Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 18 Mar 1925

Vol. 10 No. 14


I beg to move the Second Reading of the Housing Bill, 1925. The Bill, as I said on introduction, differs slightly from that of last year. It is now proposed to withdraw the restriction with regard to the sale price, as it has been found in practice that it operated rather against the facilities provided being availed of. It is hoped as a result of the withdrawal of the restriction that many more houses will be erected. The amount that was earmarked under last year's Act is practically exhausted. The whole of the £250,000 has been earmarked for new houses, with the exception possibly of about £10,000. Only about £10,000 has been earmarked for the reconstruction of houses. Generally speaking, the Act of last year, which, I think, did not meet with the approval of some Deputies, has been a remarkable success. More houses were built under it than had been built for a considerable number of years previously. The cost to the State and the local authorities was as reasonable as might be expected. Generally speaking, there was a considerable amount of activity in connection with the building of new houses all over the country.

It is quite possible that some criticism may be levelled at the fact that such a small number of houses were built in urban areas, but the number given for the rural areas is scarcely a true index, as quite a number of these were built near towns and the towns would benefit by the fact that they were built in close proximity. It was also found during the year that the sections referring to the cost of building materials had not to be availed of. There was a considerable amount of criticism when they were included. Quite possibly the fact that they were included may have been a deterrent in certain cases as regards unusual charges. At any rate, we are now satisfied that it is possible to make the Bill a success this year without the inclusion of these particular sections. If it should be found necessary later on to reconsider that view it is open to such reconsideration.

It is proposed, as far as the local authorities are concerned, that they should get the same terms as last year. I have not any expert information as to reduction in cost of building as compared with last year. I do not think it is very material. But that there is an impression abroad and evidence available that operations in connection with building are much more extensive than last year I think is beyond doubt.

There was a considerable amount of criticism because the reconstruction proposals were not made applicable to rural areas. Something like two thousand applications came in for reconstruction outside the areas to which the Act applied. None of these were inquired into. It would have been a very expensive operation administratively to have inquiries pursued in all parts of the country under the Act. I explained that that was one of the principal reasons why the rural areas were not included. Even in towns that particular section of last year's Bill has not been availed of to any extent, and if it were not for the reconstruction of barracks in certain places I think it would be almost inoperative. Most of the houses which people are thinking of reconstructing have lived a very long life and in their old age they will not be able to stand the reconstruction which people would like to carry out. The number of inquiries received from areas to which the Act applies was, roughly, about 500. Of this number only about 100 materialised. I put it to the Dáil, that any proposals of this sort in order to be sound must be economic. In the case of the applications received, to pay 500 visits and see only 100 results is not good business. I think that when large establishments, such as barracks, have been reconstructed, it is unlikely that a reconstruction section will appear in any Housing Bills in the future.

The State, I think, should be satisfied with the expenditure of the money last year. The activity resulting from it was very considerable. Practically 3,000 new houses have been approved. Since the introduction of the Housing of the Working Classes Acts I think the total number of houses constructed under their provisions was something about 10,000. That 3,000 have been approved for erection in a year which, although approaching normality, could not be said to be a really normal year, is, I think, a satisfactory result.

I rise to congratulate the President on the advance in the right direction which he is making in this Bill. I have only one comment to make and I would be glad if the President would consider the point I wish to raise. It is in connection with the second schedule, where the grant to any local authority or public utility society for the building of a five-roomed house is fixed at £100, while the grant to a private individual building the same house is only £75. I cannot understand why a group of persons, four or five in number, calling themselves a public utility society, can get a grant of £100 per house while a private individual only gets £75. I have had callers within the past twelve months inquiring how to go about getting this grant. Very often it was found, when endeavouring to get the benefit given to public utility societies, that they could get within one of the number requisite to form such a society, but that the fifth person could not agree to the various proposals. Where citizens of Dublin have a small site for one house they are very anxious to build on it, whereas a public utility society would try and build four, five or six houses on one site. I found it impossible to get several of the callers to agree to come together to form a public utility society, whereas individually they were prepared to build a single house on the site which they had.

I think the President would be making a step in the right direction if he would give the same facilities to a person willing to build his own house as he would give had such a person found four others to join him in establishing a public utility society. I think that a difference of £25 in regard to the grant given to a private person for building a house similar to that built by a public utility society is too much. I can assure the President that I can give him at least three cases in which persons, if the grant given to individuals was £100 for a five-roomed house, would start building within the next few weeks. They have their plans ready, but they cannot get five people to come together and form a public utility society. On the whole, the Bill is a splendid one, and I am satisfied as a result of it that the President will see additional houses going up rapidly. When the first Bill was introduced, I was one of those who drew attention to the point that the limitation to the selling price of a house would tell against the builder at the time, and would prevent many small builders from putting up houses. I would appeal to the President to place the ordinary private person on the same level as the public utility society by increasing the grant in the case of a five-roomed house to £100. If he will do so, I am satisfied that in the long run he will find that it will prove an advantage.

