I must confess when I moved the adjournment of the debate last night I did not visualise that it would be nine hours after we began today's sitting before I would get in. If I had known that, I would not have been caught at ten o'clock last night.
I was goaded into intervening in this debate because I felt the debate opened on a provocative note. I must pay tribute to the Members on the other side of the House who did not continue on the same note but made contributions of a serious, constructive and reasonable nature. I covered most of the points I wanted to make last night, but I want to re-cap by saying that I do not think the limited floor area will result in substandard houses. I feel the Minister's objective of providing more houses with the money available will be achieved. The maximum grant for houses of 75 to 100 square metres is an effort to provide good family houses and family houses are the objective. It is expected that if a person wants a more luxurious house he should be able to pay for it himself.
Last night I made several recommendations. The first recommendation I made was that as far as possible all existing cottages should be vested in the tenants. This would give the tenant the privilege and pleasure of ownership and would relieve local authorities of maintenance. My second recommendation was that people should be encouraged to own houses by offering them grants and loan facilities. People who build their own houses are able to provide a good deal of the necessary labour from members of their own family. This would enable them to build their house at less cost. They are also able to exercise strict supervision. My third recommendation was that local authorities should provide serviced sites where possible so that private individuals by the aid of grants and loans could build their own houses more easily. It would still be the responsibility of the county council to provide skilled supervisory staff to advise the people during the course of building operations and generally to guard against any shoddy or inferior workmanship.
I should like local authorities to provide grants for houses for old people. The grant available for an ordinary house of 35 square metres or more, but less than 45 square metres is £175. A 45 square metre house is equivalent to 484 square feet. I consider 484 square feet to be adequate to provide a house for old people. It would provide a living room and kitchen combined into which neighbours could come and chat. In addition it would provide one bedroom of 110 square feet and as we provided in the Social Welfare Bill today for the help and assistance of a relative to look after an aged relative a second bedroom should also be provided.
I would recommend to the Minister that he encourage the building of houses comprising, say, two bedrooms, kitchen, living room and the usual facilities for old people and that they be made available at a reasonable rent. I also consider that the grant should be increased to £225.
I would suggest that in all new schemes 15 per cent of the houses should be earmarked for old couples. This type of house would also be suitable for newly married couples and a system might be introduced whereby couples could be transferred to larger houses when they had families.
I recommend that income levels for grants and loans be increased. In the booklet entitled Housing in the Seventies it is stated that local authorities may pay supplementary grants not exceeding the amount of the State grant to provide a house for a person with an income up to £1,045 per year. I regard this limit as too low. We must encourage people who are earning a a little more than this to build their own houses and, for this reason, I consider the limit should be increased to £1,500. Taking into account the figure of £100 allowed for each member of the family up to a maximum of four, this would bring the total figure up to £1,900.
I do not recommend any variation in the valuation as set out for farmers, and, speaking for my own county, I can say that there are very few farmers whose valuation is in excess of the amount specified.
I shall leave the matter of swimming pools to the Minister as I know he is interested in this subject, but in regard to the provision of recreational areas I should prefer if such areas were sited at the rear of houses. I say this for two reasons: first, they constitute a hazard for children, particularly if they adjoin busy roads; secondly, I do not agree that they add to the appearance of housing schemes. Indeed, the reverse is the case more often than not. I might add that in most towns there is a town park or a park used by the local football team and this can be used by the children. In addition, it has been found that very often it is necessary to employ an attendant to look after those recreational areas and this constitutes an additional burden on the taxpayers.
I am in agreement with other Senators in that this Bill does not contain all that we would wish. There are many features in it I should like to improve but I realise what has been done is a step in the right direction and that the Bill has been introduced and designed to meet changing needs. Many previous Ministers have introduced valuable and progressive measures but all the problems will not be solved by this Bill, nor will they be solved in the near future. The housing of the working-classes is a complex matter but a step has been taken in the right direction.