioned in the specification and that it is expensive. That point was put up to me as one of the reasons for the tender being selected. Very few private individuals put corkwood into their houses as they cannot afford it and I think the Minister should see to this.

Some labourers are inclined to build their own houses but they have not the cash and there is a delay in getting the loan or grant. If a way could be found of hurrying up at least part of the grant it would be an advantage. Many of these men wish to help to build their own houses and if they got any little encouragement they would go ahead themselves. They have put up to me that they have the difficulty that they have not the money to go on. If the merchant who supplies materials to them were satisfied that the loan or grant was guaranteed it would be a great relief to them.

D'fhan mé le haghaidh an Bhille seo go speisialta mar bhí mé ag súil go dtiubhradh an tAire sórt léirmheas dúinn ar scéal na dtithe ar fud na tíre. Tá diomú orm nach raibh sé réidh le é sin a dhéanamh. Tá leithscéal glacaithe aige agus tá mé sásta leis an leithscéal, go mór mhór ó tá sé ráite aige go mbeidh sé ag teacht os ar gcomhair arís gan mórán moille le Bille níos leithne ná an ceann atá os ar gcomhair anois. Ag an am céanna, agus go mór mhór ó tharla go bhfhuil sé ráite aige go bhfuil tuille beartaithe aige maidir le scéal na dtithe, ba mhaith liom tagairt do phointe nó dhó le súil go ndéanfaidh sé scrúdú orthu le linn dó a bheith ag ullmhú an Bhille eile. Tá sé ceart dícheall a dhéanamh tithe a chur ar fáil le haghaidh an lucht oibre, ach sílim gur fiú cuimhniú ar an aicme sin den phobal nach gnáth dúinn oibrithe coitianta a thabhairt orthu.

Tá cuid mhór daoine agus ní i mBaile Atha Cliath nó i Luimneach nó i nGaillimh atá siad, ach sna bailte beaga ar fud na tíre, daoine mar mhúinteoirí scoile, daoine mar státsheirbhísigh de shaghsanna éagsúla, agus ní féidir dóibh, beag ná mór, tithe a fháil gan trácht ar thithe feiliúnacha a fháil, tithe d'fhéadfaidís a fháil ar chíos réasúnach. Ar fud na tíre, tá tionscail bunaithe sna bailte beaga agus tá cuid mhór daoine mar chléirigh, bainisteoirí agus a leitheid sin agus tá tithe ag teastáil go géar uathu. D'fhéadfá a rá go mba cheart do na daoine sin tithe a thógáil iad féin. Sin é an rud ba mhaith linn. Ba mhaith linn go mbeadh a theach féin ag gach duine sa tír, ach tá níos mó ná cúis amháin ann faoi nach bhfeileann do dhaoine dul faoi chostas agus tithe a thógáil mar sin dóibh féin. Mar sin, ba mhaith liom iarraidh ar an Aire go dtiubhradh sé aird speisialta ar an taobh sin den scéal. Tá sórt drugaill, is dóigh liom, ar chonrathóirí, nó "contractors," dul i mbun tithe de shaghsanna áirithe. Níl a fhios agam cén fáth go bhfuil an drugall sin orthu. Tá daoine a rá nach bhfuil airgead le fáil ó na bancanna agus tá daoine a rá go bhfuil an saol chomh héagcinnteach nach maith le lucht tógáil tithe dul i mbun iomarca oibre den tsaghas sin. Pé ar bith caoi é, is ceist an-tabhachtach í go ndéanfar rud éigin níos mó ná mar atá déanta go dti seo ar son na haicme sin atá luaite agam.

Maidir le tithe don lucht oibre, ba mhaith liom go gcuimhneodh an tAire, idir seo agus an chéad uair eile a thiocfadh sé os ár gcomhair, an ceart rud éigin a dhéanamh i dtaobh tithe a tógadh ar chostas cuid mhaith na tíre le haghaidh gnáth-oibrithe a bheith dá n-úsáid mar shiopaí agus mar ionaid ghnotha. Níl a fhios agam an cheart aon rud a dhéanamh faoi, ach tá mé in aimhreas an maith an rud é go mbeadh airgead poiblí á chaitheamh ar thithe le haghaidh lucht oibre agus go mbeadh na tithe sin á n-úsáid, ní mar ionaid chónaí, ach mar ionaid ghnotha, i gcoinnibh daoine a chaithfeas a lán rátaí a íoc agus a haithfeas a lán costas eile a íoc. B'fhiú dó machtnamh a dhéanamh an gá aon rud a dhéanamh faoi sin agus an ceart aon rud a dhéanamh faoi.

