I would first like to add what support I can, possibly not, maybe, to the extent of a new Ministry, but certainly to the idea of co-ordinating and centralising in one authority the whole housing problem. I feel myself that it should be all under one competent head, one that readily suggests itself to my mind is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Department of Local Government, and that he should have in his hands not only the question of housing from the point of view of the contribution from the Department of Local Government or of sites, but also from the point of view of the issue of building licences and the side now dealt with by the Department of Industry and Commerce. I would impress upon the Minister the need to have these things coalesced so that a person will know exactly what is going on. Many of us have faced the problem where people with building licences and permits to buy certain commodities reach a certain stage of their operation and then comes the hiatus, then comes the delay, while they have to reapply for more quantities. I feel myself that it is absolutely necessary to have some kind of central control and I would like to add whatever support I can to the suggestions of Deputy Fitzpatrick, Deputy Byrne and Deputy Dr. Brennan in this matter. I do not feel that it would warrant a new Ministry because I feel that if the question of housing was taken out of the Local Government administration the Minister would be able to encompass much of the work that falls on his Parliamentary Secretary.
I am rather interested in the idea of the housing loan. I think that was a very practical suggestion as thrown out by the Clann na Poblachta Party. I want, however, to go, maybe, a little further. I want a combination of a housing loan and house purchase because of the type of persons that have been universally referred to all round the House as "white collar workers" or the small salary earner who faces a very acute, in fact in some cases a far more acute, problem than that which affects people who are entitled to become beneficiaries under local government and county council schemes. There are three particular parts of the housing question from his view, and one, which was very properly referred to by Deputy Fitzpatrick, is this extraordinary question of high fines and exorbitant ground rents. That is the first step and the first very large initial cost for the moderate salaried man who has to face the problem of building a house. There is, to my mind, if the Minister has the courage to take it, a very simple solution to that problem. Instead of allowing speculators and investors in to the building sites and allowing an abnormal position to arise, he should confer with his colleague, the Minister for Lands, and make available, by acquisition if necessary, sites for that type of people and should fix for them whatever the State thinks a fair and reasonable rent under the circumstances. In a state of national emergency, he should declare that certain areas, particularly round the City of Dublin, will be reserved for building and will not be let into the hands of the hungry speculators to rob the section of the community who can least afford it.
I think a housing loan would be aided by a national purchase scheme. I think that Deputy Colley struck a very sound note when he said that many people in the small salaried group were anxious to face the possibility of purchasing a house, getting married and settling down. They face this difficulty, that they cannot find the deposit required to initiate their purchase scheme. I say that, as the landless man and the congest are treated in connection with land division, we should treat what I describe as the city and the rural congest and the houseless man; we should have some national scheme.
We are told that our credit is high and that we should have no difficulty in raising the money. So long as you keep housing within the budgetary position I think that Deputy Fitzpatrick's comment is very fair, that we are only really tickling the problem. You have to take it out of budgetary consideration and arrive at the position that sections of the community must be fairly considered as having equal claims on this State, that each section of the community can be helped and that the middle-class man or the small salary earner can have his house built by the State, enter into it, and pay an annuity which will make him a purchasing tenant without having first to lay out, as he has now, some abnormal expenses to which I shall refer.
I am not going to criticise any profession, but to the ordinary man facing the problem of getting a site, preparing the plans of his house and paying legal fees, there seems to be a huge incubus. It is quite true that all these professions must live, but that is a burden which, to my mind, can be eased for the particular type of person to whom I refer by some kind of a comprehensive State plan in which there will be, if not a standard type of house, a type of house that will be limited in space to a certain extent, a type of house that will come within the annuity scheme that I suggest to the Minister very seriously. You have to get to this position, that these initial costs will be bulked in such a way that they will not impose a crushing burden, such as that quoted by Deputy Fitzpatrick of nearly £130 between architects' and lawyers' fees, after paying something in the region of a fine of £150 for a site. The burden will have to be eased for these people. I say it can be eased if these matters are dealt with on a national basis and the scheme is designed to deal with a bulk of houses at a time so that you will be able to spread your architects' and lawyers' costs over a number of individuals and in that way alleviate the initial shock to them.