The President, in introducing the Second Reading of this Bill, said that it differed slightly from the Bill of last year. I think it differs essentially, and differs in a very great degree, and in such a way as, I think, while probably producing houses, will not go very far towards solving the urban housing problem. I was one of those who doubted the efficacy of last year's Bill, and I venture to say that some of these doubts proved to be well founded, notwithstanding the President's optimism in the matter. The figures which he has given to us prove the truth of that statement. The houses that have been built as a result of last year's principal Act have been mainly rural houses—2,467 rural as against 515 urban houses. The criticism which we levelled at the Bill last year was that it was not going any distance to solve the problem of housing for the weekly wage-earner. That, I think, has been proved in the result. The later Bill, a Bill empowering local authorities to borrow, may go a little further in the direction of assisting wage-earners, but not, I think, to any great distance. This Bill, so far as I can read it, is not going any distance towards solving the housing problem for those people who really are in need of houses. Perhaps that is stating it too strongly, because many people, even of the better-off class, are really in need of houses, but the urgent, clamant need is for houses for the weekly wage-earners earning anything from 30s. to £4 a week when working.

Last year's Bill gave grants, first from the State and secondly from the local authorities, on certain conditions, the conditions being that the houses were not to be sold at a price exceeding, in the case of a five-roomed house, £400, and a rental of 12/3½ per week. It was thought by that means that there would be an opportunity for the better-off wage-earners to get possession or occupation of houses, but these restrictions are removed in this Bill, as the Minister indicated, because he thinks that they have operated against the building of new houses. As a means of stimulating the building trade I think this is quite a good Bill. It will certainly help to stimulate the building of houses, but it is not going to help to stimulate the building of houses which will be occupied by the working classes. This is a Bill for the better housing of the middle classes, or it is a Bill to provide subsidies for speculative builders, but beyond that I cannot see how it is going to have any material effect upon solving the overcrowding problem in the towns and cities of the Saorstát.

The proposition is to pay a subsidy in the case of a five-roomed house, having a certain floor space, of £150 to £200 per house. Then the builder may do what he likes with it. He may let it at its competitive rent; he may sell it at its competitive price. It may be any kind of house within defined limits of space. It may be a shooting-box. It may be a most elaborate house built by a rich man and, provided he does not exceed the floor space, he will get his subsidy. It is probably going to have the result of building a large number of bungalows on the outskirts of the towns and cities and the letting, or selling, of these bungalows to the better-off classes. There is foreshadowed in this proposition—the President can give his ideas on the matter—the repeal or the non-renewal of the Rent Restrictions Act when the present Act expires. The effect of this Bill will be to create competition amongst those people who need houses in the price of houses, whether in rent or in selling price. It will mean that the builder of a house, having got advantage of the £150 or £200 subsidy, will take the most possible out of the tenant. One might suggest to the Minister for Finance that he should keep a careful watch on the effect of this, and possibly succeeding Bills of a like kind, upon ground rents and the increase of incomes of ground landlords due to the activities of the Government and the subsidies paid by this Bill to builders.

I do not know for certain whether it is intended by sub-section (3) of Section 10 to provide for the repeal of Section 4 of last year's principal Act, whether it is intended that in respect of all or any of the houses built, or begun to be built, under last year's Act, the restrictions in regard to selling price or rent are to be removed. Perhaps we could learn whether in respect of houses built under last year's Act the restrictions will be maintained, but that in respect to this year's Act they will be abandoned. The answer to that question will be rather interesting, because I can imagine, following last week's debate and discussion upon a cognate question, that the persons who built houses under last year's Act will be coming forward and looking for some kind of compensation, or, at least, a repayment of some kind, because they were induced to build under restrictions which their successors under this year's Act will not have applied to them. Last week, following the pleadings of the President, the Dáil decided to make a present of certain remission of rates to those who built during the last two or three years. Now, are we to understand that people who built under last year's Act, or even people who built a month or two months before last year's Act came into operation, are to be left in a worse position than the people who will be building under the new Act? Or is last week's precedent to be applied by the Ministry, or by the President, when applications from bungalow-builders for remissions come in?

I foresee that, as a result of the passing of this Bill, there will be a good deal of building trade activity. It is apparently the Ministry's policy to stimulate the building trade within the next two years to its absolute maximum. With the stimulation promised last week in respect of the larger buildings, and with the stimulation under this Bill for bungalows and middle-class houses, we shall have the building trade pretty active. But, except very indirectly, we are not going to do anything under this Bill to ease the situation for the over-crowded citizens of Dublin or Cork or Limerick or Waterford, or any of the larger towns. There was a restriction last year of 12/3 per week in rent plus rates for a five-room house. It is alleged now that that restriction was too severe and militated against speculation on the part of builders, so that houses were not built in the way it was hoped they would be built. But if we remove that restriction, what are we to expect? We must expect that the weekly rental of these houses will be higher than 12/3, plus rates, or if they are sold that the price will be higher than £400, plus the subsidy. In that case, who can expect that the average wage-earner in the city or town is going to be assisted at all in getting houses under this Bill?

