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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 19 Jul 1950

Vol. 38 No. 8

Housing (Amendment) Bill, 1950—Second Stage.

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

The general purposes of this Bill are to remedy certain defects in existing housing legislation, to supplement the powers of local authorities, to amend the law regarding State assistance towards private enterprise housing and to confer a number of new powers on both the Minister and the local authorities.

It is, I know, the wish of all Parties that the acceleration of the housing programme achieved up to the present should be maintained and, if possible, intensified. The practical object of this Bill is to clear the way for this purpose and to provide a better legislative basis for that comprehensive expansion in operations which has been developing.

In addition to suggestions put forward to me in Dáil Eireann from time to time, I have also discussed with many representative bodies, mainly local authorities, in the past year a considerable number of defects in the present housing code. The present Bill is largely based on the experience thus gained.

I propose to explain first the provisions dealing with the matters administered primarily or directly by the Minister for Local Government. The main items in this category relate to the making of State grants to private enterprise erecting or reconstructing houses. The importance of private enterprise in the national housing effort has been recognised in successive Acts since 1924. The Bill makes a number of important changes in the existing law dealing with this subject.

Section 9 abolishes the prohibition on the payment of second grants towards reconstruction work, provided that 15 years have elapsed since the completion of erection or reconstruction of the house for which the first grant was given. "Reconstruction" for the purposes of the second grant means the provision of a new roof or the increasing of the accommodation afforded by the house including, if required, the installation of water and sewerage facilities. Works of ordinary maintenance will not be considered.

A number of applications for second grants have been received in recent years and it is felt that a strong case exists for the removal of the existing restriction. The Acts allowing reconstruction grants go back to 1924, and it is reasonable to assume that many houses built or reconstructed since then now need attention to prolong their habitability. Reconstruction grants will not be paid at the end of 15 years as a matter of course and applications will be examined to ensure that the reconstruction is necessary to render the house more suitable for human habitation.

Section 12 removes the statutory restriction in Section 5 (3) (e) of the 1932 Act on payment of a reconstruction grant unless, before reconstruction commences, the house was certified, by an officer appointed by the Minister, to be suitable for reconstruction. The work may in future be certified after commencement. The existing requirement causes administrative difficulties and hardships where applicants proceeded with work in ignorance of the law. Adequate safeguards can be provided for administratively to cover this section.

Section 10 of the Bill includes property which was the subject of an award under the Neutrality (War Damage to Property) Act, 1941, in the categories for which grants under the Housing Acts will not be made available. Compensation payable under the Neutrality (War Damage to Property) Act, 1941, was made conditional on the owner erecting new buildings and it is desirable that State assistance in such cases should not be duplicated.

Section 16 of the Bill raises from £35 to £50 the maximum aggregate of the rateable value of the agricultural holding of an applicant for a reconstruction grant. Over 90 per cent. of the farming class will thus become eligible for these grants.

Section 8 provides for a new type of reconstruction grant in urban and rural areas. In urban areas the grant will be available to occupiers of working-class dwellings not exceeding £12 valuation. In rural areas it will be available to occupiers with a similar valuation limit not already eligible for the existing reconstruction grants on the grounds that they are not agricultural labourers or persons who derive their living solely or mainly from agriculture.

The new eligible classes will include domestic servants, fishermen, craftsmen of all kinds, serving soldiers, nurses, midwives, teachers, local and State servants, etc. The exclusion of these classes in the past undoubtedly created undesirable anomalies. The cost will be met equally by the applicant, the local authority and the State, subject to the contribution of the local authority and the State not exceeding £80 each. It will not be obligatory on the local authority to make a grant. If they decline, the State will not withhold its own grant on this account, except in the four county boroughs and the Borough of Dún Laoghaire. The general purpose is to forestall decay and to avert obsolescence. Obsolescence in towns might impose heavy future liabilities on both the State and local authorities and it is important that existing working-class houses should last as long as possible. The provision will, I hope, result in a reduction of capital expenditure on new housing.

Under the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1948, grants are payable to private persons and public utility societies for the erection of houses for owner-occupation. That Act terminated grants for speculative building and replaced them by a system which requires a private person to enter into a contract for the erection of a house as a condition precedent to the payment of a grant. At present, therefore, grants cannot be given for the purchase of a completed house; nor if the contract is entered into after the commencement of building operations. It has been strongly represented that these restrictions adversely affect private building activities, and create serious difficulties and hardships. The purchaser must enter into commitments when the only visual evidence of his house is represented by plans or drawings. The builder must await individual orders before he can commence or continue operations. He is thus compelled to develop a site in stages, with resultant delays in building programme and possible increases in cost.

At present a grant cannot be transferred where an intending purchaser is unable to fulfil his contract. The builder may be left with a completed house on his hands and the person for whom the house was intended may also be involved in serious difficulties.

Under Section 6 of the Bill grants will in future be payable to persons purchasing new houses for their own occupation. The prospective purchaser will thus be in a position to pick and choose in an open market and will be able to see the finished product before he decides to buy. The builder can plan for full construction unhampered by uncertainty that grants will be available on eventual sale, if the houses comply with the necessary building standards.

The present scales of grants for new houses will not be altered. The maximum floor area of houses eligible for grants is being increased under Section 14 from 1,250 to 1,400 square feet. This extension will meet the requirements of large families. Experience has shown that it is difficult to design a satisfactory house for the larger family within the existing limit of 1,250 square feet. The new limit will hardly result in a wide extension of the classes claiming grants. It is felt rather that persons with large families in a position to build houses up to the existing maximum of 1,250 square feet will be enabled to purchase a reasonably larger type of house for the accommodation of their families.

Section 7 of the Bill will enable housing authorities to make to any person erecting or purchasing a house in respect of which a grant is made under Section 16 of the Act of 1948 or Section 6 of the Bill, a grant not exceeding the amount of the grant paid by the State.

The Bill also proposes that Irish nationals purchasing houses to which Section 6 relates will be exempt from payment of the higher rate of stamp duty under the Finance Acts. The normal charge of £1 per cent. on the consideration will apply instead of £5 per cent. set out in the Finance Act of 1947. Thus if the house costs £2,000 the stamp duty would be £20 only, instead of £100 as under existing law. The proposed relief will not apply to non-nationals.

Section 11 of the Bill removes doubts about the validity of grants paid under Section 16 of the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1948, in circumstances where a house is occupied by the legal successor in title of an applicant who dies between the date of application for a grant and the completion of construction or reconstruction. In so far as new houses are concerned, this difficulty will be resolved in future cases by the application of the provisions of Section 6 of the Bill.

The First Schedule abolishes limitations imposed by past Housing Acts on the aggregate amount of payments of housing grants. These limitations have made it necessary in the past to seek recurrent legislative authority for extensions of the prescribed limits. The present limit of £1,750,000 is fixed by Section 1 of the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1949. The annual amounts to be expended in future will be subject to the control of the Dáil as they will form part of the annual Vote for the Department.

