Skip to main content
Normal View

Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 9 Jul 1952

Vol. 40 No. 24

Housing (Amendment) Bill, 1952—Second Stage.

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

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.

Any ordinary layman who would take up the Housing (Amendment) Bill, 1952, and try to make sense of it by availing himself of all the information he could get by reading the various Housing Acts which are referred to in Section 1 of this Bill, for instance, the Housing of the Working Classes Acts, 1890 to 1950, the Labourers Acts, 1883 to 1950, and so forth, would be lost by the time he had waded through them all.

I have heard various pleas being made in this House for the codification of existing Acts concerned with other Government Departments. I feel that, as far as housing legislation is concerned, the need for the codification of existing legislation is absolutely necessary, not alone to help members of the Oireachtas, but also to help members of various local bodies and councils that operate housing schemes. At any rate, I am satisfied that this Bill is intended to carry on the very good work that housing legislation has effected under different Governments in this country since the advent of national government. I am quite satisfied that when this Bill has become an Act the powers provided under it will be liberally availed of by people who wish to build new houses or to reconstruct old ones

I would like some information on certain matters arising out of this Bill which are of particular interest to my county. When the Housing Act of 1950 was passed certain members of the Mayo County Council became enthusiastic about Section 7 of that particular Act, which made provision for the making of grants out of county council funds equivalent to the Government grants given to people who were anxious to provide themselves with new houses. When the county council decided by a majority to avail themselves of the power conferred under Section 7 of that Act, there were numerous applications from people all over the county. However, it transpired subsequently that the powers of borrowing from the Local Loans Fund, in so far as Section 7 was concerned, were limited to certain classes or sections of people who would be building new houses. This made it necessary for the county council to enter into negotiations with an insurance company with a view to getting a loan of £100,000. I might add that this amount will not be adequate to supply all the applicants who feel that they are entitled to get a grant from the county council equivalent to the State grant.

I would like to know will it be possible, under this Bill, for the Mayo County Council to avail of the Local Loans Fund so as to make grants equivalent to the ordinary State grants? The county council has made a ruling to the effect that every person who received half the State grant in August, 1950, and who had completed his house before the 31st March, 1952, would be eligible for a county council grant. I would like to know will it be possible to avail of the facilities provided under the Local Loans Fund to implement this undertaking? This would if permitted render it unnecessary to pay 5½ per cent. interest, or even more, to the insurance company who have agreed to lend £100,000. As I said already, this amount will be inadequate, because there will be further applications.

Some of the houses built by county councils-I refer particularly to those built by the Mayo County Council— while structurally beautiful are not suited to the class of people who occupy them. In saying this I am not trying to draw the line as to class distinction. However, most of these houses are intended for young workers who are rearing, I am glad to say, large families. We are all aware how children romp and play about a house, and that it needs a substantial structure to withstand the damage they can do. I am not alone in believing that it would be possible for local bodies to build less stylish, more substantial and more roomy houses at less cost than the type of houses they build at present.

With regard to reconstruction, I am aware of cases in which people who got the benefit of a housing grant 20 years ago applied for a reconstruction grant in respect of the provision of sanitary annexes and extra accommodation in the shape of a back kitchen or bedroom. Although they complied with all the conditions necessary to qualify, they found, after the work was completed and inspected, that they were not entitled to a reconstruction grant, because the extra accommodation provided was not considered necessary for the accommodation of the number of people living in the house. In one case I know of, three members of the family, because of economic circumstances, had to migrate to England. They are in employment there, but have not settled down there. They intend to come back to this country and it would be rather late to be making accommodation available for these three people when they came home. The accommodation has been provided and paid for, but the parents have not been given the reconstruction grant which they felt they were legitimately entitled to when they set about carrying out the reconstruction. I should like to know if it will be possible under this Bill to give retrospective treatment to people of that kind. I am sure there are others throughout the country who have reconstructed their premises—increased floor space and so on—and still have not received any Government grant because the extra accommodation was not considered necessary for the number of people occupying the house.

What kind of houses were they?

With regard to Section 7, which deals with grants for water supply, will the grant be available if the supply is obtained by a system of tanks rather than springs, and, if the water only be installed, will portion of the grant of £50 be paid? I should like information on that point, and also as to whether it will be possible for local bodies which have adopted schemes for giving a grant equivalent to the State grant to people who build or reconstruct houses, to provide such grants by way of the Local Loans Fund and so save the ratepayers the necessity of paying extra interest on money obtained for that definite purpose.

