The general purposes of the Bill are to extend and supplement the legislation governing the housing activities of local authorities, private persons and public utility societies, and to remedy certain deficiencies in the existing legislation which experience has shown to be necessary. The principal provisions governing the payment of grants towards the erection and reconstruction of houses by private enterprise are contained in the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1948, and the Bill proposes a continuation of the policy enshrined in that Act with certain extensions and improvements. Section 6 provides for the continuance for a further period of two years of the existing State grants payable to persons and public utility societies for the erection and purchase of houses. Applications for new house grants continue to run at a high level. Six thousand and eighty-seven new house grants were allocated during the year 1951/52 compared with 5,671 in the previous year. This was the highest number of new house grants allocated in any one year since the introduction of this system of assisting private enterprise.
The maximum reconstruction grant at present payable in urban and rural areas to agricultural labourers and farmers up to £50 valuation is £80. Section 19 of the Bill provides for an increase in the grant by substituting new maxima of £80, £100 and £120 for houses which, when reconstructed, contain three, four and five or more rooms respectively. Reconstruction grants have been of great significance in the drive for improved housing conditions, especially in rural areas. The peak year was 1938/39 when more than 5,000 houses were reconstructed. This high level has not since been reached, but there is evidence of an upward trend. In 1951/52, 3,303 reconstruction grant allocations were made as compared with 2,788 in the previous year. I am hopeful that this trend will accelerate. The reconstruction grants will, as heretofore, be payable to farmers in both urban and rural areas. They will also be payable to agricultural labourers reconstructing houses in their own occupation in rural areas.
As regards agricultural labourers in urban areas, their claims for reconstruction grants will in future be dealt with under Section 8 of the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1950, which enables a State grant of up to £80 and a local authority grant of a similar amount to be paid where the applicant's valuation does not exceed £12. This amendment, which is effected by Sections 19 and 22 of the Bill, is necessary because the definition of "agricultural labourer" for the purposes of the Labourers Acts is so wide as to include all persons who work for hire irrespective of residence or occupation with the result that under the existing law, any worker living in a town or city with valuation not exceeding £50 is eligible for the reconstruction grant under Section 16 of the Act of 1948, as amended by the Act of 1950. The amendments proposed will not affect any grant allocated and notified to an applicant before the 29th April, 1952, where the reconstruction work was begun before that date.
Reconstruction grants are at present payable only where the reconstructed house does not exceed 1,400 square feet and this rules out a certain number of cases, especially the older type of farmhouse, thus involving genuine hardship on a limited number of applicants. Section 15 of the Bill proposes to remove this limit so that applicants for the reconstruction grants under Section 16 of the 1948 Act will be in the same position as applicants for reconstruction grants under Section 8 of the 1950 Act and Section 5 of the Housing and Labourers Act, 1937.
Under Section 9 of the 1950 Act, power was given to make a second grant for reconstruction after the expiration of 15 years from the date of completion of the erection of the house or the reconstruction work in respect of which a previous grant was made. It was the intention that the restrictions contained in sub-section (3) of Section 5 of the Housing Act of 1932, as extended by Section 4 of the Housing and Labourers Act, 1937, would be removed. These restrictions referred in the main to houses for which grants were made under the Housing (Building Facilities) Act, 1924, the Housing Acts, 1925/1931 and the Damage to Property (Compensation) Act, 1923. Some doubts have been raised as to the legal position and in order to clarify the matter, it is proposed to repeal in the Schedule the sections in the 1932 and 1937 Acts which prohibit the payment of second reconstruction grants.
Section 23 of the Bill also contains an amendment in regard to second reconstruction grants. Many people who reconstructed their dwelling-houses while not interfering with the existing thatched roof have since discovered that while thatch may be attractive as a roof when neatly kept, it is in these times a most expensive roof to maintain. I have been approached on this matter by some of those affected and others who have an intimate knowledge of the subject and I am acceding to their pleas by enabling a second grant to be paid after ten years where the reconstruction work includes the replacement of a thatched roof by a roof of slates or tiles.
