Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers (Resumed). - Low-Cost Housing.


asked the Minister for Local Government if he will make a statement on his Department's policy regarding low-cost housing with particular reference to (a) types available, (b) sources of supply, (c) prices, (d) longevity, (e) grants and subsidies and (f) costs as compared with traditional three and four bedroom houses.

I would refer the Deputy to my speech introducing the Estimate for my Department for the current year (Vol. 254 of 27th May, 1971—Cols. 431/433) and to the speech which I made in Galway last June on the occasion of the inauguration by me of work on a major project in Galway under the low-cost housing project. In the course of the latter speech I gave a detailed account of my policy on the project and the outcome of its first phase. A copy of that speech—and of the accompanying detailed schedule of the firms which had been short-listed at that time under the project—was sent to every Deputy. I have arranged to have a further copy sent to the Deputy and to have copies of the speech made available in the Library.

The appendix to the speech contains particulars of the house types at present available and their form of construction, and it details the firms which offer them. I am not in a position to disclose details of the confidential prices offered by the individual firms but I indicated in the speech that the prices offered for basic superstructures in the selected proposals were less than £3 per square foot and that I hoped to achieve on a national basis, savings of up to 10 per cent on capital cost, where the project is used.

The expected life span of the house types offered by short-listed firms, generally, is the same as that of normal local authority housing. There will be no difference in the conditions and amounts of grants and subsidies as compared with normal housing.

Is it not a fact that in very many instances in regard to those alleged low-cost housing structures prices are equal to, if not more than, the price of the traditional-type house? Would the Parliamentary Secretary not agree that the words "low-cost housing" are misleading? Is the Parliamentary Secretary satisfied that the prices being charged for these alleged low-cost houses are justified?

I think the term "low-cost housing" is a misnomer when one considers the cost of a conventionally built house. Many of the designs are conventional but, with the arrangements between contractors and the local authorities regarding continuation of work, costs can be cut by 10 per cent. This does not mean we are cutting quality by 10 per cent, we are cutting costs by this amount. They are in many cases of a standard equal to and may be higher than some of the traditional houses.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary assure me and the House that he is satisfied that the prices being charged are justified, especially having regard to the fact that it is the tenants who will be paying in the long run? The people who call these houses "low-cost" are obliged to justify that term.

The statement here in the reply that in the main the cost is working out under £3 per square foot would determine the price, would it not?

Will the Parliamentary Secretary agree that one of the incentives that was put forward to local authorities to accept this type of low-cost housing arrangement was the speed of the production of houses? Will he agree that the time it has taken to produce these houses is disappointing in the extreme? That is our experience in County Dublin.

The Deputy will admit that it is a new scheme. It is intended to be a large, country-wide scheme. It is difficult to get optimum results in the initial stages of any scheme. First of all, we had to sell the scheme. Now that the scheme has been sold and that we are getting it under way, we hope that the rate of progress in the future will be very much higher.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary give me any assurance with regard to the important matter of the maintenance costs of these allegedly low-cost houses, that they will not be excessive and will not be more than the costs of maintenance of the normal, traditional structure?

This is outside the scope of the question.

I cannot say "yes" or "no" to that. All I say is that they are up to and equal to the standard of some conventionally built houses and indeed some of them are actually more conventional in type and standard.