The Minister has asked me with regard to the house I have mentioned what kind of house I refer to. I refer to an ordinary two-storied house built in 1925 and in respect of which a Government grant of £70 was paid under the existing housing legislation. The house had not got sanitary accommodation or a piped water supply, and the owners, within the past few years, provided a sanitary annexe, bathroom and lavatory, and an extra bedroom and back kitchen. They carried out all these improvements under the supervision of the officials onerated with such work, but when the work was completed, the reply they got from the Department was that in so far as the extra accommodation was not necessary for the number of people occupying the house at the time no grant could be paid, although there are three members of that family who are not permanently fixed up in England and who will come home at some time and who would naturally like to reside in their old home.

I welcome this Bill. I believe it will help to continue the good work done by the different Governments we have had towards remedying the housing shortage. I know that so far as the question of local bodies providing equivalent grants is concerned, the matter has received a rather mixed reception in the country. Those who have already built good houses and who considered themselves very generously provided for by the Government grant do not see why the ratepayers should be put to any expense in the matter of providing equivalent grants for people who were rather slow to avail of existing aid. However, in matters of this kind, objections of that sort will always be raised. I believe that bodies which are handling housing schemes of that type are entitled to every encouragement, and I am sure that, within the framework of this Bill, they will get all the encouragement the Department can give them.

I welcome this Bill, as, I expect, do all members of the House. I should like to express my appreciation of the manner in which the Minister presented it to us. He gave us a very clear idea of what the Bill contains and what it proposes to do, and from his statement we can realise immediately that his approach is a common-sense approach by a person who has had the experience of being a public representative in his own county. The experience gained there was, I am sure, very valuable to him when framing this Bill. We must express our appreciation of the great work done by all concerned in relation to the housing drive, which was begun in 1932 and which has continued, despite the war, ever since. Local authorities on the whole, with very few exceptions, have undertaken this work whole-heartedly and have co-operated in every way with the Department. So have the various building societies and merchants throughout the country who have also made their contribution by making available materials on credit until such time as payment of the grants was made. These were all items which contributed something to the building of houses.

In recent years, we have seen a big improvement in the design of our housing schemes, in their lay-out and in the way in which they are finished. We had criticism here and in the other House on many occasions of the workmanship, the lay-out and the design of our houses, but, from reading the Dáil Debates, I do not think there has been any such criticism on this occasion. There has been criticism, however, of the Minister's approach to Section 7 of the 1950 Act and this has led to a great deal of controversy. Some county councils put the scheme into operation, while others laid down certain conditions. Many county councils, and particularly those in Mayo and Galway, having first proposed to adopt the scheme, had little regard for the amount of money involved. Where it was first proposed that £50,000 or £60,000 would be sufficient, they found a day or two after the date of receiving applications that they must raise the figure to £100,000.

We have slums in rural Ireland just as we have in our cities, and while generous provision has been made in our housing legislation there is a small section of our people for whom that provision is not sufficient to enable them to erect a house. We have small farmers who might more correctly be described as farm labourers. These men have a small house and usually a large family. The local government grant of £235, supplemented by a county council grant would not be sufficient for such a man to undertake the erection of a house and loans are out of his reach because he would not be in a position to repay them. That is a section for whom we have not catered even yet. In some areas the county council comes to the rescue in a roundabout manner. First they purchase a quarter acre or half-acre. They erect a labourer's cottage on the plot and then they appoint the original owner of the plot as tenant. He is, however, compelled to pay a rent which in some cases is out of his reach.

I would point out to the people who say that we should be more generous with the ratepayers' money to people who could reasonably provide houses for themselves that these people, a valuable section of our people, are uncatered for. Under the Gaeltacht housing scheme the house is practically erected and there is a contract for the supply of windows, doors and material. Such a scheme should be undertaken for the people I have in mind. I am sure that the Minister and the House know the sort of person I mean: small farmers for whom the grants, generous as they may be, are not sufficient to encourage them to build a house.

When local authorities under the slum clearance scheme remove tenants to new housing schemes, the tenements should not be allowed to remain as unsightly structures. I know of some instances in Galway City where tenants were removed from practically the centre of the city. The sites on which very valuable flats could have been built were used for storage of one kind or another and are unsightly, to say the least of them.

The Minister has informed us that in some areas the target for housing requirements has been reached. I take it that these requirements refer to persons removed from slum areas. That, of course, would not entirely meet the full housing requirements. Again to refer to Galway City, we have had rather extensive housing schemes since 1932 but the housing shortage is as serious now as it was then because all that has been accomplished is the provision of a house or a room for people who have been removed from other areas. The Minister should instruct each local authority to carry out an immediate survey of their requirements with a view to acquiring the necessary land.