To my mind, the question of building has been properly stated by Deputies to be one of national emergency. Therefore, I feel that the present Minister, in the knowledge of the support he now has throughout this House, is in a position to take a bold new line. As this House is unanimous in regarding this as a ruthless national cancer which must be immediately arrested, the Minister is in a position to take a bold line and consider the scheme submitted to him. He should rise above budgetary difficulties and face this problem on a broad national basis, using some of the resources of credit that we have so that we may deal equitably and expeditiously with all sections of the community.
I am going to advocate a few very unpopular things in the course of my speech. I am going to start right here now by suggesting to the Minister that he might study the method at present in vogue in Australia, where the Government decided that no man was going to have a superabundance in the housing line until the national housing problem was dealt with. I say that the Minister should take to himself the power, which I feel the House will give him, to control all building materials, to direct various people engaged in the trade where supplies shall go and to put his second priority category out of mind altogether until such time as the first priority is dealt with. There is no good in Deputy MacEntee, as he did, making pleas for people who want to build £4,000 or £5,000 houses in this city. Remember, the material that goes into that £4,000 or £5,000 house could be far more advantageously used to alleviate the housing problem of the poorer sections of the community or to give the "unfortunate forgotten man," as somebody called him, the middle-class man, the small salary earner, some chance of getting a house.
In dealing with housing one is faced with the necessity of having an iron control over supplies of materials. The argument addressed to this House by Deputy Brennan in defence of luxury building to me sounded puerile—that it was because local authorities or somebody else would not get ahead with housing schemes that Deputy MacEntee, the then Minister, gave licences for the erection of luxury buildings. I want the new Minister to take unto himself the power to see, if such a situation should arise, that he will be able to use some big stick to make the local authorities get down to the heart of the problem of housing, namely, the unfortunate or the lowly-paid class in this country.
To suggest that luxury building should be excused on that ground is, to my mind, a pathetic tragedy that typifies the unreal approach to housing of the former Minister, because this is something that, within itself, will sow the seed of tremendous domestic unrest and trouble in this country if it is not faced properly. We cannot allow the situation to continue which was described by some of the Dublin Deputies and which I know to be true of certain areas in this country where people are living under unbelievable, intolerable, inhuman, stone-age conditions and expect people to stand for that all the time. If this government are to make one real, honest, sincere and energetic advance, I ask the Minister to get outside budgetary considerations altogether, to get after exactly what he wants and, as far as I am personally concerned, any support I can give him, he will get to face this problem in the best way he can. I say he will have to do that on the lines of taking for the period of this housing emergency certain drastic powers.
There is a problem that presents itself. I have seen it in many areas. In towns such as Drogheda, or cities like Cork, there are various places where you have proximate seaside resorts. There are in these areas serviceable seaside houses, nice bungalows and houses of various types which are occupied from one to three months of the year by the more fortunate class of the people who have two houses. I say to the Minister, in all earnestness, that, while this emergency is being alleviated, where he can use one of these houses to house a family that needs it or to help a newly-wed to establish a home, he should take it and that no man should be allowed in this country to maintain two houses unless he is occupying both. I know that is an unpopular suggestion but I know that, even though you may have to ask these people who, incidentally, in most cases can well afford it, to change from running their houses at the sea for three or four years, while he is getting to real grips with the problem, the amount of benefit that might be reaped by allowing families to occupy these houses and have a reasonable family life for the waiting period would more than justify any hardship or any grouse that might come from that section of the community.
