Public Business. - Housing (Amendment) Bill, 1958—Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

This Bill aims at the furtherance of certain objectives towards which housing policy is in present circumstances directed. A major objective of the Bill is an expansion of activities in the reconstruction, repair and improvement of existing dwellings.

With regard to new private housing, it is proposed that the State grant for a new house in an area where a public piped water-supply and sewerage scheme are not available be increased by £25. This increase will be reckonable for supplementary grant purposes, so that the additional grant assistance from the State and the housing authorities would amount to £50 at the maximum.

In association with this proposal, the Bill provides that the existing grant for the installation of private water-supply and sewerage system be increased from £60 to £75, or to £50 for water-supply and £25 for sewerage system where these are separately provided and that the rate of reconstruction grants available to farmers and agricultural labourers be increased by £20 at each point of the scale.

It is proposed that the scaled scheme of supplementary grants at present payable by housing authorities for reconstruction work undertaken by farmers and agricultural labourers, for the provision of water and sewerage facilities and for works which qualify for improving grants under the Housing (Gaeltacht) Acts, be replaced by a provision enabling housing authorities to pay supplementary grants of equal amount with the State grants for these works, in relation to the cost of the works carried out. This proposal will have the effect of raising the valuation limit for farmers qualifying for supplementary reconstruction grants from £35 to £50, the qualifying limit for the State grant. I would regard participation by housing authorities in assisting persons who carry out any of the works in question as being of importance at least as great as the direct housing operations of the housing authorities themselves.

Grants for repair and improvement works are mainly availed of in urban areas. The amendments I propose are, firstly, to increase the rate of these grants by £20, as is provided for in respect of reconstruction grants and, secondly, to simplify the administration of the grants and to extend their scope. Eligibility for these grants would be tested, not by the suitability of the house for occupation by persons of the working classes or by agricultural labourers, but by the essential nature of the works proposed for the purpose of providing suitable housing accommodation.

Provision is also made in the financial part of the Bill enabling housing authorities to make loans for reconstruction works and for repair or improvement works, capital for which will be available from the Local Loans Fund. The loans would, in particular, facilitate owners or prospective owners to carry out major conversion works on larger houses so as to provide additional rented accommodation of good modern standards. Owners of groups of terraced houses would also be encouraged to put them in repair and improve them where necessary.

The Government has agreed to make capital available to housing authorities to enable them to make advances under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts to persons in the lower income groups purchasing previously occupied houses. Housing authorities will be notified of the scope of this offer in due course. The existing definition of market value does not enable stamp duty, legal fees and other costs incidental to the purchase of houses to be included in the loan. It is proposed to enable housing authorities to include all such costs in future for the purpose of calculating the amount of advance to be made, in the same manner as they may be included in the advance for a new house. A person may thus obtain a Small Dwellings loan for the purchase of a previously occupied house and may also obtain a loan for the repair of that house if necessary.

A final provision on the private housing side is the replacement of the present system of rates remission by a graduated scale of payments over ten years, beginning with the payment of one-tenth of the rates in the first year and increasing by one-tenth each year. In this way, there will be no sudden increase in annual outgoings facing those in the lower income groups, to whom the impact of full rates after seven years remission of two-thirds of rates might constitute hardship.

The Bill contains an important provision relating to the financing of rural housing provided by county councils. It is proposed that the urban system of differential subsidy will in future apply to rural housing. Where, for instance, a statutory operation such as the relief of over-crowding or the demolition of an unfit house is involved in rehousing an agricultural labourer or a person of the working classes outside an urban area, the higher subsidy rate would be payable under this Bill. The lower rate of subsidy would apply where no positive action is taken towards eliminating bad housing conditions or the relief of overcrowding.

In order that county councils will have all the powers of urban housing authorities to deal with slum clearance it is proposed that they should be required to make bye-laws relating to overcrowding in respect of houses intended or used for occupation by the working classes.

There are two other provisions in the Bill relating to subsidy, neither of which makes any change as far as the financial position of housing authorities is concerned.

One of these proposes to compound the value of certain subsidies payable under enactments of half a century ago. The intention is to simplify the method of extinguishing these old loans and to obviate the necessity for numerous annual calculations and numerous minor payments. In effect, the outstanding balances of certain loans will be reduced by the compounded value of the subsidies and certain investment funds from which annual dividends contributed to the subsidies will be surrendered to the Exchequer.

The purpose of the other provision is to give statutory authority for certain interest subsidy payments being made in respect of borrowings in the period 1948 to 1953. This authority is sought at the instance of the Public Accounts Committee and does not affect the payments made to housing authorities or town commissioners.

It has been the practice to renew the currency of the Labourers Acts from time to time for specific periods. The ultimate intention is to merge the Labourers Acts in the Housing of the Working Classes Acts so as to form a single code. The present Bill, like various previous Bills, makes its own contribution to this ultimate merger. It also provides for continuance of the Labourers Acts until they are replaced or repealed. When the consolidation of these codes is completed, the new code will replace the complex collection of Housing Acts which we now have to deal with.

The amendments proposed in the Bill relating to slum clearance operations are put forward in the light of the experience gained by housing authorities, who have found the existing provisions insufficient in some respects.

It is proposed that owners of premises which are the subject of demolition orders should be required as soon as the order becomes operative, to secure it against further occupation. It is proposed also that a person who occupies or permits another person to occupy an unfit house which is the subject of a statutory notice requiring repairs to be carried out and has become vacant should be liable to prosecution and prescribed penalties.

It is proposed that where land to be acquired by a housing authority by means of a compulsory purchase order includes dwellinghouses which are unfit for human habitation and are incapable at a reasonable cost of being made fit, the compensation payable in respect of the unfit dwellinghouses, if the Minister confirms the order, shall be site value less the cost of clearance. This provision contains no new principle. It will have the effect of preserving the well-established principle that buildings which are unfit for human habitation should qualify for compensation at cleared site value.

Provision is made widening the power which a housing authority has to close any part of a house let for human habitation so as to bring within this power any part of a house used for human habitation, whether or not the occupation is a letting. It is necessary also to remove any doubt that service of a copy of a demolition order (not the original order) will be valid compliance with the existing statutory provisions.

Housing authorities have power to extinguish public rights-of-way and easements in certain circumstances. The power does not extend to the acquisition of lands which, for technical reasons, do not come within the definition of clearance areas or improvement areas. It is essential that the extended power be available to housing authorities and provision is made for this purpose.

We have in this Bill an evolution of the various Housing Acts that have been passed by the Oireachtas from time to time. In so far as this Bill proposes to safeguard the very large capital assets that have been invested in our housing over the past 100 years, I think it is desirable. It should have the advantage that if houses are properly and adequately repaired, the working and middle classes will have good houses at reasonable rents.

I now wish to ask the Minister if the provisions of the Bill will help to give effect to these objectives in a practical manner. Much of this house property for which he proposes to increase grants—for this is an extension of present legislation—belongs to landlords, many of whom, owing to the Rent Restrictions Acts, find themselves unable to raise the necessary money for repairs. There is no use in the Minister saying that he will give very large grants to these people because first they must go to the banks for the money to pay the contractors. That is the position under present legislation and I do not see any provision in this Bill to simplify the procedure. It may be 12 or 18 months or two years after the house is repaired that the owner will get the money. That is the impossible difficulty regarding money facing owners of property in this country.

The last housing committee recommended the complete decontrol of houses over, I think, a ten-year period. The reason they recommended that was that it was of no value to anyone to invest money in houses. If the Minister wants to make the Bill in a success, he will have to bring in a provision, or the officers of the Department of Local Government must be allowed to frame legislation, so that portion of the money required to repair houses can be paid to the contractor as the work goes on. In the past, that was not possible. It was 12 or 18 months or two years, before the money was made available to these people. In fact, I have been given to understand that repairs which were started had to be stopped because the people who owned the houses had not the wherewithal.

Another thing that has happened is that the landlord often refused to start off on repairs of houses because he could not get the money from the bank and the local authority had to do the repairs. The same grants were not available to the local authority as were available to the landlord and the effect was that the tenant had to pay a far greater amount than if the work had been done by the landlord. The poor landlord found himself in the position that he had not the money to do it, but the procedure would have been effective, if facilities had been given to the landlord. It may be necessary in certain cases to give the landlord a loan as well as a grant. A landlord who has a considerable amount of property which has got into disrepair— he has not been able to maintain it because of the Rent Restrictions Acts— gets an order from the local authority to repair 50 houses. The Minister is giving very good grants, but the landlord may not be able to put up the amount he must put up. It may be necessary in order to preserve these assets to make a loan available for the repair of houses as well as the grants under the Bill.

I wish to congratulate the Minister on the introduction of this Bill. I think that successive Governments in this country deserve great credit for the housing policy they have pursued. I can certainly speak from memory. In my own lifetime, there has been a great improvement in housing, and visitors to Ireland are greatly impressed by our housing. In a lecture which he gave in University College, the Deputy Secretary General O.E.E.C. said that Ireland is one country where there is no housing problem.

I do not wish to enter into any detail on the Bill. I simply feel that this is an occasion to draw attention to the Capital Investment Advisory Committee's Report on Housing which should be studied by every member of the House. It is a very important report and I am glad to say that I can see the influence of the report on this Bill.