We know from experience that you cannot just start in to-morrow morning and build a house. The local authority must first acquire the land which, in most cases, takes a considerable time. The site must be developed and sewerage and water laid on. It is some time, therefore, before you can start building. It is because that work was carried on during the war that this progress has been possible in recent years. If attention is not paid to that aspect of the housing problem we may come to the point when, anxious as we may be to do the work, we will be held up because we have not developed land and taken the steps necessary to go ahead.

Some few years ago somebody got the fad, here in Dublin I think-and the idea spread like wildfire-that it should be one of the duties of local authorities to provide houses for newly-weds. I do not want to be misunderstood or misrepresented in this. I do not at all approve of the scheme undertaken in Dublin and elsewhere to provide small, two or three-roomed houses for newly-weds. It is a complete waste of the taxpayers' and ratepayers' money. When a young couple get married they wish to make a home and their desire is that the first house they get should become their home. It is anything but encouraging for them to be told: "Here is a house of two or three rooms. There is a kitchen, parlour and bedroom. That will do you for the time being. Should a family come along we will move you into a house with three or four rooms."

This system should not be encouraged. There are difficulties enough in the way of young people who are about to get married. It takes a long time to get a home and furnish it and these people should not be held in suspense by the feeling: "We cannot settle down in this house which we have got at considerable expense from the local authority. We cannot make it our home because in one, two or three years' time we will have to move out." Certainly give those people an opportunity of getting a house. Give them whatever preference you wish, but let the house be their own, in which, if work is available for them, to settle down for the remainder of their lives.

This is a Bill which should rather be discussed on Committee Stage than on Second Reading except on general principles. The Bill extends for two years the period for payment of grants. I have expressed here very often the unsuitability of such a short period, particularly when catering for rural Ireland. When a farmer starts a house in the spring, the spring work may come along and in the end it may take a year or two before the house is completed. There may arise a feeling that there may be a change in the legislation. If there is a new Housing Bill in the offing, someone may say: "Do not do anything, as there may be more generous provision in the new Bill" or "If you do not hurry up, you will lose the grant." The next Bill coming before the House, after this period of two years, should be a comprehensive one, bringing up to date the provisions of the various Acts and providing for a period of not less than five or seven years.

I wish to welcome this Bill, which is an addition to the many enlightened enactments that have been devoted to the provision of houses for our people. The first suggestion I make is that we ought to see that all the derelict sites in our towns are taken over, cleared and made suitable for housing. Even if they are not suitable for a house large enough to meet the requirements of the Department, a small house there may suit an old couple who would like to have such a house. In reply to Senator Hawkins, I may say that young people prefer to get two rooms rather than one expensive room in an overcrowded house. It is a pity to see these derelict sites as eyesores in our towns. They give a bad impression to tourists and the Minister would be doing a good job if he could have them built on.

These derelict sites are to be found not alone in the towns but in practically every village. Sometimes the villages are worse than the towns. Single houses often appeal to people, rather than houses in a group. Sometimes people like a bit of privacy instead of being built into a community and they would take advantage of these single houses. There is another national advantage. A great deal of good land is being taken up for housing, and although housing is a matter of paramount importance, while these derelict sites are available we should see that they are utilised first.

I would like to comment on the discontinuance of the provision under Section 7 of the Housing Act, 1950 for the giving of a grant by the local authority to people who are building houses for themselves. I considered at the time that that was a rather desirable provision as it encouraged people to build their own houses and to have that pride and joy of ownership which should be installed into everybody's heart. With the removal of this provision, many people who built their own houses during the last three or four years will be inclined to apply to the local authority for houses and afterwards will expect the local authority to maintain it and subsidise the rates and do any repairs necessary. In the local authority with which I am concerned, I find that the cost of repairs to houses and cottages is becoming a burden which we are not able to carry in local affairs. If we can give persons £200 or £400 and let them build a house for themselves, pay the rates and keep it in good order, that means removing a burden from us. But if we provide a subsidy that is as good, and then subsidise the house out of the rates, it becomes a burden on the community and an administrative burden on the Department as well as on the local authority.