It is easy for a person like myself to plan schemes but I do not feel that the Minister is in this impregnable position that, without blaming the last Government—any credit that may be due to them for housing, they can take it graciously from me because I give it to them gratuitously—whatever the reason, the housing problem is now worse than ever it was and, in that set of circumstances, he never had a bigger support than he has now to face it. He can, if he so desires, use the invitation of this House to come back to us with concrete plans to build, and build quickly, houses that will relieve some of the immediate intolerable situation that arises both in the City of Dublin and in the rural areas.
The City of Dublin is a huge problem because it has a huge population and by reason of numbers can be magnified into a pathetic tragedy but in any rural area—the Minister in particular will know the area I represent—in its own small way there is squalor and misery though not on as large a scale. This problem has to be faced, the problem of relieving Dublin and the country at the same time. That cannot be done by any piecemeal method. It will have to be done on a board, large, national basis.
I cannot conceive, or concede, that the last Government was entirely blameless because the position in regard to materials has been improving but the little potentate that sat in the last Government's ministerial office of Local Government seemed to be more interested, as he indicated in his remarks last night, in the development of such things as Butlin's Camp than in coming to grips with what was rapidly all around him becoming the crying need of the nation. Here is something for the information of Deputy MacEntee. I happen to live in very close proximity to Butlin's Camp. The squad of men mobilised there and the materials mobilised and used there, I have no hesitation in saying, would have gone practically the complete way of solving the immediate housing problem of Drogheda. But what does Deputy MacEntee contribute to the debate here? Apparently, a propagandist effort for the benefit of Butlin's shareholders. I would like to know what real justification he feels there is in the suggestion of holidays for the workers. I would love to know from any Deputy what Dublin workers, about whom the Deputy is so solicitous, can afford the luxury of the type of holiday Butlin purports to give.
The Minister will have to do this and he will have to do it rigidly and ruthlessly; he will have to control all types of luxury or semi-luxury building. He will have to put first things first and keep them first until they are dealt with completely. In my mind there is no case at all to be made for the very rich man to get a palace or a luxury house in which to live while the crying need is the type of house that the ordinary man and woman, the majority and, if I may say so, the real backbone of the country, want. These houses must be given first. Let the rich wait. If they have to wait in luxury suites in hotels or anything else, do not let the Minister worry about that. Let him have the ordinary Irish man and woman dealt with first and then come to the rich man because, if you took out of the City of Dublin some of the recent importees by way of aliens and denominations of all types and nationalities of all types and left the expensive house in Dublin to the ordinary Irishman or Dublin man who wants that type of market, I am perfectly satisfied that you would have an adequate supply of them, sufficient, at any rate, to put the problem of housing for the ordinary class and for the small salaried class in a priority away and above any consideration you might have for these people. The rich man can always fend for himself. It is a very old saying that he will always get by. But the man living to a fixed salary has to live within it. That should be the Minister's approach to the housing problem—to get houses for the people who are in most need of them because, in the main, the large families and the really serious housing necessities are confined to the working class or the small salaried type.
At the present time you have people, supported apparently by some of the Opposition, rushing to buy houses at £5,000 and £6,000 who have neither child nor relation. They have so many rooms in their houses that they can lose themselves in them. Is it seriously suggested that that kind of thing should be allowed to continue, while we have in the City of Dublin the situation that was described by Deputy Fitzpatrick and Deputy Byrne?
There is another matter in connection with housing that I want to deal with. I am not a builder or an engineer, but to my mind the real cost of housing is not eaten up by the foundations and the walls but by the kind of knick-knacks and perquisites that go into a house. I would urge on the Minister, where it is possible and practicable to do so on the advice of his experts, to get as much standard type material—immediately ready-to-use material—as possible, because to the person who has a leaking roof or a stinking room all the embellishments and little knick-knacks will not mean as much as the sound dry house that four walls encompass. Much of the expense in housing is eaten up between the time a house is finished and all the embellishments have been completed. I strongly urge on the Minister to try, as far as possible, to get supplies of material that will tend to cut down the internal costs of a house.