Ba mhaith liom a iarraidh ar an Aire freisin cuimhniú ar leasú éigin a dhéanamh ar an socrú atá anois ann i dtaobh na ndaoine a dtiúrfar tithe dóibh faoi scéimeanna tógáil tithe. Tríd is tríd, mar tá an scéal faoi láthair, ní fhéadfadh bardas nó údarás áitiúl teach a thabhairt ach do dhaoine a bhfuil tithe cheana féin acu ar cíos agus a bhfuil na tithe sin daortha ag dochtúir an cheantair. Chomh fada agus a théas sé sin, is socrú an-tsásúil é—daoine atá sna tithe brocacha, is ceart go mbeadh seans acu teach a fháil má tá teach nua ar fáil—ach tá daoine eile ann agus gearrtar amach iad óna tithe sin agus chítear dom gur mór an éagcóir ar na daoine sin é.

Mar shompla, duine a bheadh i dtionóntán, nach mbeadh aige ach seomraí agus, abair, clann mhór, 8 nó 9, aige, agus teastas aige ón dochtúir go mba cheart dó glanadh as na seomraí sin chomh luath géar i nEirinn agus is féidir. Fiú i gcásanna áirithe—teastas ag an duine sin go bhfuil drochshláinte ar chuid dá chlann—níl aon tseans aige, beag ná mór, ar cheann de na tithe nua a fháil de bhrí nach bhfuil teach aige ar cíos go hiomlán cheana féin. D'fhéadfainn cás antruaibhéalach ar fad a lua leis an Aire mar shompla más gá é, ach tá súil agam, nuair bheas sé ag machtnamh ar an scéal, go gcuimhneoidh sé ar a leitheidí de chásanna agus go ndéanfar réiteach dóibh. Is cinnte, nuair a bhí scéal na dtithe os ár gcomhair sna blianta atá caite, nár cuimhníodh go mbeadh a leitheidí de chásanna ann agus dá mba rud é go gcuimhneofaí air, tá mé cinnte nach mbeadh an socrú ann mar atá.

Thairis sin, ní dóigh liom gur gá aon rud eile a rá, ach gur maith linn go bhfuil tuille réiteach á dhéanamh faoi scéal na dtithe agus tá súil agam go bhfuighmid an comhoibriú atá riachtanach leis an scéal seo a réiteach.

Mar adúirt mé, nuair a thosaigh mé ag caint, tá diomú orm nach ndearnadh survey ag an Aire ar an dóigh a bhfuil an scéal i láthair na huaire. Mar shompla, bhí mé ag súil go speisialta go mbeadh eolas againn i dtaobh na n-oibrithe—an bhfuil na hoibrithe gann anois, an bhfuil daoine diomhaoin anois ba cheart a bheith ag obair ar na tithe. Ba cheart go mbeadh cuntas réasúnta cruinn againn ar an obair a bheith ag dul ar aghaidh níos scioptha ná mar atá. Tá mé an-fhoighdeach faoi sin, ach ní ceart dúinn bheith ródhian ar an Aire. Bhíomar ag súil le cuntas uaidh, ach ós rud é go bhfuil sé anseo anois den chéad uair mar Aire, ba cheart go mbeimis foighdeach. Is dóigh nach fada go dtí go mbeidh sé os ár gcomhair arís agus go dtiubharfaidh sé cuntas dúinn ansin faoin scéal.

Senator Seamus O'Farrell made some useful suggestions with regard to housing grants, and I feel sure that nobody will be more anxious than the Minister to try, if it is at all possible, to arrange that the benefit of these grants will go to the purchasers or tenants of the houses. It would be incorrect to assume, however, that every public utility society failed to pass on the benefit of the grant to the tenant or purchaser. There are some societies which, I believe, gave the tenants or the persons who purchased the houses, the full benefit of the grant. I know of one case, because I happened to be, for 12 years, secretary of the particular society. The tenants in that instance were given the full benefit of the grant as the amount of the grant was written off, and the tenants were offered the houses, which could be purchased outright, or else paid for in instalments. In addition very good terms were given to the tenants when purchasing by instalments. That was due to the fact that certain people lent money free of interest, and, in some cases, lent it at 1 per cent. or 2 per cent., to enable the society to let houses at low rents to people with small incomes.