I would ask the Minister to see if he could get over that dilemma by encouraging ownership. I would not like to see a State where 90 per cent. of the people would be living in houses that were the property of either the municipality or the county council. That would be bad for us. It would be better by far to aim in the other direction, towards the State where people would be living in and owning their own houses. I know a local authority in my county where the public spirit was not very good Someone wanted to beautify the town, so they decided to plant a tree in the garden of each council house. They did so and gave the tree as a present to the occupier. I pass through that town often in the spring and see wonderful blossoms on those trees, which are protected in the gardens of the houses, and the people feel that they own those trees themselves. If those people owned the houses they would like to beautify them also and would add to them and protect them, at the same time removing a burden on the State. Perhaps the Minister would see some way in this Bill, which is an admirable one, to promote and encourage such ownership, so that these houses may become an asset to the people themselves and an asset to the State

I also wish to welcome this Bill. Deputy Burke speaks about the amendment of the 1950 Act. Everyone is with him in feeling that the people should own their own houses. There is no question about that. The man who has a little property of his own, though it may be only a house with a front and back garden, feels that he has a stake in the country. At the same time, I always thought it was a hardship on certain members of the community to have to contribute something from the rates to allow a person to build his own house. The State makes fairly generous grants. Remember that everyone in the community pays rates, particularly in the City of Dublin. People who were not in a position to build houses for themselves had to pay rates out of which grants were made to people to enable them to build houses for themselves. I opposed that at a corporation meeting, that we should give grants out of the rates to people better off in many ways than those who had to pay the rates.

The question of the trees reminds me that an attempt was made by the Dublin Corporation to do something similar along Collins Avenue, but there were people here and there who refused to allow a tree to be put in, and they spoiled the whole appearance of the place. I spoke to one particular person who had refused to allow a tree in. She said that after some time the tree would grow big and take the light away from the house. I reminded her of the protection it would give from wind and rain, but she did not see that point. Where you have a nice avenue, and one person refuses to allow a tree to be planted, it spoils the whole appearance of the avenue.

I welcome the amendment of the definition of overcrowding. In some of the old Georgian houses, where a man and his wife and a couple of children were living in one room, they had infinitely more space, at any rate, and with facilities for curtaining off beds they were comparatively better off than many a person with two or three rooms in a very small house. I am not suggesting that the Minister should keep rigidly to a certain number of cubic feet in a room, house or cottage, but the matter to which I have referred is one that must be taken into consideration, that many people who are in rooms in some of those old Dublin Georgian houses are infinitely better off regarding space than many a family who are living in what we call poky little houses with small rooms.

I have been interested for a long number of years in the Housing of the Working Classes Act. I wonder if the Housing of the Working Classes Act is fair to the working classes generally. We had an example of how that Act operated in connection with the Dublin Corporation scheme for newly-weds. The minimum wage required was £8, but practically every tradesman in the City of Dublin earns somewhat over £8. The result was that they were debarred from applying for a house under the Housing of the Working Classes Act. In other words, the subsidy which is available from the Department did not apply to them.

We have a section of the community who are apparently nobody's children. I am speaking of those who are not entitled to get a house from the Dublin Corporation, but who have not sufficient means to build a house for themselves. Those people are fairly numerous in the city. An effort was made to provide for them by the introduction of the tenant purchase scheme. I am afraid the tenant purchase scheme is not looked upon by the Department in the same way as many of us in the Dublin Corporation look upon it. There is a class of the community, the respectable poor, who do not qualify for a house. They are not in a position to build houses for themselves and, as a result, they are nobody's children. To meet that case, the Dublin Corporation were anxious that the tenant purchase scheme should be introduced.

The scheme was introduced many years ago. It was dropped when certain abuses crept in, but recently it has been reintroduced. The Department or the Minister has stated that no more than 10 per cent. of the total output of houses in the year can be tenant purchase houses. I appreciate what has been done to house the poorer section of the community.

I was talking to the American Secretary of Labour a fortnight ago. and he said that this city could compare most favourably with any city in Europe in regard to its housing programme and the number of houses that had been built for the working-class population. He said that was not a mere platitude, but was an observation, prompted by what he had observed in various countries in the world. He said this city had something to be proud of. This has been referred to by others as the necklace of houses that hangs round this city.

We are anxious that the tenant purchase scheme should be developed to meet the needs of this most deserving class of the community, the people who own no property and who are not in a position to acquire any. I think the Minister knows there was a serious problem in regard to tenant purchase on the St. Anne's estate. Everyone who knows this estate—as Dubliners generally do—knows it is an ideal place for putting up tenant purchase houses, and tenant purchase houses only. When a man is given a house under the tenant purchase scheme, he acquires some property of his own and he will maintain and take care of that property because it is his own. Unfortunately, I think the same does not apply to all the other houses that are let to tenants by the corporation. The majority of them look upon the houses as their own. They attend to them and care for them, but there are others who not alone will not care for their own property but who have no respect for their neighbour's property.