Section 7 of the Bill provides for the payment of up to £50 for the provision and installation of a private water supply and sewerage facilities in a house which is situated in an area where no public piped water supply or sewerage scheme has been or is being provided. I am sure that the House will agree that this provision is very desirable in order to encourage applicants in isolated rural areas to install water and sewerage facilities which are so necessary for improving the conditions and amenities of living, and securing proper sanitary standards in their houses. This country is probably unique in Western Europe in that a large proportion of the population live in isolated houses, so that there are many extensive areas where the provision of public piped services would be impracticable.
The Census of Population, 1946, discloses that only 5 per cent. of farm dwellings are provided with public or private piped water supply laid on to the dwellings. In areas where public facilities are available, the householder is usually not required to do more than have his premises connected with the mains outside his door; in the rural areas, however, the water must be obtained by boring, pumping or some other means, piped to the house, and provision made for disposal of water and water-borne sewage. The grant will be payable irrespective of the occupation or valuation of the applicant, and the applicant need not necessarily be the person in occupation of the house.
The Department of Agriculture operate a scheme of grants for the installation by farmers of water supplies in their farm dwellings. The grants are at the rate of 50 per cent. of the approved estimated cost of the installations, subject to a maximum grant of £100. The water supply may be obtained by connection with the local authority mains or by pumping or gravitation.
The water supply and sewerage grant provided for in Section 7 of the Bill will be payable to farmers as well as to other classes. The grant may be supplemented by the housing authority under Section 9 of the Bill where the valuation of the farmer does not exceed £35.
The Department of Agriculture grant and the Section 7 grant will not be payable in respect of the same installation. The Department of Agriculture grant will be availed of by farmers who propose to install a water supply only and by farmers who, because of the high cost of the water installation, would find the Department of Agriculture grant of £100 more attractive.
Where a farmer extends and improves his house at the same time as he is installing a water supply under the Department of Agriculture scheme or water and sewerage facilities under the Bill, he may apply for a reconstruction grant under the Housing Acts in respect of the extension and improvement of the House, provided his valuation does not exceed £50.
Sub-section (2) of Section 7 of the Bill provides that the valuation of a house will not be increased on account of the installation of the water and sewerage facilities within seven years after the completion of the work; this concession is already available where a reconstruction grant is paid under the Housing Acts.
Under Section 20 of the Bill the total of grants which may be paid under Section 7 and under the 1948 or 1950 Act in respect of the construction or purchase of a new house will be equated to the grant appropriate to a house with a piped water supply and sewerage facilities. This, in effect, removes the differential operating against a house not serviced with water supply and sewerage on erection which if provided subsequently would have to be provided at the owner's cost.
Section 7 of the Act of 1950 gave a general power to housing authorities to make grants not exceeding those paid by the State under Section 16 of the 1948 Act, and Section 6 of the 1950 Act, in respect of the construction and purchase of new houses. In the formulation of schemes under the 1950 Act, housing authorities put forward varying proposals. In some counties no schemes were made. In some instances the schemes were restricted to classes who would normally have to be rehoused under the Labourers Acts and the Housing of the Working Classes Acts and corresponding classes amongst the farming community. In others, however, the benefits were extended to all classes irrespective of needs or circumstances. In all cases the financial provision was limited to a certain sum, although in a free-for-all scheme there was no guarantee that the amount provided would suffice to cater for all applicants. The operation of Section 7 has, therefore, been somewhat confused and haphazard, and it is felt that the local authorities need the guidance of the Legislature as to the circumstances in which additional assistance should be granted.
In Section 21 of the Bill it is proposed to repeal Section 7 of the 1950 Act. Even though the schemes under Section 7 came, in effect, to an end on 1st April last, Section 21 of the Bill has been designed to obviate hardship arising on any individual who commenced the erection of a house or purchased a house before the 29th April, which was the date of publication of the Bill.
