——agus leis na húdaráis áitiúla, tá socraithe agam go n-ullmhófar pleananna forbartha ar leith do na limistéirí Gaeltachta. Chun tábhacht na Gaeltachta i gcúrsaí pleanála a dháingniú, tá órdú déanta agam ag ainmniú Aire na Gaeltachta chun bheith ina údarás ceaptha chun críocha an Acht Rialtais Áitiúil (Pleanáil agus Fobairt) 1963. Sé mo chuspóir go ndéanfar gach dícheall chun tithe, soláthair uisce, séarachas, boithre níos fearr agus seirbhísí eile a chur ar fáil sna limistéirí Gaeltachta i dtreo is go mbeidh sé ar chumas na limisteirí sin lantairbhe a bhaint as na deiseanna atá ann le haghaidh forbairt tionsclaíochta, talmhaíochta agus cuartaíochta.
The net Estimate for my Department for 1967-68 is £9,030,000 which shows a net decrease of £51,450 on the comparable figure for 1966-67. The biggest single increase in the subheads of the estimate is £200,000 in respect of contributions to loan charges on local authority housing.
As the House is aware, it is a major objective of the Government's housing policy, as announced in 1964, that an output of 12,000 to 14,000 dwellings a year be achieved by 1970. Good progress is being made towards this objective. Almost 11,000 dwellings were completed in 1966-67 and in the first six months of this financial year the total of completions was approximately 5,848 compared with 5,066 in the first six months of 1966-67.
The allocation of additional capital by the Government, coinciding with the expansion of activities by the different commercial agencies concerned with the financing of private housing, is reflected in the increased output of both new dwellings and the reconstruction and improvement of existing dwellings. The estimate of £3,000,000 for private housing grants which shows a decrease on the provision for 1966-67 is expected to be fully expended by 31st March next, which will compare favourably with an expenditure last year of less than £2¾ million in respect of these grants.
The improvement in output is evident more clearly from the statistics of grants allocated and works commenced. In the six months to 30th September, 3,728 grants were allocated for new dwellings which represents an increase of almost 1,000 over the allocations for the corresponding period last year. On the basis of these figures, it is estimated that the total number of grants allocated for new houses in the current financial year will exceed 7,000.
The scheme of increased grants to small farmers and certain other classes for the provision of new houses has now been in operation for nearly four years and is proving to be very successful in helping to satisfy the housing needs in rural areas. This type of housing is now accounting for approximately 1,000 of the total annual output of new houses. On the other hand, except in a few areas, housing authorities have not been using the special scheme for the provision of houses for small farmers with a land valuation of under £5 to the extent I would like. The very generous subsidy terms which apply to this scheme provide authorities with an unequalled chance to improve the housing standards of small farmers at a minimum cost to the rates and the applicants, and I am surprised that more use has not been made of the scheme.
The scheme of grants for new flats and maisonettes in high-rise buildings, which was introduced in the Housing Act, 1966, has begun to stimulate activity. A total of 140 grants under this heading was approved in the nine months ended 30th September, 1967, and in addition several other large-scale projects are at preliminary stages. Developments of this nature which involve investment in housing by commercial agencies who can easily find other uses for their capital are very welcome and have, in fact, been the subject of discussions earlier this year between my Department and representatives of assurance companies. In addition to satisfying an urgent need for small dwelling units, these developments also help to conserve valuable building land, with resultant savings on roads and sanitary services.
The scheme of special grants introduced in 1962 to assist charitable and philanthropic bodies in their work of providing accommodation for elderly persons is also proving very successful. In the period from 1st January to 30th September, 1967, a total of 262 grants were allocated in respect of new dwelling units for the elderly. The religious orders and other bodies engaged in this type of housing are to be congratulated on their achievements to date.
The reconstruction of existing houses and the conversion of large houses into smaller dwelling units form an important part of the annual housing programme. A total of 8,601 grants have been approved for this type of work from 1st January to 30th September, 1967, and at the present rate of progress it is expected that the figure for the year will be approximately 12,000 grants.
