I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. Deputies may recollect that it was announced about a year and a half ago that we proposed to bring to an end the payment of certain grants under certain sections of the Housing Acts, 1932 to 1937. Last year there were protests from different parts of the House at different times and requests to me to reconsider the decision to bring these housing grants to an end on the 1st September last year and many requests to extend the period. There were also a number of requests from different parts of the House for further facilities in regard to the remission of rates. This Bill proposes to deal with these two matters and these two matters only.
The purpose of this Bill is to extend the time for the completion of houses for which grants may be made to private persons and public utility societies under the Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) Acts, 1932 to 1937, and to extend the rating provisions of Section 10 (1) (b) of the Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1932, to houses in urban areas affected by grants under the Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) (No. 2) Act, 1936.
Under the Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) Acts, 1932 to 1937, the amount of money provided for such grants is £3,500,000. Of this sum there remained to be allocated on the 1st instant a sum of £390,790. It is anticipated that this amount will be sufficient to cover likely allocations up to the end of October next and, accordingly, the provision of further funds at this stage is not considered necessary. The existing Acts, however, would not permit of the allocation or payment of grants for houses built or reconstructed after 31st March, 1939. The Government have decided to extend the dates for completion, and the Bill before the House makes no change in the rates of grants. It proposes in respect of grant-aided houses, to extend (1) for a further year, i.e., to the 31st March, 1940, the date for the completion of houses in rural areas by private persons and public utility societies; (2) to 31st March, 1940, the period for the acquisition by urban local authorities of houses capable of conversion into family dwellings and their sale or lease to a philanthropic society or body of persons approved by the Minister and to the same date the period for carrying out the improvement, enlargement or repair of such houses; (3) for a further period of three years, i.e., to 31st March, 1942, the date for the completion by public utility societies in urban areas of new houses built for letting in accordance with the provisions of Section 5 (1) (i) of the Act of 1932. The practice hitherto has been to grant a year's extension, but it is considered, owing to the length of time it takes to carry out such schemes, necessary to make greater provision to enable arrangements to be completed; (4) to the 31st March, 1939, the date for the completion of houses in urban areas by private persons and public utility societies provided the houses shall have been commenced on or after the 1st July, 1936, and before the 1st day of June, 1938.
Under the Housing and Labourers Act, 1937, all houses which were being built by private persons and public utility societies in urban areas, with the aid of grants under the Housing Acts, were required to be completed by the 30th September last, but for various reasons a limited number of persons were unable to complete their houses by the statutory date.
Any person who intended to avail of the grant would, it is believed, commence the erection of the house at least four months before the expiration of the statutory period, and in making the concession proposed by the Bill, viz., to allow grants to be paid where the erection of the houses was begun before 1st June last and satisfactorily completed by 31st March, 1939, all cases of hardship are being reasonably met. The number of houses affected is about 260.
The amount of money allocated to private persons and public utility societies at 1st instant for the erection of houses in urban areas was £612,627 for the building of 11,775 houses, and in rural areas £1,369,114 for the erection of 20,340 houses, making a total of £1,981,741 for the building of 32,115 houses.
The amount allocated for the reconstruction of existing houses at the same date was £1,125,744 in respect of 29,639 houses. These figures, with a sum of £1,725 for the reconditioning of houses so as to form 23 flats, represent a total of £3,109,210 in allocations in respect of the erection and reconstruction of 61,777 dwellings.
The number of new houses completed under these grants at 1st instant was 25,539, of which 10,354 were erected in urban areas, and 15,185 in rural areas. At the same date the total number of houses reconstructed by small farmers and agricultural labourers was 19,631. The total number of new houses built and reconstructed by private persons and public utility societies up to 1st instant was 45,170, as compared with 34,846 at 1st February, 1938. The amount paid by way of grants from the Act of 1932 to 1st instant was £2,475,405. At the present date the outstanding approvals cover over 15,000 houses, showing that there is a considerable volume of work in hand for the ensuing year. To enable these to be completed with the aid of grants and to permit the allocation of further grants this Bill is presented to the House.
Section 3 of the Bill deals with the remission of rates and is in the nature of a section to remove doubts. It has been contended that paragraph (b) of Section 5 (1) of the 1932 Act relating to houses erected with the aid of grants in urban areas and entitled to the partial remission of rates was replaced by paragraph (k) inserted in the 1932 Act by the Housing Amendment No. 2 Act of 1936 but it is considered desirable to remove any doubt in the matter.
The section continues the partial remission of rates for seven years provided for under Section 10 of the Act of 1932 in respect of all houses erected, with the aid of grants, in urban areas and is retrospective in its application to the date of the passing of the No. 2 Act of 1936. So far as the Department are aware local authorities have in fact been granting the remission without question.