Sections 9, 10, 11 and 12 of the Bill are introduced to replace Section 7 of the 1950 Act. These provision will permit of payment of supplementary grants on graded scales to:—(a) farmers up to £35 valuation; (b) lower income classes (other than farmers) with family incomes up to £416 a year, and (c) working classes and agricultural labourers who are tenants of or are eligible for local authority housing accommodation.
The maximum supplementary grants will, it is proposed, range between 33? per cent. and 100 per cent. of the State grants, depending on the circumstances of the applicants. In the case of the farmers, the £35 valuation limit in Section 9 of the Bill covers over 80 per cent. of the farmers' holdings in the country, while the £12 10s. valuation limit covers more than 50 per cent. Section 10 and Section 11 must be read together. The effect of these sections is to enable the housing authority to make supplementary grants to all the necessitous classes who are not covered by Section 9. Section 11 is the more important section, inasmuch as it covers all those who are tenants of local authority dwellings or are eligible for tenancy of such dwellings under the Housing of the Working Classes Acts or the Labourers Acts, irrespective of income. Where, however, the family income of the applicant is low, he may apply for the supplementary grant under Section 10 rather than under Section 11.
Sections 9, 10 and 11 are an improvement on Section 7 of the 1950 Act in that supplementary grants may be made not alone towards the cost of erecting or purchasing houses but also towards the cost of reconstruction of houses and the servicing of houses with water supply and sewerage facilities by persons of the classes mentioned. The grants will be payable also where State grants have been paid under the Housing (Gaeltacht) Acts. In this connection the definition of "relevant grant" in Section 2 is such that persons who come within the classes mentioned and who received the whole or part of a building grant under the Housing (Gaeltacht) Acts in respect of a new house after the 1st August, 1950, will be eligible for the supplementary grants.
Section 12 provides the borrowing powers for the purposes of Sections 9, 10 and 11. Where the housing authority decides to operate these sections, no doubt need arise as to the availability of loans, as the loans will be made available from the Local Loans Fund.
Grants from the State and the housing authority are payable in urban areas under Section 5 of the Housing and Labourers Acts, 1937, in respect of repair works carried out on a house in pursuance of a notice served by the authority under Section 19 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1931. The maximum grant from either source is £80, and is payable to the person having control of the house. Sub-section (1) of Section 33 of the Bill proposes to extend this provision to rural areas. In many non-municipal towns, there are old houses from which families are rehoused by the county councils, and the repair of these houses would help to relieve the demands on local authority housing accommodation. County councils are already housing authorities for the purposes of Part III of the Housing Act of 1931, which includes Section 19. The new proposal is a further step in the development of a uniform housing code for urban and rural areas.
Sub-section (2) of Section 33 repairs what was really an omission in Section 5 of the Housing and Labourers Act, 1937. That section enables a grant to be paid to the landlord who carries out repairs on an unfit house in accordance with the notice served upon him by the local authority under Section 19 of the 1931 Act. Section 20 of the 1931 Act provides that the local authority may themselves carry out the repairs if the landlord fails to do so in accordance with the notice. From the point of view of the national housing pool, the unfit house has been made fit for human habitation and, accordingly, it is only reasonable that the State grant should be paid to the local authority. There is, however, no power in Section 5 of the 1937 Act to pay the grant where the local authority carries out repairs, and sub-section (2) of the section rectifies the position.
Sub-section (3) is consequential on sub-section (2). Under Section 20 of the 1931 Act the local authority can recover, either from the landlord or from the occupier of the house, the expenses incurred by them in putting the house into repair. The amount of any grant paid by the State to the local authority should be deducted by them in calculating the recoverable expenses. The necessary provision in this respect is made by sub-section (3).
The purpose of Section 13 of the Bill is to enable payments of grants to be made to housing authorities or to philanthropic societies in respect of the acquisition and reconstruction of houses for the poorer classes. Such powers existed until 1950, when the provisions of Section 5 (1) (j) of the Housing Act of 1932, as amended, were allowed to lapse. Those provisions empowered the Minister to make a grant to a local authority not exceeding 60 per cent. of the expenses incurred by them in respect of the acquisition of premises for sale or leasing to a philanthropic society or body of persons approved by the Minister. The Minister is also empowered to make a further grant to either the local authority or the philanthropic society not exceeding 60 per cent. of the expenses incurred in altering, or repairing the premises, provided that the total of the grants in respect of a premises shall not exceed a sum equivalent to £75 for each separate dwelling provided.