That is one of the reasons why the situation of St. Anne's estate is ideal for tenant purchase houses. In 1948— I was not then a member of the Dublin Corporation—the corporation decided for some reason or another to build three-roomed, four-roomed and five-roomed houses for letting on the St. Anne's estate. A lot of the residents objected. I suppose they felt their property might deteriorate. I think that has been got over to some extent by the corporation agreeing to build tenant purchase houses there so as to secure the subsidy.

They are going to allocate these houses to deserving cases who occupy Corporation houses already. I can appreciate that the conditions of many people going into these houses have changed and possibly we may be able to get over the matter in that way. My main purpose in developing this point and talking so long upon it is to impress upon the Minister, if he has not already been converted, to consider the tenant purchase scheme. There is a big number of deserving people who are not qualified for houses for letting under the Housing of the Working Classes Act and who are not in a position to buy their own houses.

There is just one other point. It is a matter which is of great concern to every one of us in this city. I refer to the shifting of large numbers of the population to the outskirts of the city. Already, parishes are being denuded of their populations. We have had two letters already in connection with this matter, one from the Administrator of City Quay Church and the other from the parish priest of High Street Church. They complain that the shifting of the population to the outskirts means that the number of their parishioners is steadily declining.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

How does that come into this?

It will come in all right, and I will tell you why. What I am suggesting is that the houses that are being detenanted in the centre of the city should not be allowed to be acquired by industrial people and simply converted into stores. An attempt should be made to build flats so as to maintain the population to some extent in the old city. It is a peculiar thing to people who do not know that it costs about one-third more to build a three-roomed, four-roomed or five-roomed flat than it does to build a three-roomed, four-roomed or five-roomed house. I always thought it was cheaper to build a flat, but that is not so.

I suggest that the Minister ought to consider this matter and see that flats are erected in the centre of the city, and thus prevent the Georgian houses from falling into decay or being knocked down and used as sheds or garages. Some effort should be made to maintain the people, as far as possible, in the centre of the city rather than send them out to the outskirts, where they do not want to go. Many of them like to live together, as they have been used to living in tenement houses. They would, perhaps, prefer a flat system. I want the Minister to consider the point I have made. I am sorry if I have rambled a bit, but I did come back to the point.

May I also congratulate the Minister on this Bill? I would have liked the Minister—I do not suppose it was possible for him— to have brought in a new Bill, and to have got rid of the sections going back to 1800 and something. It is very hard to understand all these Bills. Perhaps in the near future we could have a comprehensive, simple Bill—if the two could go together—dealing with housing.

Some of the matters mentioned by Senator Colgan apply also to Cork, if I may be allowed to mention Cork again. In the case of Cork the derelict sites are not even turned into warehouses; they are just left there as very ugly spots in the middle of our city. Our teachers, school authorities and churchmen have the same problem as has been mentioned by Senator Colgan. Their parishioners and pupils are moved to the outskirts, and new housing, school and church problems are created, while there are schools and churches in the centre of the city at which scarcely anybody attends. That is a very important matter. When all the people are cleared out of the centre of the city and brought outside, problems are created all the time, especially in our case, when nothing is done with the derelict sites. It is a matter that we are very sore about.

In connection with modern planning, I learned on the Continent, in two or three countries, that it is acknowledged to be a bad thing to create building schemes for one class of people only. It is considered to be a better plan to integrate different types in a scheme. I do not presume to know what Dublin is doing. I do not suppose that they think they can make any mistakes, but I understand that mistakes have been made in Cork in having very large schemes of one type of house in a district. If different types had been integrated in the district and, in due course, schools and other amenities provided, there would not be some of the problems that we read of in the Press.

As a woman, may I suggest to the Minister that it might be a good thing in the planning of housing schemes of individual houses to have women architects consulted? If women were consulted, the mistakes that are made-simple mistakes-would not occur. Take the simple matter of the placing of sinks. I would have the menfolk do the washing now and then, and that mistake would not be made. They are all placed too low down on the wall. If the Leas-Chathaoirleach would suggest that some Senators would try to do the washing now and again, that mistake would not be made. These mistakes are made because the architect wants to have the scheme looking attractive from the outside. I inquired into this matter recently. I went into a house and turned on the tap, and tried to see if I would like to do the washing at the sink. I found that I would not. When I inquired from the architect I was told that the sink had to go under the window, and that the windows had to be in line, so that they would be symmetrical. The housekeeper will not care much about symmetry if she has a backache as a result of bending over too low a sink.