The total grants for the period ended 30th September, 1967, include 1,527 approved in respect of essential repairs to houses in rural areas. This scheme of grants, introduced in 1962, enables the State and county councils to help in the carrying out of essential repairs, where it is clear that the expenditure required to comply with the normal reconstruction standards would not be justified by the probable future life of the houses. The scheme aims to help those people living in bad housing conditions in isolated areas who are unable to avail themselves of grants and loans towards the erection of new houses and where the housing authorities are unable to give an urgent degree of priority to their rehousing. I have in mind, particularly, the improvement of housing conditions of elderly persons for the remainder of their life-span. In this connection the grants are proving to be of immense social value in western areas where the immediate housing needs are a heavy burden on the councils.
The scheme for the improvement of houses by the installation of private water supplies and sewerage facilities has also regained momentum. Expenditure up to 30th September in the current financial year on payment of grants amounted to £242,657 and on this basis the sum of £406,000 to be made available for this purpose in 1967-68 should be fully expended. The number of grants approved to date in the current financial year shows an increase of almost 33 per cent on the figure for the corresponding period last year.
Local authorities commenced the erection of 2,475 dwellings in the six months to 30th September, excluding dwellings in the Ballymun scheme, or 1,388 more than in the first six months of 1966-67. At 30th September the number of new dwellings under construction was 4,174 compared with 3,537 at 30th September, 1966, excluding Ballymun. This increased activity has been achieved without cutting back on the number of dwellings at earlier stages in the pipeline. Dwellings in tender, in course of planning, and for which sites were available at the end of September amounted in the aggregate to 20,862 compared with 18,066 at the corresponding date in 1966.
Including the Ballymun scheme, Dublin Corporation report that they had at 30th September last 2,906 dwellings in progress and had completed 915 dwellings since the beginning of April. Some 386 dwellings were ready to be started, 575 were at tender stage and plans were being prepared for almost 3,000 further dwellings.
Capital expenditure on local authority housing by the Corporation rose to nearly £6½ million in 1966-67 as compared with £5 million in 1965-66 and less than £3½ million in 1964-65. Their corresponding estimated capital expenditure for 1967-68 is £7½ million.
Under the Housing Act, 1966, local authorities are required to make an assessment of the need for housing in their areas. The results of these assessments which were first requested as far back as May, 1965, have not yet been submitted to my Department by a number of authorities. I would appeal to Deputies who are members of local authorities to ensure that steps are taken to have the information required supplied as soon as possible.
Having made assessments of housing needs, housing authorities are required to draw up building programmes which will show the objectives of the authorities in regard to both local authority and private housing. The date for the adoption of these programmes is 31st March next. I had intended to fix an earlier date but decided to extend it so that newly elected members of local authorities will have an opportunity of fully considering their programmes.
Housing is now a very big item in financial terms. The amount of capital provided from public sources for the building and reconstruction of houses has risen from £9.03 million in 1960-61 to an estimated £25 million in the current financial year. The amount provided for housing in the public capital programme has been growing rapidly and in the current financial year exceeds by a large margin the amount provided for any other capital service. No Government in this country have, in fact, ever provided so much in the way of capital for building and reconstructing houses.
I want to emphasise here what I have said previously that no housing proposals are held up for lack of money.
Out of the total capital allocation of £25 million approximately for 1967-68 a sum of £12.5 million was allocated originally to local authority housing. It was estimated that this allocation of £12.5 million would permit of new houses being started at a rate of about 300 per month during this financial year. The actual starts have greatly exceeded this figure and in order to maintain progress I am happy to say that it has been agreed to increase the allocation for local authority housing by another £.75 million in 1967-68.
The allocations of capital which were made provisionally to local authorities for their own housing schemes at the beginning of this financial year to meet commitments then existing are being kept under continuous review and are being adjusted, as required. An allocation of capital is being made in respect of each new scheme as soon as it is ready to start. This procedure is proving satisfactory and acceptable to housing authorities generally.
I am also happy to say that the capital allocation to meet expenditure this year on the special programme of land acquisition in the Dublin area has been increased by a further £1 million. Dublin authorities have now bought or are in the process of buying more than 2,400 acres. With this land, and the major drainage schemes in prospect, they should be in a position to secure greater stability in land prices in the most effective way—the provision of adequate sites at competitive prices. As Deputies are aware, I have had the problem of rising land costs particularly in mind since I became Minister for Local Government. The subsidy under the Housing Act, 1966, amounting up to £150 per developed building site, is intended as a practical measure to encourage local authorities to acquire and develop land for sale or lease to private individuals or small builders.