These are the main points in this report of which I see traces in the Bill and which I think are of great importance to the general finances of the country. The committee believes that houses should be as far as possible provided by private enterprise; that, except in the case of the very poor, houses should be able to be sold on the market without any public assistance; that State expenditure on housing should be reduced to meet the absolute economic and social requirements; that State investment in housing should take as little as possible of the scarce capital of the country which is needed for more productive investment in agriculture, industry and transport. The committee recommended that houses should as far as possible, even if erected with State capital, pay economic rents. At present houses are unduly subsidised. Differential rents should be gradually introduced, with allowances for cases of hardship. This would tend to reduce the debt charges on housing which were referred to yesterday in the Finance Bill. They are the principal reason for the mounting charge of the public debt.

The need for new houses would be considerably reduced if the present stock of houses were more intelligently used. The object of legislation in regard to private houses should be that all accommodation should be utilised and that waste and deterioration should be avoided.

One measure to which the Capital Investment Advisory Committee attaches great importance is the repeal of the Rent Restriction Acts, which were war measures and have now outlived their usefulness. The result of these Acts is that landlords have neither the power nor the will to maintain their houses, a great deal of accommodation is wasted, some families are overhoused, and landlords are afraid to admit tenants. The result is that the demand for new houses is inflated beyond a legitimate level.

The committee recommends very strongly the gradual repeal in stages of the Rent Restriction Acts, with hard cases being specially treated. Meanwhile, pending the repeal of these Acts and after they have been repealed, owners of houses should be encouraged to repair and improve houses. Loans under the Small Dwellings Acts should apply to old as well as to new houses, and persons excluded from the Small Dwellings Acts should get guaranted loans from building societies and insurance companies.

Slum clearance should be expedited by additional powers and the distinction between rural and urban over-crowding in slum clearance should be abolished. Bad rural housing is a cause of emigration and its improvement is a matter of great urgency.

Finally, the committee recommends that whatever capital is saved from the housing programme should be diverted into productive investment. This would among other things provide additional employment in the building industry, which would also find employment in the repair and maintenance of existing houses and in slum clearance.

I am glad to say that the main points of this report have been accepted by the Minister. In his speech in the Dáil introducing the Estimate for his Department, reported in columns 27 and 28 of the Dáil Debates, Volume 170, for 8th July, he lays down the main lines of his housing programmes. I shall not quote his speech, but will simply refer to it. He seemed to follow very closely, except in one or two respects to which I shall refer shortly, the recommendations of the Capital Investment Advisory Committee. Furthermore, the main proposals of the committee are embodied in the Bill.

The Minister in introducing the Bill in the Dáil and in this House has laid down the main heads of what he hopes to achieve by the Bill. It is clear that the Bill is based to a great extent on the Report of the Capital Investment Advisory Committee.

The Minister stated in the Dáil :—

"In association with financial and administrative policy, these objectives are, first, the eradication of the remaining blocks of unfit housing, in particular in the larger urban areas; second, the rehousing of persons displaced through clearance operations by redevelopment, as far as is practicable, of the cleared areas; third, the encouragement of persons whose accommodation is unsuited for their needs and who are not served by the local authority programme, to provide houses for themselves, either by purchase of previously occupied houses or by having new houses erected for themselves; and fourth, to activate expansion in the very essential work of maintaining and improving the existing stock of houses by reconstruction, repair and improvement, the provision of water and sewerage services and by conversion of houses which are too large by modern conventions for single families, into separate dwellings of adequate standards either for renting or for sale."

I think that this quotation shows that the Report of the Capital Investment Advisory Committee has been largely followed.

There are two aspects of this Bill I particularly commend. One is the emphasis on rural rehousing. Bad rural housing is a potent cause of emigration. The second aspect is, as I understand it from what the Minister stated, that he proposes in the rehousing of people cleared from the slums to resort more to centrally situated flats than to houses on the outskirts of the cities.

There are two main recommendations in the Capital Investment Advisory Committee's Report which are not adopted by the Minister in the present Bill, and it is to call attention to these that I have risen in this debate. The two recommendations to which I refer are the repeal of the Rent Restriction Acts and the insistence on differential rents at a level that will reduce the housing subsidy and debt charges to an absolute minimum. Until these recommendations are adopted, certain evils will remain in the housing programme. The existing houses will not be properly maintained and there will be a good deal of waste. Some of the matters to which I referred will continue. The demand for new houses will be unreasonably inflated to a level which would not exist if the Rent Restriction Acts were not in existence. Finally, debt charges in relation to housing will grow and therefore the taxation necessary to meet them will also grow.

These are matters which were referred to in the debate last night. I hope the Minister will not hesitate to adopt the remaining recommendations of the Capital Investment Advisory Committee. I hope that he will not be prevented from doing so by an unreasonable conservatism. A dynamic attitude towards the housing problem is now required. I hope the Minister will not be deterred through the fear of causing unemployment in the building industry. In the first place, it must be understood that employment is a means to an end and not an end in itself. The building industry exists for the provision of houses, and not in order to give employment to those engaged in it. Moreover as I have already suggested, employment will be provided by the maintenance and repair of existing houses, by slum clearance, and by the new productive investment to which it is hoped the capital released from the housing programme will be turned over.

I should like to say that the Bill, in my opinion, is a step in the right direction. We should welcome it in the Seanad, but at the same time, something still remains to be done. If this Bill were followed by the gradual repeal in stages of the Rent Restriction Acts, with special provision for hard cases, and by the insistence on graduated differential rents to reduce housing charges on the taxpayer to a minimum, the Minister would deserve very well of the Oireachtas and of the community.

Business suspended at 6 p.m. and resumed at 7 p.m.

I should like, first of all, to congratulate the Minister on the introduction of this Bill. One can do nothing other than congratulate him. In doing so, I sincerely hope that it will give the fillip to the building industry that he hopes for. There is a depth of sincerity in the Bill, but I could examine it only cursorily when I got it yesterday and I am perfectly satisfied that if it is implemented in the succeeding months, it will be of great advantage to the building industry and to the people who are still looking for houses.

I would not rise to criticise something that I appreciate. For many years, I considered that many aspects of this Bill ought to have been made the law of the land; so it would be entirely wrong and unfair to the Minister to criticise him because he is doing something I believe to be the correct thing to do. We in local authorities can advise the Minister, and I hope in the next few moments to give him the value of my advice and my experience in a local authority and to show how, perhaps, the sincerity that he envisages in this Bill and has incorporated in it may not be implemented as the months and years go on.

It is our experience on the various county councils that no matter who is Minister and in no matter what fashion a Bill may be framed, there is still the question of appreciation by the local authority officials. Their method is the important method and their appreciation and interpretation is, in the last analysis, the one that the ordinary public will work on. If the Minister and his senior officials are conscious of that at this stage, I believe this Bill will give a great fillip to the building industry.

It has been said before that the building industry is not an employment factor—it is a means to an end, not an end in itself. That may be very well the high level financial aspect, and it is well that those at high level look on it in that way. We in the local authority must look at it both ways, to see what is coming to the general public in the way of housing, and also to see it from the point of view of the employment it creates. That has always been a factor. One may pretend not to see it, but it is there. It is wrong, of course, that the Minister should introduce a Housing Bill primarily to cure unemployment—we know that—but it serves that purpose and we appreciate anything like that, in a country where emigration is so heavy.

I do not intend to delay on this measure now, as we will have more opportunity when the Bill comes before us in Committee; and by then we will have a better appreciation of it. However, there is one point in relation to Part VII, the section headed "miscellaneous". What are the benefits accruing to the ordinary S.D.A. house purchaser from the table? It is implied that it saves him the impact of having to pay two-thirds rates in the first one or two years of the purchasing period of his house. In my experience—and I am sure in the experience of many Senators who are members of councils—the period of the first year or two does not matter a lot. Most young men who are purchasing houses are reasonably safe in the first couple of years. The time when it becomes difficult for them to meet their obligations to the local authority is when the children start coming along, in the second, third, fourth and fifth years and that is the time when there should be some alleviation.

Everybody will agree with me because anyone who has taken the slightest interest in this business over the years, and particularly those who serve on local authorities, know that a young man who is purchasing a house under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts does not feel the impact so much in the first year but that the impact is more severe in the second, third, fourth and fifth years, when the children are coming along.

The table here, while it is in the right direction, is only half a step in the right direction. Under the old system, in the first seven years, the purchaser received two-thirds reduction in his rateable valuation. Suppose the outgoings were £30 on a £15 valuation house, under the old system, in the first year, he would pay £10, in the second year £10, in the third year £10 and so on to the seventh year. In the eighth year, he would pay £30. The impact would come upon him then.

I am quite conscious of the fact that it was with a view to alleviating that situation that this table was introduced. There is a lightening of the impact in the first two years, when it really does not matter. He pays £3 on a £15 valuation in the first year, £6 in the second year and in the third year £1 short of what he would normally pay under the other arrangement, but, in the fourth year, he is paying £2 more than he would have paid under the old system and in the fifth year, £5 more. We find that in the seventh year, he would have paid £70 under the old system and will now be paying £84. In other words, he will have paid £14 more over the years than he would have paid in the ordinary way. It is a good argument that he is still saved the impact in the earlier days. Then we go on from that and he is saved a little impact here. He pays £6 in the eighth year and £3 in the ninth year. We come to the final year, the tenth year, and we find that he has paid £5 more to the local authority than he would have paid. He is being charged £105 for what he would have been charged under the old system only £100.