At present the existing scales of grants apply to houses completed before the 1st April, 1952. The Bill makes no change in this respect but policy regarding the scales of grants applicable to houses completed after the existing terminal date will be placed before the Oireachtas in due course and in sufficient time to enable persons contemplating building after the 1st April, 1952, to know their position clearly.

Section 17 of the Act of 1948 enabled grants to be paid in respect of houses commenced between 1st November, 1945, and 1st November, 1947. This section was inserted at a last stage in the passage of the 1947 Bill, and it was inadvertently omitted at that time to provide for a remission of rates on these houses, such as was granted in every other case where a grant was made under the Housing Acts. This omission is being rectified by Section 15 of this Bill. Rates remissions are also proposed for new houses built under Section 6 of the Bill and also for reconstruction grant cases where no grant for such reconstruction is made by the housing authority.

I now proceed to the provisions of the Bill which deal with matters primarily and directly dealt with by local authorities.

Section 17 confers powers on local authorities to acquire land compulsorily for leasing or sale to individuals and public utility societies. It has been suggested that local authorities already possess these powers but as the matter is not free from doubt the new section will remove any obscurities which deter local authorities from acquiring land for these purposes. Senators are doubtless aware of the high costs and difficulty of acquisition of suitable sites in most urban areas at present. These factors have reacted unfavourably on the efforts of private individuals and public utility societies to provide houses. The common-sense approach to this problem is to enable housing authorities to acquire and develop such lands as may be needed not only for their own housing operations but also for the needs of other classes, particularly those who are eligible for State grants and Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts loans. This provision should facilitate better planning of general urban development and should result in better balanced community settlements.

Where lands acquired and cottages erected under the Labourers Acts are brought within an urban area as a result of boundary extensions, such lands and cottages may, under Section 22, be dealt with as if they had been provided by the urban district council under the Housing of the Working Classes Acts. This will regularise points of procedure such as the selection of tenants for vacant houses of this class. The right of an existing tenant to purchase a cottage under the Labourers Act, 1936, will, however, be safeguarded. The powers contained in Section 25 of the Bill taken in conjunction with the provisions of Section 23 will achieve this end.

Section 26 of the Bill gives extended powers to rural authorities in dealing with lands acquired under the Labourers Acts. Section 16 of the 1885 Labourers Act enables rural authorities to acquire lands to be used for allotments by agricultural labourers. Such lands, however, must be held for all time for use as allotments. It is felt that rural authorities should be allowed to use such lands for any of their powers under the Labourers Acts. This discretion would be of particular importance in non-municipal towns where suitable sites for building are not always available.

Section 28 of the Bill repeals the final sentence of Section 6 of the Labourers (Ireland) Act, 1883, which requires housing authorities acquiring land for the erection of labourers' cottages to "avoid all interference with demesne and amenity of residence of the owner of the lands proposed to be taken or with any home farm or lands immediately adjoining and customarily occupied with such residence".

These exemptions from compulsory acquisition have seriously interfered with the efforts of some housing authorities to secure sites. The exemptions represent a special type of statutory protection of limited application not applying to the general class of agricultural holder in this country. While this statutory protection is absolute in rural areas the interpretation of the terms "demesne", "amenity of residence" and "home farm" has caused much litigation which has not, however, clarified the position.

Existing procedure for compulsory acquisition of land already contains adequate safeguards for the protection of rights of property owners. Owners have a right to appeal to the Minister against local compulsory acquisition proposals. The Minister can then hold a public local inquiry at which the owner can appear or be represented. No case now exists for the continuance of the type of privilege afforded under the 1883 Act.

A similar protection of a less absolute type from compulsory acquisition by urban authorities is given by Section 9 of the Housing (Ireland) Act, 1919, to every home farm, park, garden or pleasure ground required for the amenity or convenience of a dwelling-house. It is also proposed to repeal this section.

Section 29 of the Bill gives a general power to the Minister to correct obvious mistakes in compulsory purchase orders under the Labourers Acts and to dispense with the services of notices in circumstances where the interests of the property owners will not be prejudiced. This power already applies to orders made by urban authorities under Section 45 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1931.

Section 17 will empower all housing authorities to provide houses for letting or for sale to classes other than the present "working classes" or "agricultural labourer" class. These houses will be eligible for the grants applicable to private persons erecting new houses for their own occupation. This type of house should not be provided by local authorities until the needs of the working classes and the agricultural labourer classes in their own districts are satisfied. The question of providing for the most urgent and needy classes must, therefore, receive priority from local authorities. Houses erected under this new provision should be self-supporting and should involve no financial loss to the local authority.

Section 27 of the Bill confers additional consequential powers on rural housing authorities for the provision of playgrounds, shops and other amenities in connection with rural housing. These powers are already enjoyed by urban housing authorities in connection with their operations under the Housing of the Working Classes Acts.

Section 23 of the Bill will apply the provisions of Part II of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1931, to rural housing authorities, so as to enable county councils to deal effectively with unhealthy areas in non-municipal towns and villages. This amendment will enable the clearance order procedure to operate in rural areas as well as in urban areas. County councils are not at present empowered to make clearance orders dealing with unhealthy areas or to purchase compulsorily unfit property on the same terms as those applicable to urban housing authorities, that is, the estimated value of the site, less the cost of clearance. There is no valid reason for this restriction on the powers of rural housing authorities. Conditions in many non-municipal towns are often as bad as those obtaining in urban areas and it is clearly desirable that rural authorities should be placed on the same footing as urban authorities in dealing with unhealthy areas.

Under Section 24 of the Bill, rural housing authorities will be enabled to provide houses for letting to persons other than agricultural labourers living in rural areas, non-municipal towns, and, in some instances, in town commissioners' areas. This extension is very necessary. At present rural housing authorities can provide cottages only for persons who come within the extended definition of an agricultural labourer. While this definition is undoubtedly wide, it does not embrace all types of workers, and categories such as serving soldiers, pensioners, midwives, etc., living in unincorporated towns and villages are not eligible for cottages. This anomaly presents considerable difficulties in the larger non-municipal towns where persons of these classes are fairly considerable in number, and may be living in overcrowded conditions or in insanitary dwellings.

The proposed extension of the powers of rural housing authorities will enable equal consideration to be given to the housing needs of all classes of workers. The same rates of subsidy, payable in respect of cottages provided under the Labourers Acts, will apply to houses to be built under this provision.

In Section 18, it is proposed to amend Section 30 of the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1948, to enable all urban housing authorities to provide reserved houses for occupation by persons of a particular class. The 1948 Act restricted this power to county boroughs, boroughs and urban areas with a population of over 12,000. The original intention of this section was to provide houses for classes such as newly-weds and aged couples, who might not require dwellings of the size normally required for larger family units. In my opinion, this method of providing for the needs of newly-weds and aged couples represents an excellent and economical procedure and it should be extended to the other urban areas. In fact, some councils in the areas at present not covered by the provision have expressed a desire to provide for these classes in this manner.