Local authorities can acquire large tracts of land more economically than a small builder can, and they can develop it on a scale which makes the most of modern methods and machinery. I visualise them laying out these schemes to a good standard of amenity and design and in accordance with their development plan objectives. The capital accruing to them from the sale of the sites can be used so as to provide a growing source of finance for further housing activity. In this way, I visualise them as housing development agencies and I would like them to take this view of their responsibilities.
My Department is currently working on some individual projects which are designed to secure economies in building costs. At my request, plans have been prepared for a dwelling which can be provided in two stages. The first stage will comprise the normal outer structure with the ground floor fully developed of about 624 square feet to give livingroom, scullery, bathroom and two bedrooms. The second stage will entail the development of the second floor of about 436 square feet, plus storage space, to provide three further rooms.
With the co-operation of Meath County Council arrangements are being made for building two of these dwellings at Dunboyne—one to the first stage, and one fully developed. When asking for these plans, I wanted a house which initially could be provided cheaply for young people getting married, but which could be added to at a later stage with the aid of grants, without any great financial burden on the occupants, and with the minimum of disturbance. I hope that the prototypes about to be erected at Dunboyne will help to achieve this objective. When the experimental buildings have been completed it is intended, with the co-operation of the county council, to have the houses available for general inspection and to make details of the plans, costs, etc., available to housing authorities and other interested parties. I commend this idea to housing authorities and speculative builders who should consider incorporating some of these two-stage houses in their housing schemes to provide small houses at low cost which can readily, and relatively cheaply, be converted into larger houses if the demand for additional accommodation arises.
Progress has also been made by my Department in the evolution of demountable dwellings to solve a long-standing problem which has become increasingly urgent in recent years with the rapid deterioration of old dwellings in locations where a continuing need for permanent new dwellings may not arise. Numerous efforts had already been made to evolve a satisfactory solution, and quite a number of proposals for temporary or emergency type dwellings have been submitted to my Department in recent years. These did not in general meet the special requirements in relation to this problem. Arrangements were, therefore, made with technical officers of my Department to prepare a suitable plan. The aim was to evolve a dwelling type which would be built at the lowest possible cost, would be capable of being moved with a minimum of loss, would give a relatively high standard of weather-proofing and comfort, and would have a reasonably acceptable appearance. A plan was prepared which largely meets these requirements and, with the co-operation of Kildare County Council, a prototype was built near Newbridge, County Kildare. The construction is based on a timber frame with asbestos-polystyrene sandwhich infill panels. The prototype, which could be used for one or two elderly persons, comprised some 267 square feet and cost £620. Housing authorities have been informed in detail of the outcome of this experiment.
At the same time I recognised that the Kildare dwelling was only one of a number of possible alternative solutions. Cork County Council, for instance, have produced an acceptable alternative which I have also brought to the notice of housing authorities. In this case, the cost is somewhat higher but construction is more durable and the appearance is more suitable for special locations, where cost is not the primary consideration. I will, of course, welcome any further suitable alternatives that may be offered and I have so informed housing authorities. Plans for family size dwellings based on the Kildare prototypes have been evolved, and a number of councils are co-operating in the erection of dwellings to these plans on an experimental basis.
During the year I made special examination of procedures connected with the planning and approval of local authority housing schemes. I decided to emphasise again to local authorities that they did not have to come to my Department for approval to the acquisition by agreement of sites suitable for housing and that only one full submission of documents at outline plan stage was necessary in the normal case. I decided also that responsibility for the adequacy and accuracy of documents for contract purposes should in future rest with the housing authorities themselves, and my Department now confines its examination of documents submitted for individual schemes to broad principles of policy, cost, design and planning. I have also made arrangements for regular and frequent consultations between officers of my Department and those of individual housing authorities to speed housing progress generally, and iron out any particular difficulties that may arise in relation to individual proposals. I need hardly emphasise that in relation to the £7.5 million or so now spent annually by local authorities on private housing loans and grants the controls exercised by my Department are minimal.