I know that £5 is a small thing in a period of ten or nine years, but it is our job to point that out to the Minister. I believe it was emphasised in the other House, although I have nothing in writing about it. I feel it my duty to point out to the Minister that this £5 in each case is a consideration and it is felt that a man who purchases a house under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts is entitled to a reduction rather than an increase in financial obligations. The State is purloining or stealing £5 from each man in these cases. I do not emphasise that word, but I have no other word for it. If there were any reason for that, if the purchaser were being cushioned against an impact, I would say that the £5 would be worth it, but he is not being saved from the impact.

I have experience in Dublin County Council. It is recognised on the council that I have good experience of people who purchase houses through the Small Dwellings Acts, which is a wonderful Act. I cannot over-emphasise that, in my experience, the first and second years do not matter because most young men have money at that period, despite what they say about being "broke" after paying the deposit and paying for the honeymoon, and all that. Despite all that, most young men meet their obligations in the first and second years. It is when the children come along that the difficulty arises.

In the seventh year, under the old system, he paid £70; under the new system, he will have paid £84—an increase of £14. It is unfair. The sliding scale is not of sufficient value to warrant the loss of £5 in the final year and I would ask the Minister seriously to consider extending the table by a further five or ten years, five at least. If that is done, the impact will be less severe in the fourth and fifth years. Mathematicians in the Department may find that they might make another £2 out of that, but it would be worth it if the period were extended to 15 years. I make that point and I will come back to it on the Committee Stage, and possibly I may submit an amendment for the Minister's consideration.

I should like now to go back to the question of the implementation of these Acts. A colleague of mine here will, I believe, refer to the difficulty of getting the Department officials to implement the ideas set out in legislation. Between the officials of the local authorities and the officials of the Department of Local Government, there grows up a conspiracy to defeat what is in the Minister's mind, and more important, to defeat what local councillors would like to do for the betterment of the people in their areas. I might say that it is a great pity that documents of this nature are not submitted to capable councillors for their views before coming before both Houses of the Oireachtas. I believe, implicitly, that the Minister is serious and his senior officials are serious, about getting something done now, but I think the councillors should be acquainted with such proposed legislation and have the opportunity of giving their views on it.

I do not want to say what I am about to say in any sense of impertinence, but my council has looked for an interview with the Minister, and with his predecessor, on matters which were relevant to this Bill, and we did not get the courtesy of a reply from his Department. However, the Minister may feel, or it may be the advice of his officers, that he will get on better without us, but I say that he cannot get on without the assistance of councillors. I know that Ministers are in touch with councillors in their own sphere, but I think they have to keep in touch with other people's views as well.

I should like now to look at that section in the Bill which permits the Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts moneys to be applied for the purchase of houses which were previously occupied. This is a move in the right direction also, but immediately I see difficulty in the purchase of those houses and these difficulties arise from the method of valuing. The Minister's predecessor introduced a Bill which gave this country a yardstick for valuing. I heard it said at the time that we were the only country in the —with apologies, although it may be appropriate—English-speaking world that had a yardstick for valuing and that other countries were still muddling along in the matter. The system is that when a house is completed, the valuer assesses the reasonable cost of building, the reasonable cost of acquiring the site, the reasonable cost of profit to the builder and then he assesses, in his opinion, the value of the house. That was the rule which was made generally by the Department, but every one of us who is a member of a local authority knows that there is no valuer in this country, outside the realm of quantity surveyors, who could do that. It would have to be either a quantity surveyor or a man who is capable of going into the whole costings of the article to be valued. Yet with a wave of the pen, this Bill says that a previously occupied house is to be valued.

With respect, I say that the valuer who will try to carry out that part of the Bill will apply the age-worn system of valuing. He will recommend to the local authorities that they advance X pounds for that house and in his mind he must take into consideration how much the house will secure on the open market, should the person who is getting the loan default in the future. All local authority valuers are doing that, despite the fact that the Minister and his Department say: "You shall value by another system." They disregard that completely.

To give effect to that recently in my council, we had to use a section of the Managerial Act and force the manager to carry out the wishes of the council. No council likes to do that. Where humanly possible, one likes to cooperate with the manager, and generally speaking, there is that co-operation all over the country. If a valuer assesses the worth of a house at X pounds and the council disagrees and says that that is unfair, then the manager is risking his position if he does not take the advice of the valuer, because it is a financial matter and he cannot take risks in that connection. I, therefore, ask the Minister seriously to consider that aspect, the method of valuing an old house.

Another point which I should like to mention is the method of rendering to the Minister's Department the specification for repairs to a house. In this connection, I mean specifications from somebody who is going to carry out a certain job to an old house. All of us here have experience of houses and most of us live in old houses. If you want to repair a joist in the floor of your kitchen, you begin to think in terms of taking out that joist and putting in another. When you think a little deeper, you realise that you have to take up the whole floor, because the joist runs one way and the flooring another. If there is a defect in a ceiling rafter, the complete ceiling must come down. Of course, if the ceiling is made from the new panelling, it does not have to come down, but in the old-fashioned houses, the whole ceiling must come down. It is, therefore, more than difficult to give an estimate to the Minister, or to his Department, for repairs to an old house before you put the pick-axe into the wall.

All of us have experienced that. Yet the Minister and his advisers say, in one fell swoop, you will get X pounds for doing a certain job. That may not be crystal clear to everybody but the fact is that once you interfere with an old house, you do not know what you are getting into. This matter may cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, but of course the Minister is in the happy position of being able to stop it when he likes, and that is a saving grace.

There is also the possibility of purchasing a Small Dwellings Act house and then getting a grant on the same house later. According to the Minister, that can be done by people in the lower income groups. I do not think it can be done in the Dublin County Council. We may be different from other councils, but I do not think it can be done. We do not give a loan to any applicant under the Small Dwellings Act unless he has a maximum amount of money after his outgoings of repayments to the Small Dwellings Act people. I believe that maximum is £7 10s. or £8. I am not quite certain at the moment. That maximum carries on for the remainder of the 35 years. If that man has six or seven in family and would like to build an additional room, he cannot get a further loan from our council because he must have a certain amount of money after the outgoings are paid. For instances, the poorer class of man in Dublin county must have not more than £10 5s. per week to get a Small Dwellings Act loan. There are many of us in this House who would hardly regard the fellow with a regular £10 5s. per week as a poor man. That is the type of man who can get a Small Dwellings Acts loan in Dublin. I presume that it works the same in other councils.

The man who gets £9 5s. per week steadily—it is a fairly good wage—will not get a Small Dwellings Act loan from Dublin County Council or other councils presumably throughout the country. It is worked this way. It is not so much what he has coming in, but what he will have after he has paid out. If he earns £10 per week and his outgoings under the Small Dwellings Act loan are £2 15s., his outgoings from the Small Dwellings Act loan are not considered with a two-third remission on the valuation or in the Table now submitted. It is with everything full on that he is supposed to have £7 10s. "take home" money as we often describe it in the building industry after everything is gone. A man who has £7 5s.—this is true in regard to Dublin County Council—will not get a Small Dwellings Act loan. Therefore, he goes into the queue for a local authority house. He then goes on the rates, so to speak. All that is thrown out because of the fear of the man defaulting in his repayments in the future and that the house might be given back to the local authority and they would not get their pound of flesh on the open market for the house.

I raise these points in the hope that they make some impact on the Minister in his endeavour to serve the people who are purchasing these houses. It has been said that a 20 years' remission of rates under the present system did not apply elsewhere. I should like to inform the Minister that he was ill-advised. It did apply, I think, on the Malahide Road. I do not know the system of remission. I think it was on the present system. It is a fact, however, that a 20 years' remission of rates was given on the Malahide Road.

This is a step in the right direction, and, if implemented, will be of great benefit. I have grave doubts about its implementation because any man who is acting as he ought to act on a local authority knows quite well that in regard to these little nominee sites, little groups of houses in the country, nothing less than carrying arms to the Department of Local Government will get them out of it. You have got to dot your i's and cross your t's and do this, that and the other, until it is obvious that every single person in the council knows there is somebody at the top of affairs codding somebody else, but they never cod the county council.

We could scream at the Minister, as has been done to his predecessor, that he has not got the money, but none of us want to do that. We have all had that sad experience. We all want to be helpful; I want to be helpful. It would appear from the continual returning of plans for alteration that the Minister has not got the money. It would appear from the Bill that he has the money. As I said earlier, there is a depth of sincerity in this Bill, but it might be advisable if the Minister would advise those beneath him in the Department that that is what the councillors are thinking—that the Minister has not got the money.

Perhaps the Minister might correct my impression by dishing out the money as speedily as he can to the Dublin County Council. That will satisfy us. The Housing Act (No. 12) of 1925, Part 2, sets out the proportion of rates which may be remitted. It tells us that you can remit for 20 years. I understand the Minister was informed that it was not a fact that the system of 20 years had been applied. It was applied on the Malahide Road and in the Act of 1925, provision is made for its application. I should like, when we get round to the Committee Stage, to submit an amendment on that point. If that is done, I cannot see how it will interfere in any way with the income of the local authorities.

In the Dublin County Council, we like progress and I am sure every other county council likes the same. As far as 20 or ten years are concerned, it does not matter a whole lot. In the tenth year, he will be paying half the amount and gradually he will be moving towards the final day when he pays the lot. I would ask the Minister to consider a period of 20 years. On that note, I will sit down, thanking the Minister for listening. I really congratulate the Minister with deep sincerity for introducing this Bill.