Perhaps we might hear from the Minister whether the restriction as to the selling price, which was contained in last year's Act, has been enforced as a matter of fact, or if it is intended that it should be enforced in respect of houses built under last year's Act, because it has come to my hearing that quite a number of houses which have been built, or are in course of building, under last year's Act, and a subsidy for which has been paid, or partially paid, have been transferred at prices higher than the price indicated in the Bill. I cannot substantiate that. It is more or less a well-authenticated rumour, but I would like to have it made clear by the President whether the restrictions under which grants were paid under last year's Act are to be enforced, or whether they are to be repealed and the owners of such houses, whether under last year's Act or under this Bill, to be free to get any prices they can in the market for new houses, or to let them at any price they can get from weekly tenants.

I am not going to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill, because it is going to assist the building of houses. It will mean the building of a good many houses, to be occupied by the better-off classes and, consequently, there will be a certain easement in the towns and cities, but it will be so very slight that the workers will not get any appreciable relief. As a matter of fact, I would hazard to guess that the amount of building will hardly meet the increased natural demand for new houses, owing to the excess of the marriage rate over the death rate and the decay of certain classes of houses. I do not believe that this method of treating the housing problem is going to do what is required to any degree at all. I do not think you are going to relieve the problem of Dublin City. The amount is £300,000 per year—that is to say, £300,000 under last year's Act and £300,000 under this Bill. Suppose that £300,000 per year goes on for ten years, is it going to be as effective, is it going to produce the same kind of organised building of houses, as a £3,000,000 loan, with a ten year programme, would produce? I believe that if you were to proceed by way of a housing loan for a period of ten years, you would probably get much better results, because you would induce working to a programme, and people could look ahead and organise for future years.

A question was raised by Deputy Byrne respecting the Public Utility Society and the preference given to that Society over the individual. There may be a very good reason for that. But I would like to make a suggestion, which the Minister might consider before the Committee Stage—that the definition of "Public Utility Society" should be enlarged so as to include friendly societies and trade unions, some of which have schemes by which houses can be built for their members. That is a Committee point, but, perhaps the Minister would consider the suggestion between now and the Committee Stage. A more serious point in the definitions arises from the difference between the definition in this Bill of what a house is and the definition in last year's Act. Under last year's measure, the word "house" meant a "dwelling-house." This year the word "house" means a building suitable for occupation as a dwelling-house." and includes a self-contained flat. Under that description—"a building suitable for occupation as a dwelling-house"—I am afraid we may have the reconstruction of stables, lofts and very poor premises indeed to serve as "houses," according to what the Minister or his advisers consider suitable. Perhaps that point is a point for Committee too, but I would not like it to be thought that we are proceeding in this Bill to pay subsidies to people who turn their rather dilapidated stables into dwellinghouses—though many of the stables, such as they are, are better than some dwelling-houses.

There is an omission in the schedule to this Bill which would require some explanation. Last year there were two separate parts in the schedule and two separate lists of amounts to be paid in respect of houses, some of which applied to houses where sewers and water mains were not available and the others to houses where sewers and water mains were available. In the present Bill there is no such distinction made and I take it that the subsidy will be paid whether sewers and water mains are available or not.

There was some question in the debate last year as to the period during which houses were to be built under that scheme. The first proposition was twelve months. I think that was extended to eighteen months, with the possibility of a further four months. Now it is extended to twenty-two months, with the possibility of a further four months. We have learned, by the answer of the Minister to a question to-day that the actual number of houses completed up to date, both urban and rural, under last year's Act, is 167. It is now eleven months since the Act was passed, and while a good deal can be done in the fine weather which we hope will come, and while we had a great deal of bad weather which militated against building during the past few months, it is quite clear that the longer period that was asked for last year was required.

I feel, in regard to the Bill, that it is likely to be good in its effect upon the building trade. It may mean a very considerable demand for building trade labour, skilled and unskilled. It may, perhaps, mean a demand for new kinds of skilled labour, and, in that way, it might be a very good thing for the building trade. It will certainly be a very good thing for the building trade employers and speculators, and I have no doubt it will get a great deal of support from them, and from other persons who are in a position to enter the market for building houses either for themselves or for speculation. Undoubtedly, it will mean the building of another 3,000 houses—perhaps 6,000 houses in the long run. But I wonder will the President tell us seriously that he believes that any considerable proportion of those houses are likely to be occupied by any man earning less than £4 per week.

I anticipate that we shall have a demand from the outer areas of Dublin, Cork and Limerick, from shopkeepers, schoolmasters and that class generally, but I think we are going to provide but a very small number of houses, if any, under this Bill for the rehousing of the working classes, in the commonly accepted use of that term. I think until we begin to apply our minds seriously to the problem of rehousing the overcrowded dwellers in the towns, not merely in Dublin, but in other towns, we cannot be said to be tackling the housing problem with anything like seriousness.

Like other Deputies who have spoken on this Bill, I am glad to note that the President has dropped several of the objectionable clauses in last year's Bill to which many took exception. I am glad to note also that the Schedule has been considerably improved from one point of view, but, like Deputy Johnson, I am afraid that improvement will have the tendency of providing a house that can only be occupied by what he calls a "middle-class person," but what I would rather be inclined to call by another name, a "labour aristocrat." Anybody who refers to the Schedule will see that we are encouraging a larger and a betterclass house. The Schedule provides for a payment, in respect of such houses, to local authorities and public utility societies, a sum of £100, while for the smaller houses for which the need is much greater, a subsidy of only £60 is provided.