On the question of the approach to this housing problem, the Minister is, in my opinion, in the position that he will either have to get away from the conservatism and the methods that we have adopted up to date or else the problem will never be solved. Let people make what use they will of the extravagant promises or the extravagant housing suggestions that were made by any Party. The only regret I have is that the Minister did not forget altogether about Deputy MacEntee's Estimate and about the present approach of the Department to housing. I am sorry that he did not scrap the whole lot and come in here with something new and real, something big and immense, if he wanted to face the immensity of the problem that is before him. I know the experience which the Minister has had both as a member of a county council and of the Dáil. I know that from his long experience in public life he has seen this problem grow from year to year. He knows it very intimately in the constituency that we both represent, but still I want to suggest to him not to reconsider his Estimate but to consider seriously the suggestions that have been made by various members of the House—that, first of all, he should get a strong executive control, a unified control, over the whole housing problem, that he should get proper and adequate control over building materials, that he should get, by way of loan, the money that he wants to face the problem, and that, in order to overcome the difficulties in connection with sites, powers such as those possessed by the Minister for Lands should be given to the central housing authority to acquire land in certain areas for the type of houses that need to be built for the white-collar worker that we all talk so much about and do so little for.
I would also suggest to the Minister to leave the road problems to this extent, that, beyond keeping the roads adequately serviced and dealing with dangerous bends, he should try and divert as much labour as possible into the housing drive. I say to him—he is a member of the Labour Party—that if he decides to look for money for housing he should make adequate provision out of that money to treat labour fairly and well. I would urge upon labour to realise the vital nature of this problem for themselves, especially in connection with the acute shortage of houses in the Dublin area. I would earnestly suggest to the labour people, arising out of what was said here about overtime, that it might be feasible if groups of skilled persons and builders' labourers would get together in their overtime period, when they are not allowed to earn money, and make an attempt to solve their own housing problems for themselves. I suggest to the Minister that where such groups get together to work on schemes for themselves, he should give them every encouragement as far as the provision of material is concerned.
If they did come together and engaged on such schemes it would be to their own advantage. They could be given material and supplies and a preference for the houses erected by their own labour. I feel that a scheme on those lines might prove feasible. I would like to see it tried, because the housing problem is getting into such a state that it has almost become a 24-hour-a-day problem. I would like to see these people who, despite everything, stood by the Irish builders and by the Irish building drive, given every facility that the Minister can possibly give them in order that they may be able to help to meet the need there is for houses for themselves.
Roads, to my mind, take second place to housing. If the work of the county councils were directed mainly by the Minister to keeping the roads in a serviceable condition and dealing with other immediate road problems, they would then be in a position to devote more time and energy to housing. Finally, I want to deal with the alarming tendency that is to be observed so far as rate increases are concerned.
A good deal of that is attributable to the high costs of housing. I feel that where it is becoming an overburden on the ratepayers in any area to meet with the solution of the housing problem—an over-burdened rate problem that the Minister envisaged in the question of a loan for housing—the possibility should be considered of using part of that money to enable local authorities to bridge the gap that exists now in what we hope is the highest peak of cost. If that is not done I feel that the rents of houses built by local authorities will have to be raised to a point which would be unfair to the type of tenant that may have to occupy them. If this housing is to be permanent it must first of all shelter our people well and at a fair economic rent within the orbit of their purse. If the solution is to come for the white-collar worker and the smaller salaried man the Minister will have to tackle the problem of giving him his site at a reasonable price; of giving him the services of an engineer and a lawyer at a reasonable price and —I earnestly urge upon the Minister— of giving him a greater scope than he has at the moment within the terms of the grant. I wholeheartedly agree with Deputy Brennan that, in the exigencies of the present situation, the Minister will have to raise the £1,750 level to something in the region of £2,100 or £2,200. Let my last word be that I wish the Minister God speed in the most pressing, urgent and necessary of our immediate national problems.