I also wish to congratulate the Minister on this Bill. If it should turn out as I think it should, it will be a tremendous improvement on our housing legislation up to the moment. There are provisions in the Bill which will help a number of people who were actually ruled out of any benefit and who were prevented from getting the housing they required. I am sure that if it can be implemented in full, it will be regarded as a boon by such people.

The first point I want to make on it is in connection with the rates remission referred to by Senator Carton. I am not going to go into the detail he has gone into about the various years, but I do think that the graduated scale is going to be of immense advantage to a number of people. I have personal experience of it over a number of years and I know that when under the old system people paid a third of their rates during the first seven years, they found it very inconvenient to find the whole amount in the eight year.

I do not agree altogether with Senator Carton that in the first two years, they had plenty of money; in my experience, they were generally tied up with paying for other things, but by the seventh year, there were three or four children to be provided for in the average house. There were school fees to be paid and other things. Some people had come to regard their rates as in or about what they were paying and they got a tremendous surprise when they got a bill for three times what they were used to paying in the eighth year.

From my experience, I certainly agree that by a graduated scale, by paying a little more each year, they will get used to it. They will know that they must pay full rates. It will not come as such a surprise as I have found it with some people and they will be better able to cope with it. The scheme as it is at the moment will involve much the same cost for local authorities. They may be out five pounds, but it will not cost the ratepayers at any rate any more so far as I can see. I certainly think this proposal a great improvement on the old system of a third for seven years.

The next thing I want to refer to is the extension of the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts to the older houses. I think that is a good step. In pre-first war days, the Act was very popular in Dublin for the purchase of houses. There did not seem to be much trouble in those days about valuing houses. Whether, with all the regulations we have been making, it has become harder or not, I do not know, but in those days there was a certain market value that anybody who was connected with the market at that time could agree on to within a ten pound note. With all the regulations we have been making about taking this, that or the other into account, there seems to be a great difference of opinion on the value of houses in recent years.

I hope, as Senator Carton pointed out, that the Minister will try to do something about that, with regard to old houses at any rate, and get some sort of standard value. The value it would fetch in the open market should be the standard leaving out all the fringes. I think it will be of tremendous advantage to a number of people, if this can be operated. It will enable them to take even a house in bad repair and by the repairs grant, put it into proper order for themselves. There are a large number of people, in the City of Dublin at any rate, who, even if they could get a new house at the moment with the grants and the Small Dwellings Act loan— some of them do not get that on other conditions—would not be prepared to go out the distance they must go for a new house. They want to be nearer their work, owing to their hours. They have also found the buses too costly and inconvenient with too long a pause in between at these new places. They want to be in the old city. They cannot get a loan for that.

For years—I do not know what the position may actually be now—they could not even get a loan through a building society and this clause in the Bill should go a long way to meet their wants. It may have the incidental effect that a number of people will be prepared because of changed circumstances regarding older houses, to go out and get new houses and help building in that way. I can see that happening in a number of cases in the City of Dublin.

For my part I have always been a believer in the owner-occupier system for a man and his house. I believe that it promotes the best of citizenship. I have always been in favour of the tenant purchase schemes under the local authorities and I think that we did not do nearly enough of them. If one just looks at some of the original tenant purchase schemes in Dublin, around Marino, Donnelly's Orchard and parts of Drumcondra which I know personally, nobody could say that they were not a huge success. They have provided suburbs one can be proud of and the people are in every way the best of citizens.

Hear, hear!

Senator Carton will agree with every word I say. Some of those people came from very bad surroundings, but because they have an interest in their own homes the children were not allowed to destroy the property as they were on other schemes. Their fathers took care of that because they would have to pay for the destruction.

Good man!

I have always been in favour of those schemes even theoretically and from what I see I am more in favour than ever. This clause in the Bill will help to provide more owner-occupiers and I think that is good for us in the country and good for our citizenship. I am speaking mainly of Dublin, because I know it, and I can say that it would be an asset in every way to us in the city.

The next point is the increase in the repair grant and the removal of the clauses. Their removal is going to be a tremendous advantage. I have met several cases already of people who wanted to repair their houses if they could get the grant, but who were ruled out by those clauses. I can see some of them now when this Bill goes through getting busy and helping to give work. The Bill will also, as the Minister pointed out, help landlords, who due to the rents they were bound down to legally, were not able to keep their premises in order. It will help them to save their property and give their tenants a fairer deal than they have been able to do up to the present.

I should like the Minister to tell me if I am right in saying that they will be entitled to the two-thirds remission on the increase for seven years under other legislation, as regards the rate increase that will follow these repairs. I think that is so.

I want also to refer to the interest rates. One of the big questions slowing up building in Dublin is the amount that people have to pay in interest. The rates are so high that the payment works out at such a figure that there are a number who some years ago, if they were at the same stage, would have gone in for a house, but will not to-day because they cannot see themselves taking on the payments which they will be making for the rest of their lives, since they are over a 35-year period. I was wondering whether the Minister would not give serious consideration to trying to find some fair flat rate of interest that could be charged on those houses, irrespective of the bank rate going up or down, that would enable people to know what they would have to pay for the rest of their lives.

I want to conclude by congratulating the Minister again. I hope that when it is put into operation, the Bill will achieve all the objects and ideas he has in mind.

In that the Bill aims at the final clearance of slum dwellings and the earlier re-housing of the slum dwellers themselves in blocks of modern flats, and encourages others, not covered by local authority programmes, to provide for their own housing accommodation, this Bill is a very valuable extension of the existing housing legislation. The extension of grants to previously occupied houses for conversion as single private dwellings or for letting as two or more flat dwellings, particularly in city areas, will make a good contribution to solving the difficulties of other classes of city dwellers. It is hoped, however, that those applying for such grants would be issued in advance with minimum constructional arrangements or whatever you call them, plans for construction, so as to ensure that the reconstructed dwellings, whether for private usage or for letting as single units or groups of flats, will conform to certain agreed standards. What I have in mind is the fact that it would be so easy to rebuild the old houses into overcrowded, unhealthy tenements and find ourselves starting off afresh on a slum problem.

Apart from the contribution to housing the city people, the reconstruction of these large old houses will brighten up our cities and towns, making them look prosperous and progressive. I cannot think of anything so depressing to visitors as the sight of good old houses, either unoccupied or falling into decay.

The grants for the installation of sewerage and water to dwellings is of very great value indeed from a health point of view and in lessening the drudgery which has been the lot of rural housewives in far too large an area for far too long a time. It is quite impossible, as we all know, to maintain a healthy community and raise a healthy family where there is no sewerage and no piped water for human consumption.

In regard to the remission of rates, while the proposals in the Bill go a good way to lessen the anxiety of those who will avail of the new opportunities in the Bill in the matter of reconstructing their property, I think the Minister could afford to be somewhat more generous, because as I understand it, the remissions will apply only to the increased valuation, and the taxpayer will continue to pay his ordinary rates on the original valuation, so that the cost involved would not be so very great.

I should like to follow up what one of the Deputies said in the Dáil when he pressed for the regulation and reduction of legal charges in respect of small dwellings. Legal fees of £50 to £80 are a hardship on ordinary working people, and they do not appear to bear any relationship to the amount of work involved.

In regard to grants in general for house building, I would like to ask the Minister a question. I do not know whether this really applies here or not. The question is: just what a Local Government housing inspector certifies when he passes a house as fit to receive a council or corporation grant. We all saw in the Press recently where in County Dublin a housing scheme in a very lovely area had houses that were most attractive, but after they had been occupied for a very short time, serious defects manifested themselves. This resulted in a law suit in which judgment was given in favour of the tenants, who eventually received from the builder sums of money which were in no way related to the cost which would be involved in putting those houses into condition. I think that most people when they are buying houses feel that the Local Government inspector is their watchdog, but apparently that is not so. I should like to ask the Minister what is the value of this inspection by the Local Government inspector.

I will conclude by expressing the hope that much good will come from this new measure and thanking the Minister for introducing it.

I welcome the provisions of this Housing Bill and wish to say that, in my opinion, it is a very progressive step in the right direction and will, I hope, go a long way towards solving the housing needs of the people of both rural and urban Ireland during the next five or ten years. I have listened to the various speakers mainly talking about conditions in the City of Dublin. I should like, coming from a rural constituency, to say that under the provisions of this Bill there are many advantages for people living in the rural areas, and that the amount of grant available for the average sized five-roomed house is very considerably improved. In some cases, it will be nearly £150 more than under the old system.

As a member of public bodies for a number of years, I made a study of the conditions of people living in rural areas and urban areas and will briefly tell what I have seen. In rural Ireland, excellent work was done by public bodies in providing houses for the working classes. The provision of houses for people up to £5 valuation in my county is nearly finished. There is an important change in this Bill, in that the sliding scale for supplementary grants has been removed. In future, the person building a house up to £50 valuation can get 100 per cent. of the supplementary grant. Is that not correct?

For reconstruction.

The type of person I always have in mind as being most in need, and whom I have mentioned on many occasions, is the man on a small valuation, up to £20, in rural Ireland, the man with the thatched house, which is sadly disappearing from our countryside. We know there are generous grants proposed in this Bill. That man, in my opinion, is the only person not catered for. The man up to £5 is provided for out of the rates by public bodies, and the man on the higher valuation is able to borrow and provide the house for himself and his family from his own resources; but these other people on small valuations are not able to borrow the amount of money required. That may not be the position in every county, but there are many cases where those with the valuations I speak of cannot provide houses for themselves. The Minister should reconsider the position of those people.