I was not able to follow the figures which the President was good enough to read out, showing the working of last year's Act, to see whether that tendency that one sees in this Bill was borne out by the working of last year's Act; that is, that the larger number of houses finished and in the course of erection under the Act are five-roomed houses, rather than four or three-roomed houses. From an ordinary knowledge of the results of last year's Act, I am rather inclined to think that the tendency was in favour of the five-roomed house, and I am afraid that the result of this Bill will be very much the same. That, I think, is one of the aspects of this question that ought to have the consideration of the Executive Council. One of the matters to which we take exception in commerce and which is one of our difficulties in connection with reviving trade, is the high cost of living in this country, and one of the most important items in connection with the cost of living is the rent of the house to be occupied by the worker. Therefore it is essential, if we are to get the cost of living reduced and thereby revive trade, that we must make a start in trying to help the worker to reduce his weekly burden, and the burden that possibly he finds the most difficult to meet is the burden of house rent.

I would urge, therefore, and urge strongly, as I did when the previous Bill was under consideration, that we should try to encourage the building of a larger number of smaller houses rather than a smaller number of larger houses as this Bill, like its predecessor, seems to encourage. Of course, I will be immediately met by the argument that a three-roomed house has many objections, particularly from the point of view of the man with a large family. But we must remember that in these houses there are a great many tenants with small families; also there are many poor widows with one or two in family, as well as aged persons. I have not seen any census of the occupants of these houses, but I very much doubt if such a census were provided, that we would find that there was any great preponderance of people with large families. So that we are really providing for a class that does not exist to the extent, possibly, that many members of this House appear to think. In any case, I think it would be the proper policy, in view of the urgent demand for houses and in view of the— I was going to say greater—necessity of lowering the cost of living, that we should give consideration to the problem as to whether it would not be more desirable in the end, notwithstanding these difficulties, to give the greater encouragement to the small houses at a small rent. As I said, that house is placed at a disadvantage under the previous Act and the disadvantage is repeated under this Bill. A local authority which erects a three-roomed house gets £60 under this Bill. A local erecting a five-roomed house a local authority gets £100. One would be almost inclined to say, from one's experience of the problem, that it would be wise for the Government to reverse these figures and to give the larger encouragement to the smaller houses rather than to the larger houses. There may be some difficulty on the part of the Executive Council in going as far as that, but I would like them to go as far as giving the smaller house an equal encouragement, at all events, with the larger house and in that way help, and help materially, towards meeting the difficulty of many of these small wage earners referred to by Deputy Johnson, men and women earning from 30/- per week, in trying to provide decent accommodation for themselves and their families.

Under any of these schemes the three-roomed house calls for a rent that is exceedingly difficult for the ordinary worker to meet at the present time. That being the case—and I think Deputy Johnson and those who sit with him will agree that it is—I think we ought to try and look at the problem from their point of view and try to meet it from their point of view. In that connection possibly Deputy Johnson and those who sit with him might be very helpful in this matter of providing what he might call cheaper rents for those who are anxious to occupy modern houses. As I said last week, and on previous occasions in this House, building, whether it is the building of the factory, the building of a bungalow, or the building of a small cottage for the worker—building of any kind—is too expensive, and I am quite satisfied that we cannot solve the problem that has been referred to by Deputy Johnson, a problem in connection with which many of us have been up against the local authorities for some considerable time—I think there is common agreement amongst all who have looked into the problem on this—until the cost of building can be reduced. Deputy Johnson has referred to that fact in connection with this Bill. This Bill cannot alter the circumstances as we find them, but Deputy Johnson and those who sit with him can consider those circumstances. I think they will agree, if they come to consider them, that they are not without responsibility in this matter and that it is only by that consideration, by that particular section, that we would be able to keep down the cost of building and thereby be able to provide houses for the many who are anxious to get them to-day.

This Bill is intended to facilitate the building of houses, but I cannot understand why a distinction must be made between local authorities and persons who wish to erect houses themselves. Under the Act of last year, for urban districts you are giving £50 for a three-roomed house, £70 for a four-roomed house, and £90 for a five-roomed house. Under this Bill you specify for a three-roomed house £45, a four-roomed house £60, and a five-roomed house £75, while you are giving the local authorities, £60, £80 and £100. I think that is really unfair. If we want to get down to the root of the evil of congestion in the different towns and districts we must give the same facilities to the individual as are given to the local authorities. What is the matter with the 1924 Act, that such a very small number of people have taken advantage of it? It is simply because there was not a sufficient subsidy to allow people to carry on building, and because they excluded reconstruction in the rural districts, which I think is really unfair, when it is allowed in the urban districts.