I would like to draw the Deputies' attention to some recent trends in the running cost of housing. The percentage of the expenditure on local authority housing met from rents and purchase annuities paid by tenants and tenant purchasers has fallen from 42.1 per cent in 1961-62 to 40.7 per cent in 1966-67. The percentage met from rates has risen from 27.9 per cent to 28.9 per cent and the percentage met by the subsidy paid by my Department has also increased—from 27.8 per cent to 28.9 per cent. Thus, on average, of every pound of running expenses paid by local authorities generally for their housing, approximately 12s. is met by State subsidy and from the rates, and 8s. by the tenant or tenant purchaser.
I must emphasise, of course, that the figures for particular areas can vary greatly from these, which are based on returns for the whole country. At its present level, subsidy generally amounts to £80 approximately a year for each local authority house. On a programme of 4,000 houses a year, the subsidy bill to the Exchequer must therefore rise by about £320,000 a year cumulatively. Thus in four years the subsidy bill would reach an additional £1.28 million annually in addition to a sum of about £1 million a year from the rates or a total of £2.28 million additional taxation annually. I mention these figures to illustrate the extent of Government aid for the housing of persons who cannot meet the cost of providing housing accommodation for themselves from their own resources.
Section 90 of the Housing Act, 1966, dealing with the sale by local authorities of their houses, should they decide to draw up purchase schemes, came into force on 30th September.
The sale terms under the Act are specified in the Housing Authorities (Loan Charges Contributions and Management) Regulations, 1967, made by me on 13th April last. Under the new arrangements, a local authority may, if they wish, make a scheme for the sale of their houses or for any number of them. The minimum terms of sale which I will be prepared to approve for the purposes of the scheme provide for a discount from the market or replacement value of a house in a built-up area equivalent to two per cent for each year after five during which the tenant has been in occupation, subject to a maximum discount of 30 per cent. For houses outside built-up areas the figures are three per cent and 45 per cent respectively. I regard these terms as representing an equitable balance as between the community who provided the house, and the tenant wishing to purchase. Capital receipts from sales must be used by the authority for the making of housing loans and grants, for the construction of other houses, or for some similar capital purpose, so that there need, in effect, be no net loss to the housing assets of the authority as a result of sales.
The number of urban local authority houses sold under the provision which section 90 replaces totalled 915 in the year ended 31st March, 1967, and about 2,800 rural cottages were vested in tenants. These figures compare with 1,432 and 2,673 in the preceding financial year. The number of private houses financed by loans from local authorities in 1966-67 was about 2,600 compared with about 2,500 in the preceding financial year. Issues on foot of advances by local authorities have been comparatively low in this financial year, but the build-up of commitments makes it obvious that issues will accelerate rapidly. At 31st March last, the amount of advances approved was £2.8 million and at 30th September last the figure was £4.2 million. These figures indicate a plentiful supply of work on hands. I am keeping the position under close review so as to ensure that capital is equitably distributed as and when required. I have arranged discussions to this end in my Department between representatives of builders and of the local authorities principally concerned.
The schemes of supplementary grants operated by local authorities have the same general aim as the loan schemes operated by them, that is, to help persons in the lower income bracket to undertake house purchase. In 1966-67, the number of these grants paid for new houses was 3,400 approximately. For some time, I have been conscious of the frustration amongst many intending house purchasers in the Dublin area due to the restrictive qualification hitherto operated by Dublin County Council in relation to the payment of supplementary new house grants, and I pressed the council to reconsider their policy on this matter. I particularly welcome the recent decision of the council to simplify and extend their grant scheme. The county is, in fact, one of the areas of greatest demand for housing, and it is particularly appropriate that they should do everything in their power to help the classes referred to in the purchase of their new houses.
I have for some time been anxious that everyone buying a house should have at his disposal a booklet to help him with information about grants, loans, title, fees, stamp duty, surveys, planning permissions and other details. I have arranged for the issue by my Department of such a booklet which I hope will be of assistance to such persons.
The provision under Subhead I for a grant-in-aid to An Foras Forbartha relates to the physical planning and the building and construction activities of An Foras. The roads research activities are financed from the Road Fund and will be referred to later. The increase of £7,000 in the grant-in-aid arose from the further development of the work of An Foras.
The financial year to March last was the second full year of operation of An Foras and rapid progress was made in its work programme. The United Nations have informed me that they are fully satisfied with the progress of this Institute. The high output and quality of work was achieved with the specialist assistance of United Nations' personnel, with the generous assistance of professional, vocational and other bodies concerned with its activities and through the skill and efforts of its staff. I would like once again to thank the United Nations and the various professional and other bodies for the valuable assistance they have given to An Foras.