This is an important Bill for urban dwellers. In every town, there are many houses which were built a couple of hundred years ago. They have an elaborate front, whether it is a shop or otherwise, in good repair; but the back is tumbling down. I hope these people will be able to take advantage of the reconstruction grants to repair those houses. Those people cannot provide reconstruction costs out of their own resources, and the urban councils cannot help them, as very often 1d. in the £ on the rates would produce only £40 or £50. With their many commitments they cannot provide supplementary housing grants. I have a letter here from a man living in a small town, who says they do not think they can provide this money. The Minister should consider that position. The urban dwellers will benefit considerably under the Bill, but it would spoil it all if the urban councils are not able to lend the money to the individuals.

I congratulate the Minister on his splendid attempt to finish up the housing problem of our people. Deputy Blaney is a young man and I am sure he will leave nothing undone to complete the work started 30 years ago and which we all hope will be finished in our own time.

First of all, I should like to welcome the Minister on his appearance in this House. I also welcome the Bill and I appreciate the Minister's honesty in bringing it in. However, I warn him that there is no use in having this legislation passed and having Ministers saying all over the country that there is plenty of money available, when we have a different experience in County Dublin. In saying this, I do not refer to the present Minister; it applies to previous Ministers also. If they would say decently they have not the money, we would know we could not go ahead with our plans.

I will give an illustration of the position in County Dublin. First of all, there is no other county which has faced up to the housing problem as well as we have in County Dublin. Both the councillors and the management in County Dublin have been determined, once and for all, to end our housing problem. We had the applications; we had the tenants prepared to pay rent. A couple of years ago we had 200 houses in course of construction. At the last meeting of the Housing Committee, although we had the same number of engineers and officials going out on inspection, there were four solitary houses under construction. I am sure I am correct in that.

That is correct.

During the time when the late Deputy Davin, God rest him, was Parliamentary Secretary, he wrote a letter, which I have in my possession, saying the Department had approved of 84 houses for erection in Lucan. That would be between three and four years ago. The Department has held us up since then. They want the plans done this way and that way. Finally, they agreed to 42 houses—just half the number we required in Lucan. Even then, there has been wrangling on that for the past two years and they will not allow the 42 to be built. I would ask the Minister to take up this matter and see why the county council is not allowed to proceed with the erection of even 42 houses.

We are talking about bringing tourists to the country. As a representative of No. 2 area of County Dublin, I should be awfully disappointed if tourists visiting the lovely place that Lucan is should see the hovels, the pigsties. There are places in the West of Ireland where pigs are housed under better conditions. I would be glad if Senator Lenihan, who goes home that way, would turn to the right at the court house and see the conditions.

We have heard the Minister saying that money is not the obstacle. The previous Minister said the same. Nevertheless, county council housing schemes are held up. The Department have finally agreed to the contract for development. It has been held up for the past three or four months because a small part of a boundary wall would have to be altered. If these were the last words that I should utter, I say that the Department has deliberately held up the housing scheme in Lucan and other schemes in County Dublin for want of money. At the last meeting of the Housing Committee of Dublin County Council, a remark was passed which I consider very apt. Members of the council were very sore about the position. We asked the Minister to receive a deputation and were refused. A member suggested that if they had sanctioned all the schemes and the housing question was finished, the officials would have nothing to do. I hope the Minister will go into that matter.

In connection with Small Dwellings Act loans for private houses, I would very specially appeal to the Minister that in such cases there should be no stamp duty. At present, a person who buys a private house has to pay stamp duty and the loan charges are exorbitant. There are certain people who like to live in the city. When they purchase a house, they are involved in costs of every kind. There should be no stamp duty on these houses, particularly where they are under a certain valuation. The legal expenses are far too high. I am not prejudiced against the legal profession, but I do say that they have no conscience when it comes to the question of charges. I am speaking from sad experience and from the experience of friends of mine who bought houses and who paid £65 for the transfer of a lease. The vendor had the lease; the purchaser had the money and it was only a matter of going to the Castle and getting the stamp, which would take only half an hour.

They knew how to stamp it.

They did. I congratulate the Minister on applying the Small Dwellings Acquistion Acts to these people, but I would appeal to him to provide that there shall be no stamp duty on houses up to a certain valuation and that there be some control over the legal costs.

In regard to poliomyelitis, I congratulate the Minister for Health on introducing a scale of charges for vaccination. The Minister for Local Government should lay down a scale of legal charges.

I do not advocate building thousands of houses in the City of Dublin where there is not a purchase scheme attached to them. I do advocate such schemes in County Dublin or other counties because the gentleman who is now President of this country introduced a purchase scheme for cottage tenants in rural Ireland. There was never a purchase scheme in respect of such houses in the City of Dublin. The whole system is wrong. A nation cannot be built around thousands of local authority houses in Dublin. If the tenants were given some interest in the homes, they would look after them and it would not be necessary to expend thousands of pounds in repairing them or we would not have to send a painter to paint a painter's house, the same painter being an employee of Dublin Corporation. The ordinary ratepayers have to pay for that and they have to be considered. The people should be given some title to their homes. In Marino, Drumcondra and the first part of Cabra, the houses are a credit to the people in them and the type of citizens coming out of those houses are a credit to the nation. While the provision in the Bill is a step in the right direction, it does not go far enough. There should be a purchase scheme for corporation houses, particularly where the tenants are in a position to purchase.

With regard to grants or Small Dwellings Act loans for the purchase of private houses or houses that have been occupied, would the Minister explain if there is any limit to price or to valuation? For instance, will a house the valuation of which is £26 in the City of Dublin be eligible for a loan under the Act? I should be grateful if the Minister would give some indication on that point.

On the whole question of loans under the Small Dwellings Act—now I clash with Senator Carton—while the county council have restricted loans to persons of a certain income, they are really doing them a good turn. Take the case of a person with £9 or £9 10s a week. If he is given a loan under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts, he finds the repayments on the loan, at the cruel rate of interest charged, and rates amount to £3 a week. It is doing such people a good turn at the start to refuse them.

On the question of ground rents, no greater crime was ever committed in the eyes of those of us who fought against British landlords than the new form of more cruel and more tyrannical landlords that has been set up. In the case of land around the City of Dublin, development of which did not cost the owners 1/-, where water and sewerage were brought there, where the ordinary grazing value of an acre before the water and sewerage were brought there was about £15 per annum, we find eight to ten houses built on the acre, the occupiers of which are being charged £16 10s. ground rent. That is a shame. It is the worst form of tyranny and landlordism.

Dublin County Council have decided that they will not give a loan in respect of any house where the ground rent is more than £10, and even £10 is exorbitant. That £10 applies where the developer had to develop the ground and bring in water and sewerage. Some scoundrels took advantage of development in their areas to charge extraordinary ground rents and they should not get away with it. If a person can be legally charged for doing an injustice in one direction, I do not see why that should not be the case in another direction.

Then again there is the case of a private builder. He builds his own house and goes to live in it, and if he defaults in the ground rent, the ground landlord can step in because the man who has built the house never owns the land. Successive Governments in this country have hopelessly failed, and I say that without reserve, to attack the question of ground rents. As Senator Crowley stated, the question of private ownership is a very important one and it is one which is encouraged by the Pope who, in his Christmas Message, stated that the heads of families should have a stake in the country. In view of the ground landlords we have in this country, none of the middle-class people, and none of the working-class people can ever have a real stake in the country because they do not own the land on which their houses are built. They have not got an opportunity of buying it, even at so many years purchase. It is a shame that such a system should be allowed.

On the question of remission of rates, I agree with Senator Carton and my idea is that it is being done in the wrong way. It is being done in a way which is the reverse of the way I think it should be done. I may be wrong, but I would have the full rates paid at the start and I would give the remission the other way around, for the first 15 or 16 years of occupation. I think that should be done because when a couple get married, they are reasonably well off and after seven years, if they are blessed with a family, the first child is then ready to make his First Holy Communion. It is then that the full rate is clapped on them. If God blesses them with a reasonable family, and our middle-class people are blessed in that way, by the time 15 years have passed, they are not able to meet their liabilities. By the time the house has been occupied for 15 years, there would be a chance that some of the family would be in a position to help the parents. It is in those desperate years, between seven years and 15 years occupation, that persons with families are hardest hit and it is during those years that we should do all in our power to assist them.

Senator O'Brien referred, in a paper which he read, to building societies. With all respect, the small dwellings loans are bad enough, but God protect the people from building societies because they have no scruples at all about the interest they charge. I see some Senators laughing but any statements which I make I can prove to the hilt. I would be disappointed if any Senator recommended any person to go to a society or individual charging 7 or 8 per cent. on the money they lend. I think that is entirely wrong.

The Minister is giving a grant to people who will reconstruct large houses into separate dwellings. That is a very good thing, but I think that in that direction, if the Minister is giving that grant, he should do something about stopping the rotten system which prevails in Dublin where if you have even one child, you are not allowed into a house. The Minister should bear in mind that if he gives grants towards the remodelling of houses that rotten system of preventing people from getting accommodation, because they have children, exists. I know of a case where a couple were taken into a house and about 16 months later, when it was found that a baby was about to be born, they were put out. They could not be put out legally, but they were persecuted in such a manner that they had to leave. I feel that people who do that sort of thing should not get away with it. After all, if the State and the taxpayer are giving grants towards reconstruction to make a house fit for a family, there should be some clause to prevent that system operating.