Complaints were made—not recently, but within the last three or four years -in County Cork, that there were very unsuitable cooking arrangements in cottages. I understand that a small fireplace, suitable for an urban parlour, was the only cooking arrangement provided. That was the complaint that I got, and women made it. I do not know if that is the case in the houses that have been built within the last two or three years. These cooking arrangements were completely inadequate and unsuitable, especially for country houses.

The matter of the derelict sites in our cities is most important. We have there water, gas and everything laid on and houses could be built without the added expense of developments of that kind. We in Cork are crying out for this all the time but we seem to be getting nowhere. We are going out further and further into the country, creating further economic problems for the people, raising the cost of living for those who have to pay bus fares to and from their work. It is a matter for consideration. Therefore, I would ask the Minister to have pressure brought on the proper authorities in this respect.

Again, I wish to congratulate the Minister on the very great advantages that this Bill will bring.

I agree with Senator Mrs. Dowdall that it is a pity that some Minister cannot be found who will stop the continuous run of Bills which are entirely by reference. This Bill is just about as bad as any. What the Bill intends to do is generally acceptable. There may be one or two details. The form of the Bill is such that, while I assume the Minister understands it, I doubt if any member of the House is prepared to examine it in detail. I spent quite a long time trying to understand it. No ordinary member of the public trying to discover his rights could possibly take this Bill and understand it. I realise that there always has to be a certain amount of reference back. It would have been very little more difficult to have repealed the 1948 Act and brought in a new Bill which would be virtually the same as this and then to have made only a small number of references to the earlier Acts.

I am not blaming the Minister. It is the practice that has arisen under all our Governments from the draftsman's office. I think it is a pity that some effort cannot be made to have some form of simplification. I doubt if very much more work would have been involved if the 1948 Act had been repealed and a new Bill brought in. I think the Minister would have less trouble in dealing with it.

As Senator Hawkins said, this is mainly a Committee Stage Bill. The Minister made a very comprehensive statement which I would like to read. Some of it will explain some of the sections which I find difficult to relate to the previous Acts. We can all welcome the Bill and give the Second Stage without opposition.

In the Dáil some Deputies had much the same remarks to make regarding codification of the existing Housing Acts, but there were Deputies who did not appear to be too concerned whether that codification should take place or not. Nobody knows better than I, being a layman, the difficulties, especially for a person who is not in my position of more or less having grown up with the Bill, of trying to understand all these references back. It is not really vital that we should understand them at all as lay people, if we succeed in having a broad, general idea of what a measure of this nature proposes to achieve. I have a suspicion that even after the stage is reached where housing legislation is codified, the layman will still be a layman and will be in doubt about many questions.

Having expressed that doubt, I can assure the House the Department is at present considering what might be done in the future. I will not make any estimate of the time it might take. I will merely say that it is not being forgotten. One of the Deputies in the other House, who happens to be a lawyer, had no good word to say about taking a step in that direction. I was suspicious of his reaction because of the fact that he is a lawyer, and that is the only reason that I came to harbour the notion that it would not be a bad idea to bring about this codification for which Senators have been so anxious during the course of this debate.

There were not many contentious points raised in the speeches to which we have just listened. Practically all the Senators who spoke referred to Section 7 of the 1950 Act. Some doubts arose in their minds as to what was proposed in this Bill by way of replacing it. Senator Colgan said that, as a member of the Dublin Corporation, he did not feel too anxious to ask ratepayers in that area to contribute towards the provision of houses for people who might be better off than many of the ratepayers concerned. This is a point of view with which I have considerable sympathy. Section 7 slipped in during the discussion on the Committee Stage of the 1950 Bill in the Dail. In fact, it slipped in in a manner which seemed to me at the time to be far too casual. It is a good thing to have grand notions about helping people along who are deserving of assistance.

In my opinion, when you propose to insert a permissive section like Section 7 and like the sections that are designed to replace it in this Bill, you should follow your line of thought down along until you reach the person referred to by Senator Colgan, namely, the ratepayer. In order to meet the problem mentioned by Senator Ruane you should follow your line of thought right along until you reach the point where the county councils have adopted this permissive scheme and, having adopted it, have said to themselves: "Where will we get the money to finance the scheme"? Senator Burke appeared to be more enthusiastic about Section 7 of the 1950 Act than any of the other speakers. The above thoughts were in my mind when Section 7 slipped into the Bill during the Committee Stage discussion in the Dail. The section was introduced by way of amendment by a private Deputy.