I agree, however, with Senator O'Farrell that many builders apparently tried to charge as much as possible for houses, and that they would not be inclined to give tenants the benefit of grants unless some provision was made to make it obligatory on them to do so. If the grant, as Senator O'Farrell suggested, was merely given to the occupiers, I think there would be nothing to prevent builders from putting up the price of the houses, unless the rents and prices were controlled by the Government according to the quality of the materials used in the house, the floor area, and the cubic content of the house. I feel sure that the Minister is anxious to consider all aspects of this problem, in order to enable people to obtain houses at reasonable rents and prices.

With regard to the cost of building, I can quite understand many Senators being surprised at Senator Meighan's statement of tenders of £2,000 being received for the building of labourers' cottages, when, it is understood, that somewhat similar cottages are being built in other parts of the country for about £800. I think I am correct in saying that in County Galway cottages better than the average are now being built by direct labour for approximately £800, or less than half the figure mentioned by the Senator. I believe that the direct labour system should be extended, especially if £2,000 is being asked by some contractors for building a cottage.

With regard to the speculative builders, mentioned by Senator Dockrell, every type of builder should be given useful work to do in the building line, but I strongly urge that all house-builders should concentrate on small and medium sized houses, and that under no circumstances should they be allowed, as some were in the past, to use up a vast amount of building material and labour on mansions which were only within the reach of very wealthy people. The amount of labour and materials which, in the past, went into the building of some big houses, would have built five or perhaps ten labourers' cottages. I submit that it would be far better to supply five families with reasonably sized cottages, or houses, than to supply a wealthy individual with one large mansion. All builders and all available materials should be engaged for the building of small and medium sized houses for those in the greatest need except those who are needed to build hospitals and other public utility buildings. I feel sure that the Minister is most anxious to do everything possible to provide the people who are in the greatest need with houses, and I believe that the suggestions that I have made are worthy of his consideration.

I wish to call the Minister's attention to the qualification for grant given for reconstruction of houses where valuations are under £35. I suggest that the Minister should consider the question of increasing the £35 valuation. Every Senator who knows rural Ireland is aware that there is a huge number of houses where the valuations are under £35 and that the position is a bad one. The occupiers find when they make application for the £80 grant that it is rejected. There is not a complaint generally about the giving of grants for the erection of houses, but the Minister should have no difficulty in making a case to the Minister for Finance for increased grants and also in the case of valuations. Occupiers of the houses I have in mind are seldom in a position to save much money, and consequently cannot undertake much repairs. The grant should be increased beyond the £80 figure having regard to the cost of building materials compared with pre-war days. I suggest that the Minister should consider making the grant £100. Another snag concerns a house built more than 20 years ago. Such houses should be available for grants. The amount being given in the case of new houses is reasonable but, if what I suggest is conceded, I am sure farmers will feel grateful and that all sections will approve.

The Minister indicated that he hoped to bring in a more comprehensive Bill at an early date. In view of Senator Meighan's remarks, I take it that houses being built by local authorities are those for which contractors propose to tender up to £1,000. I was prompted then to suggest that if that is the tendency in the building trade the Minister should give serious attention to it. Otherwise it will come to the point that local authorities will not be able to continue to give the service in the housing drive they would like to give because of the effect it will have on their finances. The operation of the legislation at the moment seems to me to be such that when houses are built by local authorities certain houses will be let to people at the full economic rent——

The houses built by local authorities are not included in this measure.

I am aware of that but I thought that when reference had been made to it already I might refer to it too.

A brief reference may be made to it.

I think, then, that if local authorities are to continue they will have to be indemnified and I put forward the suggestion of a sliding scale in rents. I know that one group of people who are supposed to be in the middle income group are charged the full economic rent while another group of people, who are relatively well able to pay, do not pay the full economic rent. That latter group constitutes a liability to the local authority in my county—particularly if, as Senator Meighan suggests, housing costs are going to soar.