The Bill also proposes certain amendments of the Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts. There have been many criticisms of certain provisions of these Acts and some important amendments are warranted. Section 32 amends the definition of the market value of the premises which forms the basis on which local authorities may make advances to applicants under the Acts. At present the market value is related solely to the estimated value which the house would realise in an open sale. This amendment will relate the market value of a new house to the reasonable cost of its construction. This will enable local authorities to give more liberal advances in the future, and, if builders keep prices at reasonable levels, there will be nothing to prevent the advances being fixed at percentages corresponding to equivalent proportions of the selling price. County councils will also be enabled to operate the Acts in urban areas where the urban councils are unable or unwilling to make advances. This provision is intended to cover the case of smaller urban districts with low valuations and slender resources.

It is proposed to repeal sub-section 9 (4) of the Act of 1899, which prevents local authorities from operating the Act for five years following any financial year in which the loss under the Acts equals or exceeds the sum of one halfpenny in the £ in a county borough or one penny in the £ in an urban district. This provision has operated unsatisfactorily in some urban areas and it is felt that there is no need for its retention in present circumstances.

Section 33 of the Bill removes any doubts on the powers of housing authorities to base their loans under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts on a provisional valuation basis, that is, the market value estimated at the time the plans for the house are submitted by the applicant or by the builder to the local authority. It has been suggested that local authorities could fix a valuation for the purpose of the loan only when the house was completed. Such an interpretation would lead to hardship and the matter is accordingly now being placed beyond doubt.

Section 34 of the Bill introduces the principle of a minimum cash contribution of 5 per cent. of the market value of the house to be made by the applicant out of his own resources. Thus, in the case of a house valued at, say, £1,400, the applicant will be expected to make a cash contribution of not less than £70. The State grant, plus the loan to be made by the housing authority under the Act, should normally be sufficient to make up the balance of the purchase price, if the builder's price and the local authority's valuation show a reasonable correspondence with each other.

Section 36 of the Bill will enable advances under the Acts to be made to joint proprietors. Section 37 will enable the Minister to make regulations for the purposes of the Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts. These amendments of the Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts are, in general, intended to promote the smoother working of the Acts and to eliminate as far as possible the various causes of complaints which have been made in recent years, particularly in regard to the position of the borrower.

Section 31 provides for the continuance in operation of the Labourers Acts for a period of five years expiring on 31st December, 1955. The intention here is to avoid having to provide each year, as at present, in the Expiring Laws Act for the continuance of the 1883 Act. It is hoped in the intervening period to effect a consolidation of the Labourers Acts and other enactments relating to housing.

Finally, some further amendments of the Housing Acts of a miscellaneous type are included in the Bill. It is proposed in Section 19 to extend the period in which the demolition or use otherwise than as dwellings of urban habitable houses, except with the permission of the local authority, is prohibited, from 31st December, 1950, to 31st December, 1955. It is felt that, in view of the general shortage of houses, all proposals involving demolition or conversion for purposes other than use as dwellings should continue to be subject to control by housing authorities.

Section 13 of the Bill is intended to remedy a defect in existing legislation where it is not quite clear that, as a condition for payment of subsidy or grant, the existing requirement that appropriate rates of wages or conditions of labour generally recognised by trade unions shall be paid or observed, applies at all stages of the construction of a house.

Section 20 of the Bill proposes to amend the definition of "multiple dwelling" contained in Section 11 of the Housing (Amendment) Act of 1948. This definition, in practice, had been found to be defective in so far as local authorities had no power of control where the house was occupied by the owner and only one letting was made. The new definition will cover all cases where two or more dwellings are created.

Section 21 of the Bill is likewise intended to remove difficulties that have been experienced by housing authorities in the operation of the provisions of Section 12 of the Act of 1948, dealing with the control of multiple dwellings.

Section 30 of the Bill amends sub-section 43 (6) of the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1948. Section 42 of the 1948 Act enables the Minister to confirm a compulsory purchase order without inquiry in so far as it relates to land to the acquisition of which no objection was made or to the acquisition of which an objection was made and subsequently withdrawn. Sub-section 43 (6) of the 1948 Act deals with the time for the coming into operation of such an Order. As it stands, it fixes a time for the coming into force of an Order made in a case where there is no objection; it makes no provision for the case of an Order made where an objection was lodged which was withdrawn. The purpose of this section is to make provision for this latter case.

This completes my outline of the main features of the Bill which, as I have stated, is designed primarily to eliminate the more obvious defects in existing legislation, and to supplement and extend the existing powers and duties of all housing authorities.

I feel assured that the passing of the Bill will be of considerable assistance in pressing forward the general campaign for better housing in the country, and its passage will be welcomed by all classes of the community who desire to participate in the national housing drive. There is no need for me to elaborate on the benefits that will accrue to the country as a whole by the earliest possible solution of our housing problem. These are well known to all of you and it is with confidence, therefore, that I recommend this measure to the House.

Members of all Parties welcome a Bill of this kind. They welcome any proposals that are put forward to solve this great national problem. Before going on to deal with the Bill, I should like to make a few short references to the Act at present in force. From time to time many complaints are made as to the delay in the payment of grants under the existing Act. I quite understand the difficulties in the way of prompt payment in all cases but a considerable amount of delay would be eliminated if on the issue of the first certificate for part payment by the appointed officer to the Department payment could then be made. Time is often wasted in other inquiries being carried out by the local government housing inspector for the various districts. If there is a person known as the appointed officer, he will have authority to issue the approval certificate. It is his job to approve of the site and to issue a certificate for payment. On that certificate being issued to the Department, payment should be made as speedily as possible.

I make that suggestion for many reasons. It would benefit the individual but it would also benefit utility societies, who have done an immense amount of good work in assisting the farmer in the building of his house and particularly in assisting the farmer, who for one reason or another was not in a position to get materials on credit, by issuing credit notes to the merchant.

The Minister and the Department can quite appreciate that if a society issues a number of credit notes for £100 or £200 to a local merchant in a country town, that merchant will soon be in the position of not being able to supply and building will be held up in the district. In order to continue the confidence of the merchants in the societies and the societies' interest in proceeding with the work, I would appeal to the Minister to make arrangements whereby the first payment would be made as early as possible.