At the present time there are hundreds of people in this country living in despicable hovels. Some of them are thatched. They are roofed with thatch, and that is an unhealthy thing. You exclude them from improving their holdings simply because they do not live in a place with 500 of a population, or they do not live 880 yards from a place with 500 or more of a population. I would ask the President to include people of the type I refer to. The same should be done for all the citizens of the Saorstát and no distinction should be made between them. If this country is, as we maintain it to be, an absolutely free country, I think each citizen should have the same facility offered him. In the constituency that I represent, there are no fewer than 50 or 60 people who would like to build but they cannot do so because of the subsidy allowed by the Government. They must have the building erected and they must bear all the costs of the erection before they are entitled to even half the grant. When they have the roof on, as certified by the engineer or the inspector, they get the remainder.

If the Government are really serious in relieving housing congestion, they will give a decent subsidy. A subsidy of £75 is not sufficient to encourage a person to build in the rural districts. Under Section 6 it is specified that local authorities have power to give a grant equivalent to the amount given directly by the Government to persons desirous of building. They have additional power to give loans to the extent of double the amount of the grant. I would ask those members of the Dáil who are members of a local authority, has any local authority in the Saorstát taken advantage of the Act and given a loan to persons anxious to build? Have they given any grant equivalent to the amount advanced by the Government? I know the Westmeath Co. Council has given a free site; but that is all they have given.

I do not think there is a district or urban council in the Saorstát that has availed of the last Act. If the Government is genuine in its desire to be out for the welfare of the people, instead of saying that the local authorities may give a grant, they should say that the local authorities shall give a grant, and so enable the people to build. Take any town of 200 or 2,000 of a population and you will find the entrance to it in a lamentable condition. Streets are in a bad way and houses are falling. The whole place forms an eyesore to the people. It is necessary that there should be well-built towns. In Athlone, Mullingar or Longford, you will find places where nine and ten people live in one room. There is a decided state of congestion. People cannot take advantage of this Housing Bill, because the subsidy given by the Government is not sufficient. I welcome the Bill. The Minister for Finance said some time ago: "Blessed is he who expects little, for he shall get less." I welcome those grants. The people of the Saorstát expect much from the Government, but, then, the more you expect, possibly the less you will get.

I would like the President to make an equitable allocation of the amounts that local authorities may obtain and the amounts that will be advanced to individuals. It is only right that where a person desires to erect a house the grant should be just as much as would be given in the case of a local authority. If the subsidies are made equal in that respect, you will have plenty of people anxious to build in order to have a comfortable residence for themselves and their families. I think the President should endeavour to facilitate people who are anxious to build houses. In the rural districts the people have not been properly facilitated up to the present. Small farmers and labourers should not be excluded from the benefits of the Bill. They should be given as much consideration as people living in towns of 500 of a population and upwards.

I hope that in twelve months' time the figures which will have relation to the working of this Bill will be as favourable towards the rural population as they have been under the Act passed twelve months ago. Under the last Act, four-fifths of the grant have been utilised by the farmers. The farmers always see a good thing. Naturally, they see something good in this. There is, however, a blot in this, just as there was in the last Act. Nobody can give a real reason why the reconstruction of a house should not be permitted.

You want the whole hog.

Deputy Lyons made a case which ought to get a good deal of consideration. There can be no reason given why a citizen who desires to improve his house in a rural area should not be assisted by the Government. The Government, apparently, is anxious to facilitate everyone else. Personally, I hold that we should not assist anyone; we should all work on our own. But when good things come, and when good things are flying about, there is no reason why advantage should not be taken of them. I hold there is no reason why facilities should not be offered in regard to the reconstruction of a house in rural areas. There is a good deal to be said for the case put forward by Deputies A. Byrne and Lyons in connection with the giving of a grant to individuals and the placing of that grant on the same basis as the giving of a grant to a local authority.

In the country you will not find many public utility societies. On the other hand, from my own experience, I am aware there are many individuals anxious to build houses. They are not connected with any public utility societies, and their main anxiety is to build their own dwellings. If it is intimated to them that they will get a grant of £100, houses will go up very quickly. I do not think the Bill will effect the purpose Deputy Johnson sets out. It will not bring about the erection of houses to be let to working men in the cities. That is a problem that will have to be settled by Deputy Johnson and Deputy Good, working together.

And the banks.

The banks are not the trouble.

They are the trouble.

There is much to be said on both sides. We welcome the Bill, undoubtedly, and if the President will give the individual the same subsidy as is given to a public utility society we will do all we can to avail of it, as we have done in the case of the last Housing Act.

Naturally, I am going to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill. At the same time I do not want to give a silent vote. I do not want anybody to think that I believe this Bill will have the effect of solving the housing problem in urban or rural areas so far as the working classes are concerned. I take it the President is of the opinion that the Bill will to some extent achieve that problem. The criticism I will level at the Bill is on all fours with the criticism I levelled when the last Housing Bill was introduced. The criticism deals largely with the want of discrimination. What I mean by that is, that while you may be able to build a house in Dublin for £400 or £500, and rent it at an amount which will be in accordance with the standard rate of wages in Dublin, that same house in a country town could not be economically let at a rent in accordance with the rate of wages prevailing in that particular district. I think the President ought, even now, to consider it from that point of view and give larger grants for the smaller areas where wages are not as high. I also asked the President on the last occasion if the Government would approach the banks with a view to securing longer loans for local authorities.