In connection with loans and grants, I say again, with all due respect, that the Department are a washout, so far as these are concerned. I know of a case in County Dublin where a man bought a house and spent a lot of his own money reconstructing it. He went to the Department last February or March and he received permission to go ahead only last week. There should not be delays of that sort. People who show such industry are worthy of consideration and should get some help and co-operation. They do not understand the law so well and they should get reasonable help and co-operation from the officials of the Department. After all, that is what they are paid for.

I have already mentioned the question of building flats in Dublin City. By all means, we should go ahead with that and not take people from the heart of the city and put them out in the country where their bus fares alone constitute a rent in themselves. It would be far better and those people would be far happier, if they got a chance to live in reasonable conditions in the city. That is what they are used to and I would say that they were completely out of their depth outside the city area. I am sorry to say that many of them are in dire poverty. It is not about unemployed people that I am talking but the man who is earning but who has to pay bus fares and if the children are working has to pay the differential rent.

As far as Dublin Corporation are concerned, with their town planning, I think they have gone completely mad. You have only to go to Ballyfermot or Finglas to see the acres of the most fertile land being wasted. There are open spaces here and open spaces there. I believe in playgrounds, but it would be interesting if the Minister found out from the corporation the cost of the playground at Nephin Road. It is not finished yet and it is just a great mass of weeds, but I would like to know what it cost the ratepayers. It seems foolish to erect such a park beside the Phoenix Park. The same thing applies in Blanchardstown where the town planners would not allow us to build on a site. They want open spaces in the open country, which is stupid and should not be allowed.

In regard to grants for repairs in County Dublin, we have spent an exorbitant sum of money for repairs to cottages because during the war years, they got into a state of disrepair. I should like to know if those grants for repairs will apply to houses owned by the county council. We have had cases where we had to spend four times what it cost to put up the house originally, to put the house into repair. I wonder will the Minister make any allowance where a local authority spends £70,000 or £80,000 for repairs on cottages to put them into repair. As soon as they are put into order, the people take them over and the county council is finished with them.

This Bill should commend itself to the Seanad. It is an extension of the very admirable principle enshrined in previous housing legislation and in the Small Dwellings Act—the principle of helping those people who want to help themselves. I think it is an admirable principle and this Bill extends the provisions whereby the State and the local authorities are enabled to help people to build and reconstruct their own houses. There is no need to go into the details. Briefly, increased grants are made available towards building, reconstructing and improving houses and increased grants towards the provision of water and sewerage facilities. These grants are admirably set out in the memorandum attached to the Bill.

I think Senator Hogan's point is an interesting one—the difficulty of catering for farmers in the low valuation category. That is partially met. It is the intention of the Bill to meet that by Sections 8 and 13. I think these two sections are admirable ones. Section 8 is an enabling section which permits the local authority to provide grants for reconstruction on the same basis as grants given by the Department. That is a very welcome extension of the reconstruction grant provisions under the old Acts. Under the old Acts, most local authorities had a rather complicated grading system whereby they supplemented the grants made by the Department towards the local authority. That, taken in conjunction with Section 13, which provides for the extension of the Small Dwellings Acts loans for reconstruction, should meet the point made by Senator Hogan—the difficulty of making provision for farmers in the low valuation category.

There are increased grants for reconstruction and the loan reconstruction scheme should enable these people to improve their holdings and add whatever room or make whatever improvements are necessary to put their houses in a proper habitable condition. In that connection, there is one suggestion I should like to make to the Minister. It is in connection with the section under which he makes provision for equivalent grants to be made by the local authority where grants are made by the State under the Housing (Gaeltacht) Acts, 1929, Section 7. There are many cases where the Land Commission, under the Land Acts, make provision for a grant by way of reconstruction. I think that a similar provision as that provided in Section 7 should be introduced, whereby the local authority would be enabled to make a grant equivalent to that given by the Land Commission to a person for the reconstruction of a house. At the moment, the Land Commission can make a grant to the local authority, but there is no provision whereby the State or the local authority can make any additional or supplementary grant. If the local authority could have similar provisions whereby they could make a supplementary grant, it would further help people and enable them, by way of grant or loan, to reconstruct their houses.

I think most people from rural Ireland will welcome the provision that the grants be made available by local authorities by way of subsidy from the Central Fund. That is an admirable provision. Although not in the Bill— it merely empowers local authorities to do what they are entitled to do by law —it is set out in the explanatory memorandum that:—

"Statutory authority exists under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts but is not operated at present, empowering housing authorities to make loans for the purchase of previously occupied houses. It is proposed to enable housing authorities to exercise these powers in relation to the lower-income groups..."

I should like the Minister to give us a definition of "lower-income group" in that case. I assume it applies to people who can already get a Small Dwellings Act loan for the building of a new house, people in receipt of under £830. That is also another very valuable extension of the small dwellings code.

In conclusion, I should like to say that this Bill is a progressive one and the Government are to be commended for bringing it in. There was a suggestion in the recent Capital Investment Advisory Committee's report, the latest, that the Small Dwellings Act should be curtailed or restricted in some measure. That would be a very undesirable procedure. The Small Dwellings Act is an admirable Act and it would be a mistake to curtail or restrict any advances made under that legislation. There is a suggestion in their second report that that should be done. I am glad to see from this housing legislation that the Government do not propose to follow the Investment Committee in that recommendation. The Seanad should have no difficulty in passing this Bill.

Could we get some idea of whether there are many more speakers or whether it is intended to finish the Second Stage?

The only one on this side of the House is Senator Donegan.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

There are also Senator Cole and Senators Louis Walsh and Laurence Walsh. The members of the House have their rights.

I should like, if the Minister has not adequate time, to sit late until we finish the business to-night.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I take it the House will agree to finish the Second Stage. How long will the Minister require?

That depends to a large extent upon what has been raised and what will be raised.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

We will go on the assumption that the debate on the Second Reading will conclude to-night.

I believe this Bill is a natural development, taking into consideration the progress of housing in this country over the past 15 years. We had a situation during the war years when the Government of the day could not build any houses. After the war, a great need had to be filled. It does not matter which Government filled it because either Government would probably have filled it in rather the same sort of way. The speeding up in housing since the end of the war until last year was a natural thing. The need was there. People were in a very bad way and needed new houses. They needed reconstructed houses. The great and constant acceleration that went on was a natural development.

We have been criticised by the O.E.E.C. Report and by many economic advisers overseas who told us that we were spending too much of our available capital on the construction of houses. I would disagree with them as I think would most members of the House. While we can be advised by these people, they sometimes take too material a view. It is true to say that it is a terrible thing to see a man with a good house not able to pay for it because he has not a job. Perhaps we should have concentrated more on the provision of work and jobs, but I differ from the experts in saying that each Government did their best and no well-thought out scheme for industrial advancement was delayed for want of money. However, it was inevitable that the stage would be reached when this unnaturally high volume of private and public building could not be sustained and early last year that stage was reached.

I am not going to play politics on this, but we had members of the other House saying, as members of this House said, that the money was not there, that the money was in the Local Loans Fund, that the Government had no money to build more houses. Of course, that is quite true because as quickly as you gentlemen get it, you dole it out. As soon as the Department of Local Government gets their money, as soon as the ordinary revenue comes to the Minister for Finance and he passes it to the Minister for Local Government, the Department of Local Government doles it out.

When I was a foolish young Deputy —you might say that I am still a foolish young Senator—I addressed myself to the question of the delay between the submission of plans for houses to the Department and the sanctioning of those plans. The delay was three days over a period of 20 years. That would amaze Senator Tunney. That was, of course, not the case when the plans were found wanting, when a wall was wanting, as Senator Tunney mentioned. In that case, back they go. At this time, however, there is a change in the general flavour. The way of looking at this is such that epithets and allegations will not be hurled at the Minister. Allegations will not be made that he has not the money. No one will tell him now as someone did before that he has not 64,000,000 brass farthings when the sum of £64,000,000 was referred to regarding housing needs. The money is coming to him as it always did, as it came last year when the scare was on to his predecessor to enable him to issue it to build houses, purchase lands or build roads.

Notwithstanding this Bill, there is a colossal reduction in the Estimate for housing. One must remember that in the Book of Estimates this year, there is a reduction compared with last year of £700,000. I do not know what effect that will have on the operation of the Bill.

Did you read the Book?

Yes, I did. That reduction is there, but I am quite prepared to have the Book explained to me, or to have anything told to me so as to help to clear my mind; but I know there is money there. There was money there every year and this State will never go broke, as was implied.

Who said that?

Deputy Briscoe said it.

In Dublin Corporation, in Dáil Éireann and elsewhere.

Do not come the old one.

Where is your reference?

That is an old one.

Do not make an insinuation unless you can give a reference.

I am stating that without fear of contradiction. I am not, I hope, bringing politics into it.

Give your reference.