I am not being critical when I say that it did not appear satisfactory to me at the time. I felt that neither its effect on the ratepayers nor the source from which the money would be provided to finance any schemes that councils might adopt was considered. That was why I felt so unhappy about the section.

As I explained in my opening speech, many county councils did not adopt this section at all. As Senator Ruane stated, the Mayo County Council adopted it without putting in any limitation as to income or valuation, but some of the county councils adopted the section and inserted certain limitations. When the section had been adopted, the question as to where the necessary moneys would be got arose. It was assumed that schemes adopted under this section would be financed by the Local Loans Fund. Of course, there was no provision in existence allowing county councils to get money from the Local Loans Fund to build houses for people for whom they had no responsibility to provide housing. Due to this fact, the situation that has been described by Senator Ruane arose in Mayo and in many other places. Having witnessed that situation myself, having suspected that it would arise before I became Minister for Local Government, and having seen it arise after I became Minister, I was determined to give to local bodies, if they thought it fit or if they considered it wise, a permissive scheme under this Bill—a scheme setting out that the maximum which a local authority could give to any applicant would be determined here as I explained in the Bill.

My reason for doing this was as follows. If you are a member of a local authority, and if some other member brings forward a scheme under, say, Section 7 of the 1950 Act, there is an ensuing discussion as to the wisdom of adopting the scheme. Finally, the county council decide that a scheme should be prepared. The preparation is commenced, and most of the members, being careful and wise, discuss the types of classes to which the scheme should apply before entering into any commitments. When they have inserted limitations as to the incomes and valuations of people who are to be covered by their scheme, one or two members who may have been lying low may believe that other classes should be brought in. They say to themselves: "We will throw in a bombshell. We will raise objection, pointing out the injustice that would be inflicted if this particular scheme were put into operation." After argument, there is a compromise, and these other two classes are included. When these are included, some other type of person is thought of, and so the march continues until you reach the stage that has apparently been reached in Mayo, according to Deputy Ruane, and in a number of other areas, as a result of the operation of that section.

That was the reason why I, with the assistance of my officials, provided in this Bill for a cut and dried scheme. I agree with the members of the Dail who were very critical of me and the Department, because they thought we had put the mark a little on the low side, from the point of view of both income and valuation. I am entirely responsible for that myself, and my reason for taking that course was that I was determined that we should feel our way, that, in placing this temptation, if I might so term it, before local bodies, we should have a scheme which would be so rigid and tight that they would not be embarking on a task that might prove to be altogether too formidable, and which they could not continue for a long number of years.

My inclination was to say: "Let this be criticised. The more it is criticised from the point of view that I have not raised the limits, the better it will be in the end". Senator Hawkins has criticised housing legislation because Bills have a duration of only two years. If we could get all the local bodies to adopt a limited scheme like this, and try it out for two years—see how we get on and see what is achieved—and if at the end of that period it is felt that the local bodies could undertake more, could cover a wider field and meet valuations of a higher limit and incomes higher than those mentioned, it would be all to the good.

I was interested in that because I am a countryman, and I could see, as Senator Hawkins has pointed out, the difficulties that confront many people in the rural parts, especially people with small areas of land and low valuations, who are badly in need of new houses, but who, in spite of the generous State grants given and the other facilities made available, cannot provide themselves with a house. I am satisfied, as is Senator Hawkins, that even with any effort made in this Bill, through giving State grants and making it possible for local bodies to give supplementary grants, quite a large number of the types to whom I have referred will still remain without new houses, because of the present cost of erecting even a very modest dwelling. If they have some assistance of their own, maybe some little savings, they might make the effort, and it is to help that class that the scheme outlined in Sections 9, 10 and 11 is designed. I am interested in seeing a solid start made, even on the confined basis outlined here, to try to help the types of people who live in the parts of the country I have mentioned.

Senator Ruane mentioned that reconstruction grants which were payable after a period of 15 years had elapsed from the payment of the previous grant were conditioned in such a way as to deprive the person who did not need additional accommodation. I have made inquiries from my officials and they tell me that that section is very generously interpreted. I should like to get the details of the case the Senator has in mind to see whether what I am told is a generous interpretation of the section has been applied in that case. I found that the same sort of approach was made in the case of people who occupied vested labourers' cottages. They were eligible to obtain reconstruction grants in certain circumstances where additional accommodation was necessary. That was not provided for in any Act; it was provided in regulations made in the Department. My own view is that, irrespective of whether additional accommodation is required at the moment or not, where the owner of a vested labourer's cottage proposes to reconstruct and to add an additional room, the accommodation provision should go by the board. I should be glad if the Senator would let me have the details of this case. I may not be able to do anything about it, but I should like to see how the section is working.