It is absolutely impossible for local authorities to undertake a housing scheme in view of the banks refusing to lend money for longer than fifteen years. Securing money for fifteen years will not enable local authorities to let houses at a weekly rent lower than 10/-. In most country towns you will find rents ranging from 3/- to 5/- a week. If a workman is asked to pay 10/- to 12/- a week it will be beyond his power to do so, and the Bill will not fulfil the object the President has in mind; that is, to cater for the working classes in various areas. The banks ought to realise that there is at least some stability in view of last week's happenings. The country is getting a bit sane and last week the electors returned people whom they know will work in the interests of the country. In view of the position created by last week's elections, the banks ought to adopt a reasonable attitude and the Government ought to ask them to give better conditions to local authorities and grant longer loans.

I think it is asking something very unreasonable of the Government when you ask us to put forward a Bill which would solve the housing problem, and when you bear in mind the fact that a house costs almost three times its economic rent— that is, if we are to take what Deputy Corish says is a reasonable rent for country towns, or even in the city. What is a fair rent to be charged? Does it depend on the wages a man is paid?

It should be ten per cent. of his wages.

It depends on the ability of the people, whom you propose to cater for, to pay.

There must be something radically wrong with house-building if that is the case. Houses, we are told, cost £500 or £600, and if a house costs £500, £250 goes in wages. That is the story we hear. According to what we hear a man cannot afford to pay the rent from what he gets in wages. He cannot afford to pay from his own wages his rent.

It does not always follow that the man who builds a house lives in it.

Take the case of any labourer or artisan who gets £300 in wages. That is the sum given to him or to his class in connection with the building of the house. Is it unreasonable to ask £300 from him in return for the house? That is the case put up by Deputy Good, or by the employers. It is a reasonable case. If you spend that much in wages, it is reasonable that that amount should be asked in return for the house. I do not think it is generally accepted that they are in a position to do that. Then there must be something obviously wrong. My view is—it may be a heresy to pronounce it—that you are not going to solve the housing problem on a 44-hour week. I think it is impossible to do so. I am saying that now without any meditative onslaught on the conditions that are prevailing. If you had all the money required you would not settle the housing problem on a 44-hour week. Something more is necessary.

If you extend the hours you will probably never solve the unemployment problem.

Do not be too sure.

That is a very evil circle. Taking it as a business. proposition, I fail to see how it is going to be done. Where an effort is required from all sections, I would like to know what is going to be done by the various sections in contributing towards the solution of this problem. The Government is putting up £100 per house and the local authorities are putting up £100. The total cost of the house towards which this £200 is contributed will be £500. Someone has to pay £300. It is claimed that the banks are charging too high an interest, and will not give loans for a sufficiently long period. They have the management of the money which is in their charge. They claim to be simply trustees, and say that they might be called upon at any moment to pay it out; that they are not in a position to lend for long periods. There may be a good case for that. The question is, where are all the people concerned going to come together, and say, "We will all have to contribute something towards the solving of this problem"? There does not appear to be any great likelihood of such a meeting in the near future, but it must come to that. If the amount to be granted under this Bill is exhausted in nine months, and if we bring in another Bill providing another £300,000, that is not going to solve the problem. We must get assistance from all the people concerned. The Government and the local authorities are contributing more than generously towards the solution of the housing problem—more than is contributed in any other country.

Deputies have asked me why it is I would not increase the £75 to £100. The £75 grant actually means £150 towards the cost of the house, because £75 is contributed by the Government and £75 by the local authority. That is £150 for a five-roomed house. I wonder if Deputies have concerned themselves with the grant made in Northern Ireland? I am informed that the subsidy there is £60, and the floor area between 500 and 900 square feet, as against 1,250 here. The facilities provided under this Bill compare very favourably with that.

There is no guarantee that the local authorities will contribute £75. It is only provided that they may do it.

The Deputy is quite right in that. Housing, for something like 50 or 60 years, has been mainly the concern of local authorities, in urban areas under the Housing of the Working Classes Acts, and in rural areas under the Labourers Acts. The Government did not give contributions such as are proposed in this Bill during that time. I hold that any claim for an increase of the £75 proposed is unreasonable.

A larger amount is given to local authorities and public utility societies for many reasons. Local authorities, I understand, go in for housing the largest families. In a sense, that is an uneconomic policy. Looking at it from the purely financial aspect, it means that the poorest families are given the houses, as they are generally the largest. That is a splendid policy, because it means that they house the largest number. Because of that the local authorities require extra assistance. We are giving them £25 more, and they can put up the other £25 themselves. By reason of that policy the numbers to be housed are based on a higher cost than if the local authorities looked for persons who could afford to pay a higher rent.

It is said that we are housing the aristocracy and the middle classes. The annual valuation of a house erected under this Bill in the case of a city like Dublin will be something like £15 or £16. Do the middle classes occupy houses of that valuation? I do not think so. My idea of those constituting the middle classes is, those occupying houses valued from £25 to £70. That may be erroneous, but that is what I have understood the middle classes to be.

Does this Bill put any restriction on the class of house to be built except as regards size?