An Foras is proceeding with the preparation of the draft of a new national code of building regulations with the assistance of a working party and several specialist groups. All sections of the first draft, other than specialised sections on fire precautions, have now been completed and are being studied prior to more general circulation for comment and review. A series of courses and lectures on construction management has been held in various centres throughout the country in association with the Federation of Builders, Contractors and Allied Employers of Ireland. An Foras has also provided advice to firms on the installation of costing systems, network analysis and other management matters. It has also initiated studies on recent developments in contract management, a topic which was highlighted by the Symposium on Technical Documentation organised by An Foras last May.
At my request, An Foras is undertaking an examination of the advantages of securing a greater measure of rationalisation in the building industry especially housing with particular reference to components including concentration on a more limited range of each type of component. Another move towards rationalisation was indicated in my announcement in August that the Government had made a decision in favour of dimensional co-ordination. This decision was based on a report and recommendations on the subject by a working party of An Foras and I have asked An Foras to prepare as soon as possible a timetable for the change-over to dimensional co-ordination on a metric basis in conjunction with all the interests concerned and having regard to other developments in the adoption of the metric system.
An important new development was the initiation of consumer studies in housing, at the request of the House-builders Section of the Federation of Builders, Contractors and Allied Employers of Ireland. The Department of Social Science at University College, Dublin, with the aid of grants from An Foras and the Federation has carried out an investigation of housewives' reactions to their houses with a view to providing information to enable designers to design the houses most suited to family requirements. I think the Federation are to be congratulated on this enlightened approach to house-building.
Subhead J of the estimate contains the sum of £25,000 for the National Building Advisory Council. Following a review of the question of duplication as between the work of the Council and of An Foras Forbartha, the Government decided that the Council and An Foras should be merged and negotiations under the auspices of my Department for the merger of the two bodies have now, I am glad to say, reached finality. Pending completion of the merger arrangements, I appointed additional members from the professions and those directly associated with the building industry, to the Board of An Foras last August. These appointments will be for a period of one year, initially.
The contract entered into by the National Building Agency for the Ballymun Housing Scheme provides for the planning, layout, design and construction of 3,021 dwellings over four years. Delays caused initially by weather conditions and subsequently by labour difficulties, have largely been overcome. To date, more than 1,650 dwellings have been constructed, of which more than 1,200 have been handed over to the Corporation for occupation. The House will understand that, notwithstanding adverse comment generated from time to time, there will at any point in time remain a disparity between the number of dwellings completed and the number of dwellings handed over for occupation, because you do not hand over a block of flats in which some or most of the dwellings are completed until the whole block can be handed over, and neither do you hand over completed dwellings until reasonable means of vehicular and pedestrian access are available consistent with the continuance of adjacent building operations.
The only radical change in the estimated cost of works included in the original contract is the cost of labour. At the moment, it seems that labour will cost about £½ million above the amount of the contract target price. Increased labour costs under this contract are payable only under the normal terms of Price Variation Clause and bonus schemes. None of the increased labour costs, therefore, can be attributed either to the contractors or to the National Building Agency as contract clients. The building unions, who were consulted prior to contract, agreed to give their co-operation in this scheme which was initiated to assist the Corporation in a rapid expansion of its housing output, so that a determined co-operative effort could be made to provide some 3,000 additional dwellings of a high standard for persons for whose rehousing the Corporation accepts responsibility. It was accepted that new building methods and techniques would be used in the project.
When construction works were finally in full swing, the electricians sought special working conditions and refused to allow the use of electrical harnesses, which are fundamental to the economics of the building method, unless these harnesses were made on the site by skilled men. In fact, as is the normal practice elsewhere, such contracts for making these simple harnesses had been negotiated with a local electrical firm, but this facility could not be availed of by the contractors. A demand for increased rates for electricians also arose, which at a time when the work on site had been completely disrupted, was conceded after reference to the Joint Industrial Council. Naturally, the several hundred other workers claimed and secured increases and work then resumed at the former level of output. Indeed, output at times exceeded that level. The bright outlook of this summer for catching up on all the lost time was again set back in August last when electricians walked out, reputedly in breach of their agreement.