There is the further point that some slight delay may be due to the fact that the appointed officers are not duly remunerated for the work they are expected to carry out. A fee of £2 is allowed for the appointed officer for each house sanctioned. First, the appointed officer has to inspect and approve of the site. That entails one visit. Having approved of the site and having given the O.K. to the applicant to go ahead with the erection of the house, he inspects the house when the roof is on so that he may issue the first certificate for part payment. That is a second visit. When the house is completed he has again to visit and issue a final certificate for final payment. The appointed officer, in addition to making these three visits, has in almost every case to render assistance in filling up forms and has to help the applicant in every way as to the regulations governing the grant. I know some of the persons holding these positions and I know that they have to hire a car in order to make these visits. It is quite possible that in view of the fact that they are not being paid enough for the job they will not be anxious to visit a particular area until there is a number of cases in the district and that in that way work that could be proceeding is held up.

I come now to the Bill. As I have said, we are all glad that any measure would be introduced that would expedite the provision of homes for the people. I regret that a measure of this kind should be introduced at the tail-end of the session. While the Minister has gone into great detail in explaining each section of the Bill, I would put it to the House that this Bill contains many sections that would require very careful examination by the Seanad before being passed. In some cases—particularly in Section 17—it is giving very wide powers to local authorities.

The main feature of the Bill, as the Minister has stated, is that power is given to make grants to the first purchaser of a new house. I wonder if it is the best approach to this problem to make a grant to the person who is the first purchaser of a house or whether it would not have been better if a grant were given to the builder who erected the house. I can quite understand that if that were done, probably the Minister would be accused of assisting and encouraging speculative builders. In the long run, I suppose, it would be six of one and half a dozen of the other because in any case it will benefit the builder and it is the same price that the builders will charge for the house.

I am glad that the Minister for Local Government has succeeded, not in going the full distance, but in going a good part of the way in getting a concession that this House and the other House failed to get from the Minister for Finance. I refer to the reduction of the stamp duty to the original fee of 1 per cent. to the first purchaser of a house.

The second important feature of the Bill is that power is given to local authorities to provide houses for persons other than working-class persons. The Minister and the House will admit that local authorities throughout the country are at present and, I assume, will be for a considerable length of time, busily engaged and find it very difficult to complete the work of five or six years in providing houses for those people who come within the category of working-class people. The local authorities throughout the country have made a very fine contribution to the solution of this problem. It does not matter, after all, what Government may be in power: the policy of providing homes for our people must go on. The greater part of the burden of that work falls on the local authorities. Therefore, we should not allow this opportunity to pass without paying tribute to those persons who are certainly doing their part of the work. However, to place an additional burden on the local authorities and to say to them: "In future it will be your duty not alone to provide houses for the working classes—that is, people who come within the definition of the Housing of the Working Classes Acts and the Labourers Acts—but also to provide houses for every other class of persons who wish to avail of a house," might be all right when the local authorities would have the other problem solved. I would welcome it in relation to one particular aspect. I believe that if that had been carried out in the past—if the responsibility had been placed on local authorities to provide every class of person with a house and either to rent it or to sell it, as the case may be—we would probably have avoided many of the eyesores which have been erected in the building up of our towns and cities. If the work had been carried out under town-planning organisation I am sure the results would have been better. Be that as it may, the Bill now before us calls on the local authorities to take up this type of work.

It goes one step further. It gives power to the local authority to acquire land by compulsion, and not alone for the purpose of building houses for the working classes because the local authority, having acquired the land compulsorily to develop it and build houses on it, may let or lease these houses to persons in any walk of life. They may go further. They may purchase the site and, having purchased or acquired the site compulsorily, they may turn that site over to a public utility society or even to an individual. There are grave dangers in the giving of these powers to a local authority. I do not want for one moment to suggest that every local authority will abuse such powers but abuse can enter into it. I have in mind a case where a local authority acquired land for a particular purpose, namely, the erection of houses for the working classes. The particular site was later sold by the local authority for another purpose. The person from whom that land was acquired compulsorily in the first instance was an ordinary worker. The particular plot of land was a very valuable plot of land to him. Had the second purchaser who purchased the land eventually from the local authority been compelled in the ordinary way to purchase that land in the open market the former owner would certainly have got a better price for it than he did get under the arbitration held in connection with the compulsory acquisition of that land. After all, I suppose we are not all saints and scholars in this island at the moment. It could happen that influence of one kind or another could be brought to bear on a particular local authority and more especially, probably, on the officers of a particular local authority to acquire a particular plot of land for building purposes —and that particular plot of land could be handed over to A, B or C to erect a house for his own accomodation. I suggest that great care should be taken in a matter of this kind. I am sure the local authorities in general will do so.

However, I draw the attention of the Seanad to this particular section so that it will not be allowed to pass without receiving every consideration. In that way, if there are dangers—the danger I see in it and which other Senators also may see, or some other danger—we will voice our opinion to the Minister and ensure that every care will be taken so that when we give the power to the local authority there will be no abuse of that power, as there could be abuse to my mind.

The next provision is the extension of the payment of reconstruction grants. I would plead with the Minister to shorten the period from 15 years to 12 years. I have a number of communications from people who, if the term were shortened to 12 years, would come within the scope of these grants. These people are very needy people and although they got a grant for reconstruction purposes some 15 or 16 years ago—in one instance it was a building grant—they were never in a position to complete the work. They now feel that if the term were shortened to 12 years they would come within the scope of the provision and thereby be in a position to complete the work started some 15 years ago. I quite understand that the provision the Minister is making is for certain cases where particular works were carried out under the original Act and that now it may be necessary to put on a new roof or to carry out certain other works which he has mentioned. One of the most important features of the new Bill, though this does not affect the rural areas as much it it affects the towns and cities, refers to loans under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts. In the memorandum which was circulated with the Bill the Minister explained that the definition of "market value" is being altered. On a previous occasion we had a very long discussion in this House as to how one would arrive at the definition of "market value." While this probably is a concession, I put it to the Minister that it is not a concession that is going to help the applicant for a loan. It will help him at the moment, probably, to succeed in getting the sanction of the local authority or of the insurance company or of the building society or of the building organisation to which he may make his application.

I do not think it will affect the building societies so much but where the local authority or the corporation, as the case may be, is considering making a grant to an individual they will not, in future, take into consideration the "market value" of the house but, instead, what would be regarded as the reasonable cost of the erection of the house, including all the legal expenses, and they will base the amount of money they are going to make available to that person by way of loan on the basis of what they consider to be the reasonable cost. I admit that that is a help in that it is a help to the applicant to get more money. However, it is also placing an additional burden on the applicant's shoulders because, having borrowed an increased sum of money to purchase the house, and thereby having to find less money himself, he will be compelled to pay a greater annuity for whatever term of years may apply and in that way you will be putting a greater burden on the applicant's shoulders.

We have heard much in the past about what should or should not be the proper rate of interest charged in regard to housing. In November or December, 1947, a motion was before Dáil Eireann which demanded that the rate of interest for housing should not be greater than 1¼ per cent. I think the present Minister for Finance at one time gave expression to such a pious view. I put it to the Minister now that he would be helping the particular type of person whom it is proposed to assist in this section if, instead of making available more money, he would make a lesser sum available at a reduced rate of interest.