Thank you. I will send you the particulars.

Senator Burke suggested that I should say or do something about encouraging the sale of local authority houses. I would not be entitled to say that that is a question which has been agitating my mind, but it is a question I have been thinking about and dealing with off and on over the past 12 months. I find it very hard to satisfy myself as to the proper approach in that regard. The Senator said we should try to make our people the owners, and so on, of houses and that it is not a good thing that Clonmel Corporation, Dublin Corporation or any other corporation should be large property owners.

Here is a point which I suggest Senators who are interested in selling these houses should think about. Suppose a local authority carried out a scheme of houses in 1935, 1936 or 1937. The average cost would have been about £400 per house. If they were to erect houses now of the same number and type and with the same accommodation, it would cost three or four times the amount it cost to erect them in the year I mentioned. Some local bodies have submitted purchase schemes to me and to my predecessor, schemes based largely on the cost of the erection of the house. It seems to be always felt that a local authority is not entitled ever to make any profit on anything. If a local authority does not show a loss, everything is 100 per cent. right.

Nobody should make a profit nowadays!

It is vulgar.

Somehow that is not my idea of things.

Nor mine.

Local bodies submitted these schemes based on erection costs, but the person to whom such a house is sold may in a month or two months —as has happened—decide to sell, and he will make a profit of £600, £700 or £800 on the transaction. It is all very fine to do as I could do if I wanted to or as Senators could do far better: to advocate that everybody should own his own house, and say that everything would be lovely in the garden if we could achieve that end. But like most other things, when you examine it and work it out it is not so easy as it looked at a distance. Maybe if this end were achieved, the result would not be as good as we think. I am saying that while at the same time I would love to live in an age when it would be possible to sell without fearing the results, some of which we have already seen and which we know would occur again and again.

I have one scheme in mind, however, which was submitted by a local body. It was not based on what the houses cost, but had some relation to the value of the houses to-day. Although it had not been the practice to sanction such schemes of any kind for many years, I decided to sanction this one. I can assure the Senator who raised this question and all concerned that if I am presented with proposals from any local authority designed to come any way near my ideas, I will not be unsympathetic in giving them sanction. I am merely citing these few instances to show all the pitfalls and to warn those who naturally see only one side of the story.

Derelict sites, to which Senator Mrs. Dowdall and others referred, are a problem with which local bodies can deal. We all know that problem, whether in the City of Dublin, the City of Cork or in the smallest urban area in the country, and I think it is even worse in small urban areas than in cities, because they are so small that, when you race through the main street, you can see everything before your eyes. In Dublin we can cod the rest of the world. We have a lot of nice places to show visitors, and there is a chance that they will move away and will not see the other places. I have sympathy with the ideas of those who mentioned this question. In small towns, however, you have a difficulty. Senators may say that it is not a good thing to acquire new land and plant people where many of them do not want to go, but there is no means of dealing with derelict sites unless you take the people away from them. You must clear the area before you can demolish the buildings and prepare to build the area up again.

When proposals come from some town for the acquisition of land to build 20 or 30 houses my officials sometimes hold up sanction in order to investigate the possibility of acquiring derelict sites rather than new territory. You can take it that we are in full sympathy with this idea. We often find ourselves knocked on the knuckles because of delays in sanctioning the acquisition of fresh land by local bodies. The reason is that we wish to satisfy ourselves regarding what Senators want us to do. If local bodies come to us for sanction of the acquisition of derelict sites, then, even if from the architectural or other point of view the report is not entirely satisfactory, my prejudices will be so strongly in favour of building up areas previously built upon that I will be prone not to be guided entirely by professional advice.

I have no doubt that when we come to the Committee Stage many points will be raised that have not been covered. Discussion of a Bill like this on Second Reading is very difficult. I apologise at the conclusion of my speech for having read it with the speed which I felt obligatory because of the size of the brief. It must be terrible to listen to and try to follow a speech like that. When we come to the Committee Stage there will be a number of other questions in which Senators will be interested and points on which they will require information, and we will try to tell you all we know about what is contained in these proposals.

Question put and agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The next stage?

Would next week be all right?

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 16th July, 1952.

I would not like the Seanad to commit itself in advance, but could I be given the remaining stages next Wednesday?

Nobody could guarantee that to the Minister. All I can say is that I would be surprised if he did not get the remaining stages.

The Seanad adjourned at 5.20 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 16th July, 1952.