Under Section 19 of the 1948 Act, housing authorities are required to make grants to persons erecting houses for letting of amounts, not exceeding the sum set out in the Fourth Schedule of the Act, of which the State may recoup two-thirds. The sums range from £250 to £400 per house depending on the number of rooms, and are payable in ten annual instalments. Article 9 of the Housing (New Houses) Regulations, 1948, provides that "any doubt, dispute or question which may arise as to the interpretation of these regulations, and as to the making or the amount of a grant in respect of any house to which these regulations apply shall be determined by the Minister, and such determination shall be final". My predecessors relied on this article to decide appeals by persons aggrieved by the amount of grants made in respect of houses provided for letting under Section 19 of the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1948. Doubt has, however, been raised, and Section 17 of the Bill proposes to clarify the position with retrospective effect.
Section 19 of the 1948 Act provides that a letting grant shall not be made unless "the person erecting the house undertakes with the housing authority that subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by regulations made under this section, he will not sell the house, and that he will let the house subject to such, conditions as may be so prescribed". The effect of the paragraph which I have quoted is to prevent the sale of the house at any time with vacant possession. Section 16 of the Bill proposes to limit the restriction on sale to a period of 15 years. The section operates as from the passing of the 1948 Act, as it is only reasonable that the concession now proposed should extend to houses already provided.
Sections 16 and 17 of the Bill aim to remove some of the factors which discourage private enterprise from providing houses for letting under the 1948 Act. The provision of such houses should be encouraged by local authorities because the maximum liability of the local authority is about £13 a year for ten years. If the house is not provided for letting, the local authority allows a remission of rates which normally represents a greater loss to the rates than the local authority's share of the letting grant. The loss to the rates would be substantially heavier if instead of private enterprise providing the house for letting, the local authority provides it under the Housing of the Working Classes Acts or the Labourers Acts.
Section 45 of the Act of 1948 provides for the recovery of grants improperly made under Sections 16, 19 or 20 of that Act and Section 18 of the Bill extends this provision, with retrospective effect, to housing grants generally.
Cases have arisen (and may possibly arise in the future) where housing grants have been allocated in mistake of law by local authorities acting on behalf of the Minister and by officers appointed by the Minister under the Housing Acts. Typical instances are second reconstruction grants allocated because of an oversight or ignorance on the part of the applicant that a previous grant had been made and the conditions of the Housing Acts regarding payment of a second grant had not been satisfied. Grants for new houses have also been wrongly allocated, mainly in instances where the floor area proved to be slightly more than 1,400 square feet on final measurement. The number of cases involved is small, but hardship to individuals is often very great. It is proposed in Section 25 of the Bill to give the Minister discretion to pay the grant with the sanction of the Minister for Finance, in each case, subject to the Minister being satisfied that the applicant acted bona fide in proceeding with the work or erection or reconstruction of the house or the provision and installation of private water supply and sewerage facilities.
Increases which have occurred in the selling prices of new houses have obliged purchasers to seek higher loans to meet the net balance of the cost after making allowance for their cash contribution and the State grant.
The most pressing criticism of the limit on the market value of houses qualifying for loans under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts comes, however, not from the house purchasers but from the builders. Moreover, I have no doubt but that if a reasonable increase in the limit were granted there would soon be agitation again to have that limit further increased, an agitation that could be partially justified by the delay in according any increase. It would be impossible to keep following such a spiral of rising prices if it were to occur. Our primary anxiety must be on the purchasers' behalf and the Bill contains a provision in Section 36 that will enable reasonable facilities to be granted for the provision of a reasonable type of house. In Dublin e.g., a loan of £1,800 and a grant of £275 with a cash contribution of 5 per cent., will meet the cost of a house up to £2,180. It a man wishes to buy a dearer house than that there will be no statutory bar against his getting a loan of £1,800 but he will have to make up the difference. Whether such a person would, in fact, obtain a loan will depend on the attitude of the responsible local authority which has full discretion as to whether they should allow a loan in any particular case.