No. I do not think one will generally find mahogany, walnut or marble mantelpieces, or such vulgar displays of wealth in a house of three, four or five rooms. It may be that shooting lodges will be built under the Bill. As to that, all I can say is that any relief of the congestion caused by shortage of houses will be an advantage. My idea is that these houses will be occupied by artisans and tradesmen. The Government is not rich enough, the local authorities are not rich enough, to attempt to deal with the great big housing problem. It has not been dealt with in any other country that I know of, except where industrial and manufacturing activity is on a very high scale, where good wages are earned and where rich corporations, trusts, or other institutions of that kind, enter into the matter themselves and help towards solving the problem. We are asked: "What are you going to do in the case of cities like Dublin, Limerick, Cork, Waterford or Wexford?" I say that the country is not rich enough to solve the problem at present costs, and I think anybody who makes a study of it will admit the same thing.

While the number of houses built in urban areas during the last twelve months under the Housing Act is not considerable, there were, as Deputies know, quite a number of houses built in Dublin under another grant, and a good deal of reconstruction took place also in the city. I am disposed to think that an annual Bill like this would be much better than raising the loan of three millions mentioned by Deputy Johnson. If we float a loan of three million pounds, what happens? It would have to be distributed over the various areas; the local authorities have got to come in, each one claiming a proportion of it. A three million loan would be only equal to two years' Bills such as this one, that is this year's Bill and next year's Bill. I expect it is the local authority the Deputy has in mind. In the case of local authorities it is more than possible that it would damp to a very considerable extent the private or speculative builder. The speculative builder is a person who has been out of action for the last eight or ten years. It must be made attractive for him to go in again for this class of house construction. There has been a considerable amount of criticism of the speculative builder, but his was a useful contribution towards housing. It was not the general rule at the time the speculative builder was in business that exorbitant rents were demanded for every sort of housing accommodation. The practice to-day is that exorbitant rents are being demanded and are being paid. Small houses, from £25 to £27 valuation, are being let out to tenants at, in some cases, very considerable rents. Considerable amounts of money are being realised by the letting of individual rooms in this class of house. The speculative builder will stop that, and, as it is stopped, the congestion will be relieved.

I do not quite agree with Deputy Good in the case that he made for the three-roomed house. My view is that you get nearer to the economic mean in the four-roomed house. The case that is put to us is that there should be at least five rooms in a house.

And the result is that sub-letting is rampant.

I would welcome sub-letting in a five-roomed house rather than see cellar dwellings. Within the last few years cellar dwellings had become rather the rule than the exception. The sub-letting of a five-roomed house is rather better than the sub-letting of a four-roomed or a three-roomed house. I think the economic mean is nearer the four-roomed house. The increase that has been made in the floor space in this Bill is one that has been recommended by a number of persons whom we consulted on the matter. It now stands at the fairly considerable figure of 1,250 as against 1,000 last year. Even if it does mean increased business and increased profits for the speculative builders, that in its turn must produce a greater number of people engaged in that particular work, and will eventually result in a greater number of houses, and, with a greater number of houses, you will have probably a reduction in cost.

The Bill does remove the restrictions on sale and on the letting of houses provided. Under the last Act, out of 2,600 houses provided, not more than 10 were built for letting. Although the Section dealing with the holding of inquiries into the cost of materials is repealed, the Minister has power, under the present Bill, to purchase materials and sell again. But it is hoped that the necessity for that will not arise. I do not think that there is any other point raised on the discussion on this Bill.

The President does not say why he excluded rural areas from this Bill. They are excluded under it.

I think the Deputy should be aware that at the elections which took place within the last couple of months occasionally the Government was attacked for its extravagance and for the cost of its services, and for various other sins by the party on whose benches the Deputy is at present sitting in ornamental isolation. That Party made a case against us that we were extravagant. Now, I could put in that clause to give the same facilities to rural as to urban or municipal areas. But, as I explained, the cost would be prohibitive. In the case of persons living in rural areas, who would be disposed to reconstruct their houses, it would entail that 20 to 25 per cent. of the amount of the money they would get would go in administration expenses. That is too heavy a burden and, apparently, the people in some of those areas have agreed with us that it was not wise to incur extravagant expense on these matters. In the rural areas, as the Deputy will observe from the figures I have read out, something like £150,000 have been spent under the Building Facilities Act. That is a pretty considerable sum. The advantage, as far as the building of new houses is concerned, is with the rural areas. Anybody who knows the towns and cities knows that the reconstruction problem is one for them, and for them only. In rural areas such a thing as an insanitary area is not known. Insanitary houses, yes. But the insanitary area is an area of such importance that many legislative enactments have been introduced to deal with it. An insanitary house does not occupy to any extent the same position as an insanitary area. It was with a view to dealing with insanitary areas that we introduced a clause dealing with the reconstruction of houses. Insanitary areas in the country are unknown.

Why not save the people who live in insanitary houses as well as those who live in insanitary areas?