There is one point I want to discuss—other speakers discussed everything else I was going to raise. The point is what is referred to in our local authority as tenant purchase schemes. The position in our local authority—and probably in every other local authority—is that while ordinary corporation or council housing needs are not satisfied, a tenant purchase scheme will not be sanctioned. A Small Dwellings Acquisition Act scheme will be sanctioned but here at least a few hundred pounds have to be put up by the purchaser. A tenant purchaser scheme, however, by a county council or a corporation, where the purchaser need not put up the money and for which the council or corporation must assume responsibility, will not be provided for the white-collar workers or for any person who needs his own house. The money will not be put up until the ordinary needs have been satisfied. As was mentioned by Senator Carton and other Senators, the man to-day with £10 a week, a clerk, a man in business or in any other job defined as a white-collar worker is not a very well-off man. He wants to own his own house. He probably is not eligible—or his housing circumstances are such that he would not get one anyway—to be re-housed by the local authority, but because he cannot say he has the £100 which he needs under the Small Dwellings Act, he cannot get his own home by tenant purchase until all the needs of the working classes have been satisfied.

That rigid rule should be dispensed with. The Minister having dispensed with it, should judge every local authority as he finds them. For instance, if he sees that in Drogheda 300 or 400 people still need to be re-housed and sees that it is impossible for the local authority to satisfy their needs with that proviso, then they should be allowed to build under the tenant purchase scheme. Senator Laurence Walsh, a fellow member of the corporation, will agree on that point and will also ask the Minister to consider dispensing with that rigid rule which binds him at the moment.

There is a problem which Senator Tunney mentioned regarding the number of officers. I know that there is redundancy perhaps in certain departments of local authorities because of the wildly accelerated building rate—more than one in five families over ten years got new or reconstructed houses. That is a problem we must face and there are difficulties. A man who came in and became permanent, a man who did his best and worked hard to build these houses is entitled to his permanency. The Minister and the local authorities have difficulties there. The only way to meet them is in the ordinary business way of meeting every situation as it arises by trying to find these men jobs in other places where their permanency will not be affected.

I am sorry that the Leader of the House, Senator Ó Maoláin, felt I was being political about money.

What else were you?

I was not. I was being clear about the fact that, as moneys become available, they are dished out. As moneys become available to the Minister, he doles them out to local authorities. It would be his wish to hand out three times as much if he could. That would be the wish of every Minister. I do not want to see anybody in this House or in the other House with local authority connections saying that he has no money, because even if the Minister has no money to-day, the next day he may walk in with a fine allocation from the Minister for Finance.

Ní chuirfead mórán moille ar an Tigh, tá an oiread sin moladh agus tréasluithe dhá fháil ag an Aire—ní bhfuair sé an ciaradh a fuair Airí eile sa Tigh so le dhá lá.

Is Bille tábhachtach é seo. Déan-fhaidh sé tairbhe do dhaoine ar fúd na tíre. Ní choimeádfhead ag éisteacht a thuille sibh ach pointe amháin a dhéanamh agus sé sin im thuairimse an rud is tábhactaí sa Bhille: an chumhacht atá ann chun cabhair a thabhairt do dhaoine tithe atá cheanna ann a dheisiú agus a chur i dtreo; an chumhacht uisce, draenáil agus rudaí eile a sholáthair agus é sin bheith le fáil, ní amháin i mBaile Átha Cliath ach ar fúd na tíre i measc na bhfeirmeoirí agus na daoine nach bhfhuil an dóigh aca é dhéanamh iad féin. Molaim an tAire a bhfuil Bille mar sin dhá thabhairt isteach aige. Is maith liom go mbeadh tarraingt ar an chabhair san a thabhairt do dhaoine feabhas a chur ar a dtigh. Is tábhachtach an rud é sin.

Ní eile atá tábhachtach, solus. Dá mbeadh solus, uisce agus draenáil le fáil ag daoine i leith a gcuid tithe, is dóigh liom go mbeadh slacht ar an tír agus cion ar an tír, ar an dtuaith, níos mó ná mar atá fé láthair ag na daoine óga.

Tá pointe amháin eile ar m'aigne. Tá a lán bailte beaga ar fúd na tuaithe anois—go mór mhór amuigh fé imeall na tíre—agus níl i gcuid aca ach leath na ndaoine a bhí ionnta fiche blian ó shoin.

Tá leath na ndaoine imithe agus an leath aosta fátha sa bhaile. Is eol dom baile caoiseach tábhachtach a bhfhuil timcheall 300 tithe cómhnaithe ann. I leath de na 300 tithe san níl ach duine amháin anois nó beirt aosta ina gcomhnaí. Tá an tigh ag dul i nolcas tré fhailighe, tré neamh-chúram b'fheidir nó tré bhoichte na ndaoine atá innte. Má's feidir deisiú a dhéanamh ortha san agus iad 'fheabhsú, tiocfhaí daoine 'na gcomhnaí i gcuid aca. Sparálfaidh sé sin costas tithe nua a thógáil agus costas lucht ceirde. Sa bhaile atá im aigne tóigeadh cúig tithe fichead ar chíos idir 12/6 agus 17/- sa tseachtmhain. Cuid de na daoine, ní rachaidís isteach ionnta de bhárr airde na cíosa a bhí ortha. Dá mbeadh cuid de na daoine san ina gcomhnaí i sean-tigh agus dá gcaithtí £100 nó £200 ortha d'fhéadfhaí tithe slachtmhara a dhéanamh díobh agus ní bheadh leath na cíosa le híoc ag an lucht oibre agus na hiascairí sa bhaile san.

Sin é an rud tábhachtach sa Bhille: an chumacht tithe atá ann cheanna agus daoine ionnta a fheabhsú agus a chur fé shlacht. Molaim an tAire agus déanaim cógháirdeachas leis an Rialtas atá ullamh an cabhair san a thabhairt agus an maisiú san a dhéanamh ar tithe don phobail.

There are a few points I should like to mention to the Minister, though possibly they are more appropriate to the Committee Stage. I should like to hear the Minister speak on them, if possible. First, I should like to say that the emphasis to-night has been in favour of the Bill and most of the Seanad are very much in favour of it and have approved of the Government decision that it is necessary; but there has been very little spoken on the opposite side. That is the position which Senator Donegan mentioned at one point, but did not dwell on very much—that the international financial experts and our own have been advocating over a number of years past that we have spent too much money on housing compared with what we are producing. That has been the opinion of our own Central Bank in their review over a number of years. It has also been the opinion of a great many local authorities or members of local authorities—that they have been seeing themselves face loans mounting year after year. I know that it may be very welcome in some cases to have this Bill and see, as some Senator has said, that under Sections 8 and 13, local authorities may have permission to give advances and grants; but I know of local authorities who were doing that and had to stop it because they found the amount coming on the rates to pay the interest on those loans was getting beyond their control.

These are to a certain extent warnings which the Minister may not feel it wise to accept as yet in the history of housing, but housing has been since the war the greatest expense that local authorities have. I wonder what the indebtedness of the whole Twenty Six Counties would be at present on housing alone. It must be an enormous debt, and it will be a long time before it is repaid, or, in other words, before there is any relief to the rates.

The other matter I wanted to mention was in connection with Section 12 dealing with grants for the installation of private water supply and sewerage. Unfortunately, I did not have the time to examine the other Acts, but what is the position with regard to a similar grant by the Department of Agriculture? If a farmer applies for a grant to sink a well, I believe he applies to the Department of Agriculture. I was interested in the position in my own county and indeed in any other. Possibly in the future when the tuberculosis eradication scheme becomes more advanced, it will be necessary to have a bored well for all water supplies for dairies and so on. The Department of Agriculture will give a grant towards that. Can the farmer obtain a grant also under this Bill? Can he obtain a grant under Section 12 here and another from the Department of Agriculture for two supplies, one being for the yard and the other for the house?

Sub-section (2) of Section 12 of this Bill refers to water schemes "being provided". Will the Minister decide by regulation the meaning of "being provided"? In my county, there are schemes listed by the medical officer which will not mature for a number of years. Because these schemes have been planned but cannot be done for some considerable time, would the applicants in those areas be debarred for that reason from availing themselves of this grant? If those people availed themselves of the grant, it might obviate the necessity for the local authority of extending the supply to those persons.

Senator Tunney suggests that considerable improvement could be effected in legal costs. I suggest that Senator Tunney's own knowledge could be improved in this matter. Legal costs are fixed and approved by the Oireachtas. They are statutory charges, and this House and the other House are responsible for the costs which the legal fraternity are entitled to charge. Unlike the fees of auctioneers, medical practitioners, architects, and so on, the legal fees are controlled by the Oireachtas.

As a member of the legal profession, I would refer the Minister to the fact that loans under the Small Dwellings Acts necessitate considerable costs in the way of charges or mortgages on the property. I should like him to consider this matter and see if there is any way in which these charges could be reduced, for this reason. On numerous occasions, people have come to me and asked me to apply for a mortgage under the Small Dwellings Acts; and I have told them not to be so foolish, but to go to a bank where, though the interest may be ½ per cent. higher, most of these charges could be obviated. The bank will accept the land certificate or the original deeds as an equitable mortgage and obviate the necessity for having the loan registered against the holding or registered as a mortgage. Those costs are considerable.

I presume it is the function of the county manager to decide this question. Possibly different local authorities have different procedures. When there are two solvent securities, with the land certificate or the original deeds, I think that is sufficient for any local authority; and I have known none where there has been a default. I understand most local authorities actually make a small profit on the loans which they advance under the Local Loans Fund. Therefore, I sympathise with Senator Davidson when she talks about the high charges. I suggest the Minister should consider circularising county managers and asking them to try to obviate the necessity for these charges on registration and on release, by the more simple procedure of equitable mortgage.

This Bill is a commendable one and its provisions are a considerable improvement on previous legislation. Its primary objects are to enable people to purchase previously occupied premises, to improve and maintain dwellings, provide private water and sewerage, and the conversion of large premises into separate dwellings.