I come now to the provisions of the Bill which relate to local authority housing. Under Section 17 of the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1950, housing authorities are empowered to acquire land and provide houses for sale or letting to persons irrespective of whether they are or are not members of the working classes or agricultural labourers. They may also sell or lease land to persons and public utility societies for the erection of houses. Where houses are provided under Section 17 by the housing authority, the Minister may make grants not exceeding the grants payable to private persons for the erection of houses. This section has been found defective in operation, especially in relation to the development of lands by housing authorities prior to the sale or lease of the lands. The Bill proposes to repeal Section 17 of the 1950 Act and to substitute Sections 31 and 35 which clarify the powers of the housing authority in these respects. Payment of the appropriate grants in respect of houses provided by the authority for sale or letting is provided for in Section 24 of the Bill.
Representations were made to me that provision should be made for a remission of two-thirds of the rates for seven years in the case of these houses where they had been provided for sale by the housing authority. I do not like the principle of providing for a remission of rates for houses provided by a local authority. If, however, a housing authority feels that some concession should be made, such a concession should be possible in the terms of sale by reducing the sale price by a figure not exceeding the capitalised equivalent of the rates remission. I will consider, on its merits, any proposal which a housing authority may submit for the application of a concession on these lines.
The Bill makes some important additions to the scope of slum clearance and allied operations. Since the early 1930s, these operations have been recognised as a paramount feature of local authority housing activities and, while much remains to be done, I think it will be readily agreed that the results achieved have amply justified the policy of concentrating primarily on slum clearance as constituting not only the most urgent part of the local authorities' programme but also as being the most effective method of reducing the housing problem as a whole to manageable and economic proportions. Over 76,000 houses have been provided since 1932 by local authorities for agricultural labourers and members of the working classes with the assistance of generous State subsidies, and were it not for the unfortunate reduction in building brought about by the war, the elimination of bad housing conditions would have reached a very advanced stage.
Since the initiation of the post-war housing programme in 1947 nearly 24,000 local authority dwellings have been built representing an average annual output of 4,576. The average pre-war output between 1932 and 1940 was 5,073. The target of annual production for a ten year programme of local authority housing is 7,000 dwellings. In each of the last two years that target has been surpassed.
At the end of May this year, 9,323 local authority dwellings were in course of construction, 3,145 were in preliminary contract stages and sites were available for a further 10,129 dwellings. This latter figure represents the equivalent of a housing programme of over 17 months at the current rate of building. Development of 435 of these sites in hands had been completed and work was in progress on the development of a further 2,607 sites. Thus the total number of houses built, being built or proposed to be built in the near future comes to 46,500 as against the target of 70,000 houses visualised for local authorities in 1947. This is a record which is highly creditable to the local authorities, their officers and workmen and to the various other parties who have contributed towards the progress being made.
The rural programme has made the most speedy progress. About 48 per cent. of the total post-war needs as estimated by the local authorities have been met, and current and proposed building operations will bring this percentage up to 89 per cent. In the urban areas, apart from Dublin County Borough, about 69 per cent. of the estimated needs have been met or are in course of being met. At the end of February last, the estimated needs had been met in eight urban districts and two towns under town commissioners as well as in two county health districts.
The number of dwellings completed by Dublin Corporation between April, 1947, and May, 1952, has exceeded the total completions by all other urban housing authorities, including the other three county boroughs. Nearly 11,000 houses and flat dwellings have been completed or are being built or included in the current tenders. Nevertheless, such is the extent of the city's housing problem that this great achievement represents in all only 36 per cent. of the total estimated needs. Sites in the possession of the corporation will accommodate dwellings to meet a further 15 per cent. of these needs. Close examination of the prospects in Dublin convinces me that the housing output in each of the next two or three years can be maintained at not less than the high average obtained over the past few years.
