The Bill proposes to prolong the operation of the Rent Restrictions Acts up to December 31st, 1957. These Acts would otherwise expire at the end of this month and it is common policy that they should not be allowed to lapse before the Government have completed their examination of the rent control problem and the Oireachtas has debated and passed into law whatever legislation may prove to be necessary.
The working of the Acts and the question of extending them to furnished lettings was reported on in 1952 by the Conroy Commission. The Commission's Report contains a large number of recommendations dealing with all aspects of rent control. Many of the recommendations are technical in character but the major recommendations raise fundamental issues such as, for example, the recommendation that not only should the existing controls on dwellings be continued, with some increases for landlords who are liable for repairs, but that control should be extended to all dwellings whether furnished or unfurnished and whether now in existence or to be built hereafter. This comprehensive report is of considerable assistance to the Government who are also taking into account the many developments that have taken place since the report was prepared and the difficulties that have arisen or are likely to arise from the present international situation.
Since the presentation of the report some 50,000 houses have been built but very few houses have been built for letting by private enterprise despite the fact that attractive letting grants have been available since 1948 and that there is no statutory restriction on the rents that may be charged. The absence of new buildings for letting from private resources has increased the proportion of rented accommodation owned by local authorities whose tenants do not have the benefit of the Rent Acts. Apart from new building, there has been a large increase in the number of houses being reconstructed and I expect that this trend will be accelerated having regard to the recent increase in the maximum limits of these grants. The combined effect of the new building and reconstruction since 1952 has produced a marked improvement in the supply of houses though there is still a shortage of rented dwellings especially in Dublin and Cork.
Apart from these developments in the housing situation since the Report was presented and the recent worsening of the international outlook, it is necessary to have regard to the large and ever-growing number of complicated legal rights and relationships which inevitably arise out of legislation of this kind, affecting thousands of people either as landlords or tenants, and which makes the task of finding a fair solution to the problem no easy one.
As in previous Bills of this kind, it is being provided that any landlord who puts his premises into a reasonable state of repair during the pair of years 1956 and 1957 and who spends more than two-thirds of the basic rent in doing so will be entitled to the generous percentage return allowed by the Acts on the amount he is out of pocket. This provision enables landlords of the older houses to take full advantage of the substantial repair and reconstruction grants which have been available for some years past and which, as I have said, have recently been increased.
Finally, I should like to refer to the second report presented by the Conroy Commission, that is, the Report on Reversionary Leases under the Landlord and Tenants Acts. I mentioned last year that a Bill was being drafted to give effect to the Report's recommendations and I am glad to be able to say that the Bill has since been circulated and is at present being considered by the Dáil.