Will the President say whether there is any serious objection on the part of the Housing Department to approaching the banks with a view to seeing that they get loans for a longer period than at present? Take the case of a local authority that is seeking a loan for building a house, say at a cost of £400. They have to borrow £300. If the money is borrowed for a period of 15 years, the house will cost the tenant something about 16/- per week. Now if that money could be borrowed for 30 years it would only cost 12/- a week, which would be a comparatively reasonable rent. The President mentions that the banks are afraid that they may be called upon by certain people whose moneys they have on deposit to hand them over that money. But has not that always prevailed, that it was quite open to people to call for their money? Was not that the position when the banks were giving loans for 60 years? I think if the Government tackle this matter seriously, if they approach the banks, and point out to them that the country is getting sane again, and that we have some sort of stability, and that there is the likelihood that we are going to have more stability, then the banks might be induced to give more consideration to the question of giving loans for longer periods.

The President made the point, in reply to Deputy Lyons, that it is the cost of administration that prevents him extending the section of the Bill dealing with reconstruction to rural areas. I want to know from the President whether it is the Government who are so far responsible for paying the cost of the administration of the Act, or whether it is the people who have benefited by it. So far as I know, the people who make applications for grants have paid the cost of administration, inasmuch as they paid the fee to the inspector who represents the Local Government Department and who makes the inspection. If the man who gets the grant has to pay the fee for the Local Government Inspector, how can the President at the same time argue that the cost of administration prevents him or the Ministry from extending this section of the Bill dealing with reconstruction? Cannot he make the Bill operate as regards reconstruction so that those who seek the grant will pay the engineer's fee, as they have to do at present? Why does he make the point that the cost of administration prevents the extension of the section dealing with reconstruction to rural areas?

Would the President consider the case of people who built houses before the operation of last year's Act? Will they have any claim upon his good will and on the Ministry of Finance in the same way as the local authorities would be bound to give consideration to the claims of people who built between the years 1920 and 1925? These people who built before the operation of last year's Act took their courage in their own hands and spent money when inducements such as those contained in this Bill were lacking. If these people come to him will he compel the Minister for Finance to shell out as the local authorities are shelling out?

They are not shelling out anything.

They are remitting where they ought to have been receiving.

They are not remitting. That will not start until next year. We had that in mind last week when we passed an amendment to the Local Government Bill which, the Deputy will recollect, met with serious opposition, but on the next day, after mature deliberation, the Dáil came to a much more sensible conclusion.

We know all about that.

I would also like to tell Deputy Johnson that so far as the State is concerned it voted first of all a grant of one million pounds; the next grant was one of £300,000; and now there is a further grant of £300,000, making a total of £1,600,000. That money is responsible for a largely increased valuation in the various local authorities' valuation lists all over the country. I do not think that out of the whole of that sum the Minister for Finance will get £1 per house, or anything approaching it, for income tax.

Will any of that grant of £1,000,000 be available to people who built private houses and who took their courage in their own hands?

No, not of the £1,000,000. Twenty-four local authorities had not sufficient courage to take advantage of the situation, but the other 74 authorities made up for their lack of courage. As regards Deputy Corish's point, a fifteen-years' loan is all that the banks will agree to give. Looking at it from a detached standpoint, it is a reasonable offer on the part of the banks; but looking at it from the standpoint of the local authority, I say that it is not so reasonable. What are the local authorities doing themselves? Have they endeavoured in any case to float a loan and get their own people to take it up? It is not the banks' business to give more than a fifteen-years' loan. It is practically unknown for banks to go beyond a period of fifteen years except in cases of sums for a considerable amount. The sum involved in this is considerable, but is it proposed that the local authorities should borrow money in order to make a grant of £100 per house? If that is so, I say "No, I will not go to the banks for that." The local authority will have to place on the backs of the people each year that sum. That, at all events, is my view. The other matter, the difference between the grant and the price of the house, is a different question. I think it is time that local authorities should consider the raising of a loan and realise the difficulties of the Government and not be always looking to the Government to solve every problem of local authorities and individuals.

Does the President not remember that in last August or September there was a deputation from the Association of Municipal Authorities? They waited on him and on the Minister for Local Government, and asked the permission of the Government for the establishment by the various local authorities of some sort of limited liability stock company with a view to floating a loan. Up to now they are waiting for answers from the Minister and the President.

I understand that the Municipal Authorities Association was to appoint a smaller deputation which was to put some proposals before it, but, so far as I know, they have not yet arrived.

It would perhaps be wrong to say that the President knows all about it, but the Minister for Local Government will remember that the day following that on which the larger deputation was received the smaller deputation met him and put the proposals before him.

These proposals were not put before us in any definite form. There were no concrete proposals.

The main proposal was that the Government should give the money deposited in the savings bank and hand it over to the local authorities to build houses, but we turned that proposal down.

I would be sorry to think that the President thought that that was the main proposal. It was merely an incident in the discussion which somebody suggested. The deputation asked the President to make this Act applicable.

And I did.

You did, but the local authorities are still concerned about the difference between the amount of this grant and the amount necessary to build a house. I cannot see why the Housing Department of the Government should not approach the banks with a view to asking them to afford greater facilities to local authorities. That is not a bit too much to ask them. Last week we were so liberal we remitted a sum amounting to two-thirds of the rates, but now the Government will not approach the banks to secure better facilities for the housing of the people of the country.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage fixed for Tuesday, 24th March.