In bringing about the changes that are being brought about, from the market value to what the corporation of assessors might now think would be a reasonable cost, has the Minister taken into consideration the likelihood of this position arising—under present circumstances, I do not see any hope of it arising for a considerable time, but it may happen—that, if reductions in the cost of materials are brought about and you have a greater output from labour and you find that housing costs in general are reduced, the persons who have acquired houses—and in this connection one must have regard to the basis on which the loans were issued and the fact that the value of houses, has depreciated—may find it difficult to meet the annuity and they may make up their minds to vacate the houses and leave them to the local authority? The local authority will then find there will be a very different figure ascertained in regard to reasonable cost and probably they will have to face a heavy loss.

I saw a position of that kind almost arising: in fact, it did take place in Galway and would have had a very serious effect were it not for the war coming along. The war came and building was held up and, instead of being a burden, the particular houses became an asset to the local authority. But there was a period in which the local authority found it difficult to get applicants for particular houses from which loanees had gone, because they were unable to meet the charges. That position could arise again very easily if a depression came or if materials and housing costs were reduced and people made up their minds to leave one house and go into another—to leave the dearer houses on the hands of the local authority.

That bears relation to the provision made that the applicants will have to find only 5 per cent. of the total cost. That is going to encourage people to become the owners of their homes. But the same argument applies there again. The point I made has relation to this. I would much prefer, instead of making provision to give the applicant a greater amount, that steps would be taken to reduce the cost of housing and reduce the loan and have a lower rate of interest.

We have heard a lot within recent months, indeed, since the end of the war, about the high cost of building. Some hold the view that there is something wrong in the tenders sent in to local authorities, that the builders are making considerable profits, that the providers are charging unreasonable prices for their materials, and that the workers are not giving of their best in output. These are three, at least, of the contributing factors to the maintenance of the present high cost of building. The Department is charged in respect of housing of this particular type, and is charged in particular with examining every tender and every contract sent up from a local authority. I wonder if the officials have endeavoured to find out if there is any truth in some statements we hear made? Has the Minister ever put it to the engineering Department: "This is the general type of house we are building and I want you to go into the present-day costs of such a house and, taking into consideration local circumstances, ascertain the amount that that type of house can be built for in Galway, Roscommon, Sligo, Cork or Dublin and, having got that information, will you compare it with the tenders received?" If the tender is not in some reasonable way related to the estimate prepared by the engineers, then he should have an investigation. The Department should not give out any tender until the officials are satisfied that the local authority and the community generally are getting good value for their money.

The local authorities are making a big contribution, the rate payers in every town and city are making a big contribution, towards this housing problem. I know that in many cases they are contributing to provide homes for people in better circumstances, people whose incomes are larger than their own.

The next important point is rural housing. We must admit that for one reason or another, particularly having regard to our past history and the conditions of our small farmers, we have slum problems in the rural areas as bad as there are in Dublin or any other of our cities. While much is being said about the slums in the cities, very little is being done to remedy the bad conditions in many parts of rural Ireland. We complain about the flight from the land and emigration, but when one moves around the country districts and sees the condition of many of the houses in which our people are living, one will wonder not alone why people are leaving but why people would live there at all.

There is very little provision being made to help those people to have a proper home. I know the conditions under every Housing Act; I know that a person in a position to build a house in a rural area will get a generous grant, but that is very little use to a man with five or six acres; to him a grant of £235 is of little or no avail. The local authority can, under this Bill, build a new house for him, but he must be in a position to pay a weekly rent. At the moment his rent and rates for the year might probably not exceed £5, but if the local authority undertake the erection of a new home, even taking into consideration the grant the Government would make under this Bill, the rent of that house would be completely out of his reach.

I made a suggestion some years ago and I make it again for what it is worth. In the congested areas we have a particular problem. I will take Connemara as an example, but the same problem exists in Donegal and Kerry. The problem is that of providing new homes for the people there. The Minister may reply: "What about the Gaeltacht Housing Act"? The provisions of that Act are such that they will apply only in cases where the new house is a substitute for an existing house, and also they apply only where the Irish language is the spoken language of the home. Further, the Act makes no provision for a young man and a young girl in the Gaeltacht who wish to settle down and stay there. They would not come under the Gaeltacht Housing Act because they are not erecting a home to substitute an existing home.

The local government grants of £235 would not be sufficient for them, without some other assistance. There is no use in telling them they can get a loan from the county council, as they would not be able to repay the loan. There are other ways of meeting this. The manager of Galway County Council made some very striking references to it some years ago. The county council cannot engage in building labourers' cottages there, for the simple reason that the people in many cases would not be in a position to pay the rent.

It is a national problem to provide homes for some of these people. The only solution I can offer to it is that the Minister would take power to arrange that where his inspector, together with the county medical officer of health, would recommend it, a special grant be made. That would leave it in capable hands and at the same time would remove the red tape of Departments and probably help to solve the housing problem by also keeping many of our people in these districts.

Many of the other matters to which I would like to refer are matters which probably would be better dealt with on the Committee Stage. While there is much in the Bill to hold out hope to persons other than those who would come within the working class, and while the local authority may be in a position to provide houses for them, I note that in the Dáil the Minister qualified this by saying:

"It is not intended that this type of house should be provided until a local authority has first satisfied the needs of the working classes and the agricultural labourer classes in their districts. The question of providing for the most urgent and needy classes must receive priority."

We all agree with that, that the provision of houses for the working class must get priority. That will take some time. When we come to examine the provisions of this Bill, we find that the houses the local authority proposes to erect under the various sections of this Bill must be completed by 1952. I suggest that no local authority can avail of the particular sections which give them power to erect houses, either in the rural or urban areas, for other than the working class—because they will have the problem of providing houses for the working class to solve first. They would need to have that solved to-morrow morning, before they could immediately go into the work of undertaking the other classes and having the houses completed before the 31st March, 1952.

In relation to this date, 31st March, 1952, this has happened in the 1948 Bill as well. The Bill was brought in at the end of a session and did not get the careful consideration it might have got if brought in in the ordinary run of parliamentary business. I would put it to the Minister and the Department that it is not a good thing to limit the period under which the various grants may be obtained to too short a period of years. I feel there are people, whether it is draftsmen or someone else, drafting legislation of this kind dealing with rural Ireland, who have not sufficient knowledge of the conditions in rural Ireland in the making of these arrangements. The erection of a house in rural Ireland by a farmer is not a work that is begun and ended just as it would be by a contractor up in Cabra or anywhere around the city. It is probably undertaken in this way. All the preliminary work of getting the application and seeing that everything is right is gone through, and the farmer will not start work until he is satisfied that everything is O.K. Having got the O.K. from the appointed inspector, he proceeds to draw the sand in his spare time, when he has the potatoes down, or in some other slack period.

