Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Housing Loans and Grants.

6.

asked the Minister for Local Government if he will consider raising the building loan which is available from local authorities from £4,500 to £6,000 and also the income limit for qualifying for a loan.

7.

asked the Minister for Local Government if he will grant an increase in the maximum SDA loan to £7,000, in view of the tremendous increase in cost of house building.

With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, I propose to take Questions Nos. 6 and 7 together.

While I have no immediate proposals to increase the loan and income limits, I am keeping the matter under continuing review.

The Minister is surely aware that the loans have not been increased in line with inflation. Is the Minister aware that the people looking for local authority housing would probably build their own private houses if they could get a big enough loan? A young man would have to earn a maximum of £2,300 to get the loan of £4,500. As the Minister is aware, it will cost £7,000 or £8,000 to build a house. Where will these people get the remainder of the money if loans are not increased? I asked this question time and time again.

As I told Deputy Calleary when he asked this question as a member of the Galway County Council less than a week ago, I am aware that a number of applicants are finding it difficult to get the difference between the £4,500 and the cost of the house. I am also aware that because so many people are availing of the scheme as it is at present it would be a mistake to include other categories without having the necessary money to provide for those extra categories. While I should like to improve the position, an enormous amount of money has been given for SDA loans and all of it is being availed of. As I told the Deputy in the deputation last week, it is just not possible to do at present what he is asking I should do.

Is the Minister aware that there has been a decrease in the number of applicants for loans?

I am aware there are still far more people applying than there is money available——

That is not so in my county.

That may be so. Houses are very dear in Galway.

Is the Minister aware that all local authorities are experiencing an enormous increase in the list of applicants for local authority housing because of the small amount of money available under the SDA loans? People cannot see their way to build their own houses.

That is not the information I am getting. I agree there are many people who are looking for houses now but it is mainly because they consider there is a possibility of getting local authority houses. That was not the position up to recently.

For the first time in seven years I know of a local authority who have twice as many applicants——

There are three times as many houses now.

We are having repetition now. I am calling Question No. 8.

Will the Minister state when the review will be completed and when he will be in a position to give us a definite decision? For the last two years he has consistently said the matter has been under review. When will there be a final decision, or is it final now?

No. It is a continuing review. As I told Deputy Callanan and his deputation as well as many others, I am aware that extra money could be used if available but, with so many people availing of it now, it would be wrong to give the impression that simply by increasing the income limit and the amount of money they can borrow would improve the situation. It would have the opposite effect for the thousands of people who are availing of it and finding it useful.

The Minister has stated that people are finding it difficult. It is not just a question of finding it difficult. All their security is given for the £4,500——

I thought the Deputy had a question.

The cannot get the remainder of the money.

There are thousands of people who are using the scheme at the moment and they are the people for whom the SDA loans were originally intended.

Will the Minister consider raising the income limit?

I have called Question No. 8.

8.

asked the Minister for Local Government if he will consider increasing the grants payable for the building of private houses and the income limit for qualifying for these grants.

An examination of many aspects of housing finance is being carried out in my Department in conjunction with other Departments concerned. Housing grants are included in this examination and pending completion of the examination no action in relation to the grants is proposed.

Surely the Minister is aware that this matter is crying out for revision? When a house cost only £3,000 or £4,000 the grants available were the same. In rural areas the cost of getting ESB connection is very high, sometimes as much as the amount of grant—at any rate that amount of money has been asked for in some cases. I would ask the Minister to give serious consideration to this matter. One of the main reasons people do not attempt to build their own houses is because of the very low grants—somebody said to me they would not buy the nails.

At the moment the whole matter is being reviewed and it would be unfair if I gave an off-the-cuff reply to the Deputy in view of the fact that I hope to have the result of the review in a short while. Deputy Callanan has made the point that people are unable to build houses but the facts are there for everyone to see. The houses are being built.

We were told the same thing 12 months ago. Will the Minister state when the review will be completed?

It is almost completed now.

Does "almost" mean another year?

It could be; I am not able to say. I am depending on my officials, who are very efficient, to produce the evidence to me.

The Minister has no intention of trying to resolve the problem.

At the end of the review will the Minister come back with the same answer he gave in relation to Questions Nos. 6 and 7, namely, that in view of the number of people who are making use of the present grants there is no need to increase them?

I am not able to answer that question now. There would be no necessity for the review——

There is no point in having a review when there is no money.

In view of the fact that a house now costs £7,500 and that the maximum a person can have in loans and grants is between £5,000 and £5,500, would the Minister consider lowering the standard to give people a chance of getting some kind of house?

I will not lower the standard for houses. We have had enough of that.

The Minister is excluding people.

So far as I am concerned I will not lower the standard.

Will the Minister state when he will give us a final decision——

We have already had that question. We cannot have repetition.

I have asked the same question on three occasions.

As I have said, I cannot give a definite date but we are getting close to the end of the review.

Closer than we were one and a half years ago?

I have heard of things that went on for four or five years without any result.

Will the Minister not agree that there is no need for a review to prove that the same amount of grant and loan that was available three years ago is of no use today when one considers the devaluation of money and the rising cost of building in that time?

As the Deputy knows, there is much more involved.

9.

asked the Minister for Local Government if he will amend the essential repair grants scheme to include those who have qualified for reconstruction grants and who are not in a financial position to meet one-third of the cost.

I do not propose to consider amending the essential repairs grant scheme prior to the completion of a comprehensive review, which I have in hands, of all financial aids for housing.

Surely the Minister is aware that the essential repair grants are not adequate? The people who get these grants are usually unable to supplement them. I know that it is impossible to get work carried out for the amount of grant given.

One of the matters being considered is whether the essential repair grant is of any use, or was ever of any use. I agree with the Deputy that the amount of money given for this kind of work is often of very little use but if it is agreed that it is for the purpose of just keeping a house from falling down on someone—which is what the essential repair grant is for—I consider a hard look should be taken at the whole matter.

Will the Minister agree to take a hard look at the matter? We cannot get the work done for the amount of grant.

The grant from the Department is £80 but Kerry County Council have to pay as much as £900 to make up the necessary money. Does the Minister not agree that the Department grant of £80 should be increased substantially?

What the Deputy is saying is correct: the £80 is neither here nor there. If a county council want to repair a house perhaps it would be better to allow them do the work themselves without taking this sum into consideration; or else there could be a substantial amount given. The whole idea may have to be changed. There are a number of aspects involved and I am not happy with the situation. Had I been the Minister of the day, I do not think I would have introduced the essential repair grant of £80. However, I may be wrong in that and perhaps I might have looked differently on the matter at that time. In any case the grant is of very little use in today's terms.

As well as asking the ratepayers for help, perhaps we might get some assistance also from the Department in this regard.

Would the Minister not agree that this grant scheme, if properly administered, would obviate the necessity of replacing many houses with new houses—an operation that has become a total charge on local authorities—because, then, houses would be maintained in proper repair in the first instance, in cases where people could not afford to do the work themselves?

The Deputy is aware that the amount of money involved was for the purpose of maintaining a little longer houses that had gone beyond repair.

I would not agree.

That is in the regulations, but so far as I am concerned people should not have to live in such houses.

Is the Minister not aware that the main purpose of the essential repair grant was to maintain a house in good repair if the occupants could not afford to do so?

No. It was for the purpose of granting some assistance in cases where the occupants could not avail of the reconstruction grant.

That is a wrong interpretation of what is an excellent scheme.