To return to the Bill, Section 14 proposes to amend the provisions of the 1932 Housing Act governing the payment of subsidies towards houses provided by urban local authorities for the working classes. At present, houses provided for homeless families and families in need of accommodation on compassionate, medical or other similar grounds, but not displaced by operations of the local authority, qualify for the lower subsidy only (33? per cent. of loan charges up to the prescribed limits). Section 14 provides for a discretion to pay subsidy at the higher rate (66? per cent. of the prescribed loan charges) for the housing of such families who cannot otherwise be so rehoused. The type of cases intended to be covered are homeless families, e.g., where the parents and children are forced to live separately, or where the family is housed in a county home or in huts, caravans, etc. There are also cases of families which include persons suffering from heart disease and other diseases, who are forced to live in rooms on the third or fourth storeys of tenements. The local authority will have to satisfy the Minister that the family are genuinely and urgently in need of the new accommodation.
Section 28 also amends the subsidy provisions of the 1932 Act by providing that the higher subsidy (66? per cent. of the prescribed loan charges) will also be payable for the rehousing of a family living in an overcrowded house, even though the house is occupied by not more than one family. At present, the removal of a family from an overcrowded house under by-laws is an operation which qualifies for the higher subsidy, but the provision now made in Section 28 is necessary in order to cover urban authorities who have not made by-laws.
In view of the fact that a large part of future rehousing operations will be concerned with the relief of overcrowding, it is imperative that urban authorities should take the necessary steps to enable them to deal effectively with the future prevention of overcrowding in the houses or rooms from which the original overcrowded families have been displaced. It is proposed, therefore, in Section 27 to make it mandatory on urban authorities to make and enforce by-laws under Section 20 of the Housing (Ireland) Act, 1919, and Section 15 of the Act of 1948. The 1919 by-laws referred to houses let in lodgings and occupied by members of more than one family. Under the 1948 Act, power is given to housing authorities to make by-laws respecting houses containing not more than two rooms and intended or used for occupation by members of the working classes which are occupied by one family. It is proposed in Section 26 of the Bill to delete the restriction as to the number of rooms in the house contained in Section 15 of the 1948 Act. Thus, the new by-laws will apply to all houses of the working-class type irrespective of the number of families in occupation or the number of rooms which the house contains.
Section 14 includes a further amendment of Section 6 of the 1932 Act which relates to subsidy towards the annual loan charges incurred by local authorities in respect of moneys borrowed by them for housing schemes. Under sub-section (4) of Section 6 of the 1932 Act, loan charges are deemed not to exceed in any financial year the sums which would have been payable if the loans had been obtained from the Local Loans Fund. Section 14 of the Bill proposes to remove this limitation in the case of Dublin and Cork Corporations which borrow money for housing schemes by means of stock issues. The loan charges in the case of these two bodies will in future be calculated at the actual terms of borrowing.
Section 28 proposes an amendment of the statutory order of priorities for lettings of local authority houses in urban areas. At present, a family suffering from tuberculosis is entitled to priority only in circumstances where the family is living in a one-roomed dwelling. It is felt that this requirement is unduly restrictive. For example, a tubercular family of, say, five or six persons living in two rooms is not entitled to priority at present, nor is a tubercular family in an unfit house containing more than one room. The needs of a tubercular family living in overcrowded conditions, irrespective of the number of rooms occupied, could well be as acute as the family in a one-roomed dwelling. Similarly, the existing provisions under which, in the case of a family in an unfit house, priority for new accommodation operates only where the dwelling contains not more than one room, are unreasonably restrictive. A condition that the house is unfit for human habitation should of itself be sufficient to entitle the family to a preference, the number of rooms in the house being relatively unimportant. The preference for lettings in the case of families who require segregation on sex grounds is being amended by reducing the age limit of 16 years, which appears in the 1932 Act and the 1948 Act, to 12 years.