Then, in another slack period, he digs the foundations. The whole work would take him from one to three years. He cannot afford to do it in any other way. He cannot afford, when the sun is shining, to go building his house and leave the turf in the bog or leave the hay uncut when it is ripe. He must attend to his other farm duties and it will, of necessity, take a longer period for an individual farmer to erect a home for himself than it would take for a contractor to erect a number of houses in any town or city for a local authority. When you confine him to a period of erecting a house inside a specified number of years, and when that fear is hanging over his head, as it is bound to be if he reads the regulations supplied to him, he says: "I must have the house completed in 1952; I have no hope of that and do not believe I would be able to do it, so there is no use in my starting." I think a period fixed like that is too short.

This is the second or third Housing Bill we have had in recent years, but we must have another, which will be more important, from the point of view of the local authority, than the one we are discussing now. We know from the Budget statement, and from the statements made by the Minister for Finance, that the Transition Fund is to end on the 31st March. That is the fund that we had so much discussion on here from time to time and out of which money is made available to the local authorities, in addition to the ordinary grants, in order to assist them to let the houses they are building now at a reasonable rent which will bear some relation to the rents of houses built prior to the war.

We were promised by the Minister in the Dáil and by the Minister for Finance that new legislation would be introduced. Some Senator, I think, guaranteed that legislation would be introduced in ample time to give the terms to the local authorities before the 31st March. I put it to the Minister then and put it to the present Minister now—as, after all, he has more knowledge and is the responsible person—that it is very important that whatever legislation is going to be introduced or whatever financial provisions are being made to enable the local authorities to carry out the work, whether it is by increased grants or by a reduction in the grants, that knowledge should be conveyed to the local authorities at the earliest possible moment.

If the local authorities feel, as they do, that the Transition Fund will come to an end on the 31st March, they cannot draw up any scheme and will not be prepared to go ahead with any particular scheme, until they know exactly what financial assistance they are to get from the Government. I regret that the Minister did not find it possible to bring in a comprehensive Bill in which all these provisions would be made, not only for what is contained in this Bill, but for what I refer to as being so important to local authorities. I know that the State is making a great financial contribution to this problem and that, naturally enough, the Minister for Finance and the Department of Finance are anxious to curtail or reduce where possible the contribution that is there, as they would be in regard to contributions of any other kind.

I would impress upon the Minister the need to have regard to the local taxpayer and the capacity of the people to pay their rents. We have the statement issued by the Galway County Council where they have adopted a differential rent system. With that I agree to a great extent, but, at the same time, when an ordinary worker, with what is to-day a very limited income, has to pay a rent fixed at something like 34/6 per week, it is a big part of the whole income of the family. It forms a big part of the total income of the family and, when we take that into consideration, we see the difficulties confronting those who are endeavouring to provide houses for our people, and it is very important, therefore, that the local authorities should know exactly where they stand.

In connection with the erection of houses by private persons, mistakes have been made in the past. Certainly Galway has been unfortunate in that particular respect. Private persons acquire a plot of ground, undertake to erect houses thereon and, having sold the houses to those anxious to acquire a home, leave undeveloped the remainder of the site; they have not provided roads, water or the other amenities that should be provided by anybody undertaking that particular type of work. The result is that when the builders go away the local authorities are compelled subsequently to provide the amenities that should have been provided in the first instance by those who actually made money out of the development of the particular plot. I would like to see this Bill being availed of by local authorities to ensure that where sites are taken over and developed steps are taken to compel the speculative builder to develop the site properly by providing water, roads, sewerage and all the other amenities, so that the burden will not subsequently fall upon the ratepayers.

There are a few points I would like to raise on the Committee Stage. I have drawn the Minister's attention to various aspects of the problem to which I think he should direct his attention. I refer him in particular to Section 17. I think he should give greater consideration to that particular section before we incorporate it in legislation.

I take this opportunity of congratulating the Minister on a very excellent Bill. It is one which correlates many of the existing housing Acts and does away with many anomalies and difficulties which caused hardship in the past. The Minister has pointed out that the main purpose of the Act is to maintain and speed up the housing programme. Anybody interested in housing over the last few years must be extremely satisfied with the general lines of the housing programme and the progress that has been achieved up to date. That is why most of us welcome this Bill. It will undoubtedly have the effect of speeding up an already remarkably accelerated programme taking into consideration the short period of time that has elapsed since the end of the war and the difficulties which had to be overcome in relation to the arrears in the housing programme. I think the progress has been quite remarkable and there is no doubt this Bill will speed up the remaining programme generally.

I think this can be regarded as the first measure which will give local authorities power to render the real service of housing to the community. By that I mean drawing a distinction between slum clearance and overcrowding which, generally speaking, has been the main work of local authorities up to date, and the actual provision of the service of housing to meet the needs of the community; that is housing to meet the normal increasing population, the normal demands of couples getting married and the replacing of those houses which become dilapidated. For the first time we have a measure extending to local authorities the power to provide houses for all classes and local authorities are for the first time undertaking in a serious way the service of housing the community as apart from slum clearance and overcrowding.

In this country each successive Government has inherited a legacy of vast dimensions in regard to housing going back into the historical past. We have inherited a legacy of housing needs all-important in conjunction with the financial resources of the country. That is why I think it is an excellent thing now that aid should be given in almost equal proportions to private enterprise and to local authorities because in the particular circumstances of our time we need the co-operation and combined effort of both private and public enterprise in relation to housing. We welcome these increased State grants. I am glad the grant will be continued to the first purchaser because I think that is the only way of insuring that the benefit of the grant will accrue to the person who actually buys the house. We have all known of cases in recent years where, while we could not prove anything in a court of law, the benefit of the grant was not passed on to the purchaser.

I think the changes suggested in the Bill are a great improvement. There is one suggestion I would like to make to the Minister and I hope it will commend itself to him. In cases where overcrowding is proved to the satisfaction of the local authority the full 15 years for the second grant should not be insisted upon. There is a tendency on the part of the local authorities to give newly-weds a smaller house on the assumption that, if they have a large family, in a reasonable period of time, they will be moved to a larger house. Taking the building programme by and large, it is obvious that it will take a considerable number of years to cope with the arrears and it is, therefore, reasonable to assume that it will not be possible in every case to transfer a family which has grown too large into a larger house. If the principle of the second grant could be applied in such cases I think it would be a valuable inducement to them to erect an extra room themselves in order to relieve their own overcrowding. I have in mind, too, the problem that exists in many rural areas where a water supply is not available at present in a housing scheme or where the local authority for other reasons has not provided bathrooms.