Let me conclude by saying that there is nothing in this Bill to which the House could take serious objection.

As stated at the outset, this Bill is non-controversial. It merely makes provision for extending the financial provisions and the time for carrying on the work on the same lines as we are doing at the moment. I have indicated my intention to introduce a more comprehensive measure at a later stage. The discussions in the Dáil and in the Seanad have encouraged me to think that I was wise in postponing the introduction of the more comprehensive measure. In these discussions various points have been raised and these points will be helpful, when the comprehensive legislation is being framed, in indicating the leaks, cracks and faults that have shown themselves in the operation of the machine. However, I must say that I still think that the machine which is operating is not by any means a bad machine. In the normal course it would be expected that it would be somewhat premature to have to amend legislation enacted as recently as 1948. However, owing to the vast scale and scope in which housing activities have been undertaken in this country it is inevitable that weaknesses and faults should have shown themselves. There is also evidence of some good under the Act because of the huge scale on which it has been embraced by our citizens.

Various points of view have been put forward in the Dáil and in the Seanad in regard to matters which need to be amended. For instance, Senator Dockrell suggests that some of the building talent is not being fully utilised owing to certain restrictions. That may be true to a certain extent. It has been said that speculative builders are not organising or working at full pressure in this housing drive but, against that statement, we have evidence that speculative builders are coming in increasing numbers and that they are paying special rates to tradesmen— more than those actually called for by trade unions. I would be anxious to discover if any building force was not being pressed into service at the present time. Irrespective of whatever flaws may be in the existing Act, it is our determination to try and secure the co-operation of every available operative in this drive. The point which was made by Senator Dockrell will certainly receive consideration in the framing of the new measure. Against that, however, there is the point made by Senator O'Farrell, and which cannot be ignored, that when these precautions were inserted in the measure there was a good reason for doing so. It was the intention of the legislation then, it is the intention of the legislation now and I hope it will continue to be the intention of the legislature that the grant will go to the applicant rather than to the builder. I feel that that ought still to be enshrined in the legislation. Between these viewpoints, however, there is a gap to be bridged. Anomalies have arisen in the course of the operation of this measure. Take, for instance, the case of a man who ordered a building to be erected. Having qualified for the grant, that person suddenly found, for reasons outside his control, that he was not able to go on with the contract. The position then would be that the grant would not be made payable in respect of the house. I think that type of anomaly is unfair to the builder and to everybody concerned. At present a grant would not be payable in such circumstances except in the case of a person who dies—when letters of administration would be taken out and it would pass to the next of kin. That is a matter that will have to be resolved so as to ensure that justice will be done to both sides. But the eventual determination is to see that the party to whom the grant will pass will be the applicant for the house.

Senator Meighan referred to the £2,000 house. I think that is really exceptional in the instance referred to. The Castlerea County Council regarded it as being excessive and they are considering alternative methods of building. Senator O'Reilly also spoke on the same line but I think the £2,000 house built by a local authority is the exception rather than the rule. There is a tendency for prices to come down in building. That tendency has shown itself definitely but not anything like the rate at which we would like to see it coming down. However, there has been in the last 12 months a definite decrease in the cost of building due to the competitive spirit that has crept in. I must say that I would not be very happy about reducing the standard of the houses. It was suggested that we were building to too high a scale. I do not think that we are. I had much pleasure recently in opening a housing scheme in Ennis, under the chairmanship of our respected Senator Honan. We had all to admire the provision made for the tenants of these houses. I do not think we should reduce the standard of houses throughout the country. The type of house which was built in Ennis is a very fine type of house but it is only in accordance with the standards to which our people throughout the country are entitled. Whatever about the financial position I think we ought not write down the standard of the local authorities in respect of houses. They ought to be complimented on the enterprise and vision they have shown in carrying out these schemes.

As has been said, there is nothing of a controversial nature in this Bill. We have deferred the discussion of amendments which have shown themselves to be necessary to improve what is already a very good machine. We hope to make it better in the fuller comprehensive measure. This Bill is essential to enable us to carry on the work. Nothing ought to impede the speed with which the matter is going ahead at present.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining stages to-day.
Bill put through Commitee, reported without amendment, received for final consideration, and passed.