Section 28 contains a definition of "overcrowding". The definition is intended to deal with sex segregation and the allowance of free air space for sleeping purposes. The model by-laws which local authorities may at present adopt provide for an allowance of 400 cubic feet of air space for an adult and 300 cubic feet for a child under 12 years of age. It is considered that the air space allowance in the case of a child is inadequate and that it should be raised in the by-laws to the standard adopted for adults. The definition also introduces a restriction as to the height of rooms to be reckoned in calculating cubic capacity. This is of considerable importance in Dublin City where the heights of rooms in the old Georgian type of dwelling are normally up to 12 feet or more. The free air space above eight feet in height is to be disregarded for the purposes of computing the cubic content of such rooms when used wholly or partly for sleeping purposes.
It is proposed to exercise a strict control of all overcrowding operations undertaken by local authorities. The authorities will be required in every case to satisfy the Minister that they have taken effective action to prevent continuance of overcrowding in rooms or houses from which families have been displaced.
Section 28 provides also that the statutory preferences governing the letting of working-class accommodation provided by local authorities will not apply to houses provided by virtue of Section 31 of the Bill. Section 31 relates to the provision of non-subsidy houses by local authorities and separate regulations governing the letting of such houses will be made.
In the Schedule, it is proposed to repeal sub-section (4) of Section 29 of the 1948 Act. This sub-section provides that it shall not be lawful for a housing authority to make lettings save in accordance with regulations made under Section 29. The provisions of the sub-section are unnecessary and are in conflict with the discretion permitted to authorities by the previous portion of Section 31 to depart from the statutory order of priorities on grounds of impracticability of adherence, or on grounds of the character, industry, occupation, family circumstances and existing housing conditions of applicants.
Section 34 amends the statutory preferences governing the lettings of cottages provided under the Labourers Acts in the same way as Section 28 amends the corresponding provisions under the Housing of the Working Classes Acts.
Section 7 of the Housing of the Working Classes (Ireland) Act, 1908, authorises a local authority to establish or acquire lodging houses for the working classes outside their district subject to the consent of any urban or rural district council within whose district it is proposed to establish or acquire the lodging houses. This section, as amended by subsequent Acts, has been relied upon for the compulsory acquisition of land outside its own district by a housing authority for housing purposes. The section is, however, not quite clear in its effects and to remove doubts it is being replaced by Section 29 of the Bill.
With regard to Section 32, a local authority acquiring property in a clearance area under Part II of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1931, is required by that Act to cause every building on the property to be vacated and demolished. During the early years of the war the Dublin Corporation had several properties in hands for demolition under these provisions. As they were unable to rehouse all the families that would have been displaced by the demolitions, an Emergency Powers Order was made enabling them to determine that it was necessary to maintain a dwelling-house which had been acquired under Part II of the 1931 Act for the accommodation of the working classes. The Order provided that a determination might be revoked by the local authority by whom it was made.
The powers conferred by the Order were availed of to a considerable extent in Dublin City and, to a limited extent, in Limerick City. The dwellings in respect of which determinations were made by the Dublin Corporation have been reconditioned and are calculated to have a useful life of up to 50 years. In Limerick City the dwellings maintained in accordance with determinations have not been reconditioned, and it is intended to revoke the determinations.
Emergency Power (No. 277) Order was made for the purpose of tiding the local authorities over temporary difficulties arising from the emergency. The need for further determinations will not arise and, accordingly, the Order will be revoked. It is necessary, however, to continue determinations already made in force, notwithstanding the revocation of the Order, and Section 32 does this. The section enables the determinations already made to be revoked and applies the conditions contained in Order No. 277 to the maintenance of buildings in respect of which determinations are operative.
Section 23 of the Act of 1950 applies to rural areas the provisions contained in Part II of the Act of 1931, which relates to the clearance of unhealthy areas, but which refers only to persons of the working classes. It is considered desirable to make it clear by Section 30 of the Bill that such references may be construed as having application to agricultural labourers in rural areas.