Sometimes one is laughed at for insisting that every house, irrespective of whether or not water is available, should have a bathroom, but it is at least something to have water "laid off" even if one cannot have water "laid on". It is very useful to have a waste pipe. I think if the principle of the second grant could be applied to local authority houses where the tenant is prepared to provide a bathroom it would be an excellent idea. Very often where water is not available a rainwater tank could supply the needs of the family over a great part of the year. I think, in this connection, that local authorities might even develop a standard plan of bathroom that could be built for £50 or thereabouts. It might be an inducement to the dwellers in rural areas to erect one for themselves.

There is just one question I should like to ask on the subject of the acquisition of sites. When local authorities acquire land for housing purposes, perhaps in an area outside their jurisdiction as such, I should like to know whether they also have power to acquire land for all purposes connected with a housing scheme, such as land for the approach roads, etc., so that they will not be left with a sort of cut-off area. I hope that the powers for the acquisition of land for housing will be accompanied by an extension, or a revision, of the Planning Acts so as to give the necessary powers to deal adequately with questions of compensation, and not only compensation but also betterment. I think that the extended provisions of this Bill should result in an increased building demand and that the Bill should be accompanied by more adequate planning provisions. This is not the time to go into the actual powers which are required, but I do think that this Bill should be accompanied by a revision of the present planning powers, with extra powers to control all land by local authorities as a further inducement to enable local authorities to overcome present difficulties.

I congratulate the Minister on the extension of the present housing standard by raising the space area from 1,250 to 1,400 square feet. I think that is a very definite indication of the more spacious attitude of the Department on the whole question of housing standards. I should like to think that that will be taken by local authorities as a headline for the whole country. I gathered from the remarks of the Minister that the 1,250 square feet house had proved to be inadequate in size for persons with large families desiring to build houses for themselves. Surely that can also be interpreted as an indication of the requirements of the larger families under local authority housing. I am sorry that the figure of "not less than 500 square feet" is mentioned in the Bill at all. It is regrettable that so many of our houses are already in the region of 700 square feet which, in my opinion, is quite inadequate for the normal sized family house in this country. The minimum for houses in Great Britain is 900 square feet. This lower standard has resulted in local authorities building far too many two-bedroom houses. Anyone familiar with the general problem in this country knows that most tenants have large families, and that the two bedroom house is quite inadequate, because it does not allow for any segregation of the sexes, or for children in separate rooms if the parents are to have a room for themselves. I hope that the more spacious standard in housing areas will be accompanied by a better standard of construction and design generally, and that the time is not far off when, at least in urban areas, such things as heating and hot water supplies, which are now considered luxuries, will be regarded as normal housing provisions.

One of the most remarkable aspects of this Bill is the extension of the powers of local authorities to provide houses for all classes, either for letting or for purchase. I think that is a landmark in social progress in this country. No doubt it should result in a more balanced community. One hopes that it will banish for ever the mistakes that were made in the past in providing isolated units for the working classes in such areas as Crumlin and Kimmage and in other parts of the country. These isolated units were both unchristian and anti-social, however you regard them. I hope that this power to provide houses for all classes will be used by the local authorities in such a way as to provide and plan for a balanced community, and not to provide houses for one class in one area, and for another class in another area. If this provision is put into operation in the spirit in which it was mentioned by the Minister, it should provide a balanced community where you will have a mixture of all classes together. If this policy could be insisted on by the Minister, in the first instance in sanctioning schemes, and by the co-operation of the local authorities in the second instance, then I think that the local authorities would find within a reasonable period of time that many of their difficulties in acquiring sites for housing schemes by agreement would have disappeared.

One of the most lamentable things in this so-called Christian country is that when you try to acquire sites for the housing of the working classes, you find a strong body of objectors from all sides. Recently, I heard of a case in an area where houses have not been built for 35 years. The proposal was to erect a small number of houses which would, presumably, have been given to people living in the district. The residents of the district objected to the erection of working-class houses there. At various meetings which they organised they said they would have no objection to the building of houses by private enterprise, or to the smaller type of subsidy house built by anybody except a local authority. It is a very great satisfaction to see that power is being given to the local authority to break through that kind of prejudice. It will, at least, be a more Christian approach.

I hope also that this plan will break down the snobbery there generally is about council houses and the stigma that attaches to council houses. The extraordinary thing is that nine times out of ten the council housing schemes are far better designed and constructed than the private enterprise houses of relatively the same price and cost. Certainly, in the Dublin area, and in many other areas, I know that you can pick out the council houses from the private enterprise houses because of their superior design.

The only regret I have in regard to that provision in the Bill is the suggestion that this power should not be availed of until the more urgent needs of the working classes, as a whole, are met. I should like to say on that point that I think the provision of houses for all classes is urgent. If the local authority can start by providing a small proportion of houses for other classes, they will be helping in this whole social problem to integrate our housing areas, and at the same time keeping down costs for certain sections of the community who undoubtedly were being exploited by private enterprise in many ways. I should like to see local authorities empowered to build a certain small percentage of their total housing output for all classes. I am thinking of Dublin City, particularly, where the building programme has gone up, within a very short time, to a point which is as high as ever it was in pre-war years of over 3,000 houses a year. But, even at that rate, it will take 11 or 12 years to meet the requirements of the present housing shortage. If we had to wait that period until the local authorities were in a position to build other houses, it would, I think, be a very great pity.

I think that if local authorities were to build a number of suitable houses, properly designed and laid out, with all the necessary amenities, such as shopping, schools and recreation centres, they would be creating a very valuable asset which would bring them in some revenue, either in the form of rent or the purchase price of the houses, which would compensate for any deficits due to the number of tenants who could not pay an economic rent for their houses. If the question were properly approached, I feel that this power should enable local authorities to create a real asset by the provision of a more desirable type of houses for other classes.

The only other point to which I wish to refer is the substitution of the term "reasonable cost" for "market value" in Part VII of the Bill. I think this will have a very favourable effect on the cost of building generally because, when it has been in operation for a while, it will tend to the fixing of a more reasonable figure in tenders. The term "market value," as indicating the price that might be obtained at an open sale, was undoubtedly a cause of hardship to certain people who were dependent on grants and on loans obtained under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act in order to build houses for themselves. There was very often the danger that because of a surplus of houses on offer, at a particular time, the market value might be less than the actual contract price.

I feel that the cost of housing does not come within the scope of our discussion here to-night, but since it has been raised, and the term "reasonable cost" has been left to the discretion of the local authority to decide, I think that local authorities should seek to utilise that power in trying to reduce costs so that a person building by private enterprise will have the benefit of the "reasonable cost" provision. I think there are several ways in which that could be done; for instance, by extending the scheme for the purchase of materials in bulk to include houses built by private enterprise, subsidised houses, etc. I feel, however, that at this hour it does not come within the scope of our discussion.

Once again I should like to say what an excellent Bill this is. It removes limitations of every sort—limitations of size, of cost or in regard to the type of persons catered for. It is a definite indication that the State realises its responsibilities to provide a service in housing for the community and that it realises that housing is a national problem. I only hope at this stage that, with the increased housing programme which will undoubtedly result, if full advantage is taken of the many improvements in this Bill, in time, the Minister will see his way to introduce a really co-ordinated housing programme for the country by the establishment of a national housing authority which would, on a national scale, cope with the many difficult problems which local authorities at present are trying to resolve in their individual way, sometimes not quite satisfactorily. Nowadays, with the complexity of the circumstances with which we have to contend, the urgency of the problem and the ever-present threat of another emergency, which might hold up housing indefinitely, the question of establishing a national housing authority calls for urgent consideration.

As there is a hope that the Minister might be able to conclude to-night, I shall speak only for a few minutes. There are a few points to which I would like to refer. First and foremost, like other Senators, I welcome the Bill and the Minister also to the House. I am satisfied that the Minister and his officials are making an honest effort in this Bill to end once and for all the housing problem in this country. There is one point, however, with which I am not too pleased, and if it were possible I would like to see an amendment inserted to deal with it. There is in this Bill power to provide houses for "newly-weds" and old people in the city. May I say that I would prefer to see houses provided for "newly-weds" down in Garristown rather than in the city, because if you want to keep people on the land you will have to try to keep them away from the city. If an agricultural labourer wants to get married and to get a house for himself and his wife he is induced to come into the city where these houses are provided for "newly-weds". If he gets a job in the city you cannot get him to return to the land. I certainly would give a preference to the agricultural labourer in the allocation of houses for "newly-weds", but I would give him a special type of house away from the city and try to keep him on the land.

It is not often that I am in agreement with Senator Hawkins, but I found myself in agreement with a good deal of what he said this evening. I do not agree that the grant should be given to the builder but, on the other hand, I feel that before loans are given under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act, the local authority should itself build a specimen house and find out exactly what it cost.

I am satisfied that many unscrupulous contractors in this country have made well out of the housing scarcity. Anxious and all as I would be to see housing provided as speedily as possible for people who are in need, I think that the greed of these unscrupulous contractors should be curbed and that the local authority should find out for itself what was the actual cost of erecting a three-bedroomed house, because very often you will find a young couple in their anxiety to get a house ready to pay any price that may be demanded or to pay any rent or annuity that may be placed on the house. If in later years they are blessed with a family, the income of the house remains the same with the result that they find that they are unable to meet their obligations in the way of rent or annuities. I am satisfied that we have not yet reached a proper level of costs in connection with house building. As proof of that, I might mention our experience in County Dublin. In one area we have provided a particular type of labourer's cottage which costs £1,100, and at the present time we are getting the same type of cottage erected in another area for £810. Neither the cost of labour nor the cost of material has come down. Certainly trades-men's wages have not come down though, as Senator Hawkins suggested, they may be giving a greater output at the present time. Certainly I am not pleased about the whole question of contracts. There is too great a contrast between contractors' prices in certain places.

There is nothing I have ever heard in this House or elsewhere with which I am so much in agreement as I am with the statement made by Senator Miss Butler. All the time I have been opposed to this idea of placing very large numbers of working class people with large families together. To show the genuineness of Senator Miss Butler's point, take, for instance, West Cabra; 2,500 houses have been erected, and you have two of the finest schools in the nation, a girls' school and a boys' school. Nevertheless, there are hundreds of children who cannot get in. To qualify for a house there the people had to have large families, and all had four or five children, with the result that two schools of their size cannot accommodate them.

Build more schools.

Should the corporation continue on that line, these schools in Cabra will be almost empty in 15 years' time because those children will have grown up and no other people will have married in the area because they will not have reached marriageable age. The schools which are not fit to accommodate all the children now will be surplus then. I do not think the corporation is doing good for the Irish people by shoving together thousands of working-class people with families of four or five children. The schools cannot accommodate them and they must pay so much to send them on the bus to school. I would strongly recommend to the Minister the idea expounded by Senator Miss Butler because it is a good idea to mix the people. Coarse elements may get into those houses, but if some are occupied by a good type they will raise the standard.

Or they will be pulled down.

Strange to say, the majority are inclined to go up.

I wonder if it is feasible at this stage to introduce an amendment, because I feel I would ask the Minister to reverse the basis with regard to newly married couples being the last to get houses in a rural area.

They can do that at present. We are extending the newly-weds provision.

That does not appear in the Bill. On reading the Bill I felt satisfied that we in the county councils were debarred from giving houses to newly-weds in rural areas.

Under this Bill, you can.

Then I am satisfied. I feel that the Bill is the honest endeavour of an honest Minister to solve the housing question.

I rise first of all to welcome the Bill. The only thing I will say about it is that it has been a long time on the road. I do not know why the Bill or its main provisions might not have been passed ten years ago.

You had not a Labour Minister.

Perhaps that has solved it. The biggest thing in this Bill, I think, is the effort to get back what we used to have in pre-war days, namely, that a builder could put up a house which would be varied by experience and by the criticism of the prospective purchasers and when it was completed he could sell it to the purchaser who fancied it. We have only got back to that now.

I hope that the Government will take first things first, because I heard the Minister talking about housing, housing, housing. I suppose it is rather an anomaly that the least part of a housing programme is the houses. I do not know whether the Minister would agree, but he must be aware that a housing scheme has to be planned, the site has to be acquired and cleared and then the houses are built, and I would consider each of these four roughly equal—certainly in time. Comparing the present with pre-war days, we find that we have come to an attitude of mind which will not do. In pre-war days a person could go anywhere practically and select a site with sewers, water, gas and possibly electric light laid on and build a house, or, mind you, a terrace of houses, and there was no difficulty about it. Now I am sorry to say the country has got to a stage when it is almost like a sucked orange. Any considerable expansion in housing entails new sewers being laid on or bigger sewers being provided, water supply being laid on, either new mains or an increase of existing mains. Senator Hawkins referred to builders who put up houses and then left the roads and possibly even other amenities to be completed by the local authority, but I am afraid that we will have to alter our ideas and I would like to urge on the Minister with all the force I can that the Government—when I say the Government I mean the Government and the local authorities —should do the jobs nobody else can do. Nobody else can lay sewers in a district that is capable of development or where houses are going to be put up.

I read in this Bill that the local authority could either sell or let sites to people who wanted to erect houses. I can imagine somebody approaching a local authority for a site on which to build a house. Do you know what that person would be told? He would be told. "Go away; we have not got enough for ourselves." That is part of the housing problem. We have heard criticism of what is called ribbon development caused by people building along main roads, but we have got to remember that there is a frightful shortage of sites at present.

Debate adjourned.

We have arranged to meet at 10.30 a.m. to take, first, the Turf Development Bill, and secondly, the Agricultural Workers (Holidays) Bill. We will then resume the Second Stage of the Housing Bill and after that the Appropriation Bill.

The Seanad adjourned at 10.5 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 20th July.