In the case of the small farmers who are such an important factor in our whole economy and who pay a considerable amount in the way of rates, this Bill is important. Because of their low standard of living and their isolation from markets and so on, and the fact that they have to rely to a considerable extent on the weather to save their crops and because they lack many of the amenities enjoyed by the town dweller, it is our duty to see that they enjoy every possible benefit the Government can provide.

Like Senator Cole, I am a little worried about the power now being conferred on local authorities enabling and encouraging them to provide more and bigger grants for reconstruction purposes. In my county, the capital indebtedness is approximately £4,000,000 and indebtedness for housing alone is approximately £2,250,000. From the time that the Acts first enabled local authorities to provide supplementary grants, my council has availed of that provision. Owing to the poor dwellings in many part of the country, many people were able to avail themselves of these grants.

Consequently, the capital indebtedness for supplementary grants alone amounts to a very considerable sum. This year, no provision was made for those grants because the Act was terminated on 31st March last. Now the grants which they can make will be bigger and because Donegal and Kerry are the two highest-rated counties, if they are to continue those grants as in the past, it will mean that the rates in those counties will be particularly high.

I realise, of course, that is a matter entirely for the local authority. They have absolute discretion in this matter. The Minister will appreciate that, unlike a Government Department, a county council is not subject to a Minister for Finance, a Department of Finance and a Public Accounts Committee and, with the difficulty of raising money, the temptation may be there and the indebtedness of some local authorities may grow too high. Therefore, I suggest that the Department should from time to time consider going into the capital indebtedness of the various counties.

If, as the Bill appears to suggest, money will be freely available to provide these supplementary grants, there may be a time when it would be inadvisable to encourage a local authority to continue making grants as they have been doing up to now. For that reason, would the Minister consider making special provision for counties with a low valuation, where rates are particularly high and where a considerable amount of improvement must be effected in building?

I welcome this Bill. I remember having a good deal to do with its forerunner. There is a vast improvement effected by this Bill. It assists the less well-off citizens. I have had occasion to give deep consideration to the question of supplementary grants. That may be all very well in the City of Dublin with its millions of pounds valuation, but when we come to deal with a small town, such as ours is, although a very important one in many respects, with a £40,000 valuation, it will be difficult to provide supplementary grants for some 400 or 500 houses which it would be necessary to provide to supply the present-day demands. These figures will increase as time goes on. For that reason, it should be optional as to whether local authorities will make supplementary grants or not.

In the past, we had many applications for such grants. We had deputations visiting the council. On each occasion, they had to be turned down for the reason I have referred to. When you think of a valuation of £40,000 or £45,000 as against millions, there is no comparison whatever. The ratepayers must be considered, because they are the people who will have to provide the money.

I am not surprised to hear such dissent as we heard from Senator Tunney to-night on the question of cost and the methods of financing housing in the City and County of Dublin. Recently, two Senators visited our town to put before the citizens there a comprehensive scheme of houses which would be provided at particular figures. I noticed, when I came to deal with it, that no reference was made during that conference to what I consider the most unjust feature of the whole scheme, namely, a weekly charge of 6/1 ground rent. That has no relation or reference whatever to the general cost of the recommended scheme. It amounts to a ground rent of £15 12s. per year. In our town, that would be the rent of a house for a year. That ground rent should be compared with the position in our town where we make one-eighth of an acre available at £2 a year, which means 9d. and a fraction of a penny per week. I would suggest to those people who are interested that they should put all the facts before the people when they come to advise them and to recommend schemes to them.

I must reply to Senator Donegan's reference to tenant purchase schemes. On one occasion, we invited all our tenants to apply for a tenant purchase scheme. We had no response. Our present manager, on another occasion, prepared details of a tenant purchase scheme for 45 houses. Out of those 45 houses, he got two applications. I do not think I am irrelevant in dealing with these matters on this Bill. They are very important. The Minister should tread warily in applying the supplementary grants provisions. They will not be payable in all cases.

I would remind Senator Donegan, who complains so much about one thing and another, that the creditworthy will always get money, and that applies to Governments and to individuals.

The matters that have been raised were varied and numerous and the most satisfactory way of dealing with them would be to take them as they were raised.

Senator Burke referred to the long delay that may occur between the application for a loan for the reconstruction or repair of a house and the actual making of a payment in respect of that application. The only thing I can say in that regard is that I think prudence must guide the owner in seeking this money, that he will not have himself committed irrevocably before he knows he will get it and, having got the allocation of a particular amount of the loan for the carrying out of a specific job of repair, I believe it is possible for him to get his builders suppliers or, possibly, his local bank manager to accept a power of attorney in so far as that promise is concerned and, possibly, as the work goes on, if his contractor requires instalments of money, to draw that money from his bank, pending receipt of the loan by the bank manager. That, as I say, is a matter of prudent planning by these people who may avail of these loans under the Small Dwellings Acts, for the purpose of making repairs or improving houses which in the past they were not able to afford, or could not get the money to carry out.

A suggestion made by Senator Burke, which was quite true in the past, was that local authorities were not going to do repairs where the owner had failed to do them, having received notice to do the repairs from the local authority. It is true that the local authority did not enjoy the same privileges so far as the Local Government grant was concerned. It is now proposed that they will. Under this Bill the local authorities in future will be entitled, when they enter a property to repair it, where the owner has received notice to do so and has not and they will be recouped by the same amount as would have accrued to the owner or occupier, as the case might be.

Senator O'Brien mentioned two points in addition to giving us a fair résumé of the Report of the Capital Investment Committee, which I do not intend to go into in detail. One of the points he raised was the question of the Rent Restriction Act. The only thing I can say there is that the repeal, amending or abolition of the Rent Restriction Act is not appropriate to my Department and the Department of Justice are in fact the people who would, or should, consider that matter. In regard to extending the differential rents system, no legislation is necessary and local authorities may make their proposals, and I think they do, and are obliged to send them to the Department of Local Government which sees that there is nothing in them which should not be there. By and large, it is a matter for the local authorities and no new legislation is necessary.

Senator Carton said a number of things which I had intended to emphasise very much myself and have emphasised in the Dáil. The context of part of his remarks was the absolute necessity for co-operation from the local authorities and getting the best out of this Bill, or indeed out of any of the other Housing Acts. I will add my voice to that of Senator Carton and make a very strong plea to the local authorities to co-operate with the Department in this matter. I would say to them that we will not hold them up, as indeed we have not held them up, in any way as suggested by some Deputies and some Senators, with whom I will deal later.

I will also make a plea to the local authorities, when considering their ability or inability to face up to the costs of providing supplementary grants, to bear in mind—particularly in counties on the western seaboard— that if they give these supplementary grants, in practically all instances where applicants avail of such grants and are encouraged to build their own houses, that in the long run will mean one house less, in each case, which the local authority will have to provide wholly or partially, from either rates or Central Fund Money. That is the main argument, and it was the argument in my own mind when I was a member of a local authority, when these supplementary schemes were first introduced.

I can see the objections just as Senators, or Deputies, or councillors will now see them and I did indeed look at the burdens the ratepayers and county finances had to carry, but the final argument in my mind, and the one that carried the day, was just what I have said, that where you encourage the building of further houses by giving supplementary grants, that it means that one house less will fall to be provided by the particular local authority in the future and that it is good value by paying supplementary grants to get the house built and better value to find that the builder is the occupant rather than that the council at a later stage, should build a house and put that person in as a tenant.

These are the considerations which I will offer to local authorities for making up their minds in this matter and I appeal to them to give us their fullest co-operation, not only in regard to new houses but in regard to the conservation of our old houses. Senator Carton is possibly very much wiser in many ways than I am. He and another Senator talked about the easy year there is for a builder of a new house, immediately after he has got married, gone on his honeymoon and returned to the house. He held that it was all plain sailing for the first couple of years. I cannot say from experience whether that is so or not but I do feel that I would reverse the argument. One would feel that having built a house, having found a woman who is silly enough to marry one, having gone on a honeymoon and having returned, the bottom of the purse is likely to have been raked. You may say that furniture could be purchased on the h.p. system, or on the "never never", or whatever you care to call it, but when all these things have been thought about and when the couple come back, how many things will they find, and particularly the new wife, that are not there? How many things will she find absent which she feels should be there and which her spouse, before the marriage, felt, were all catered for?

While we can agree to differ in this matter, there are very strong arguments why the earlier years of marriage may be the stiffest years, when you consider the expenditure that has to be met, the costs of the wedding, of the deposit for the house, for the furniture and equipment, over and above that which may have been got on the h.p. system. Taking all these into consideration, I think the first three or four years are likely to be very difficult years. They are the first years where a married couple are assuming all the responsibilities of marriage, which, I am told, are very much heavier to bear than one is led to believe before getting married. That being the case, I feel, despite the arguments which Senator Carton produced, that the big relief in the earlier years, in regard to the remission of rates, is a very necessary way of dealing with this matter.

There are those who said we should revert to the 20 years remission scale which was produced in 1925 and that the ratepayer would lose nothing by it. I feel that while that is true, what they did not have they cannot miss, but if the local authority, from the ratepayers' pocket, provides supplementary grants, then I feel that they are losing. I feel that if we remit the rates and remit them substantially, we have got to look at it from the ratepayers' point of view. If they are asked, as they are being asked, to provide supplementary grants to do that job and incur that extra heavy burden on the rates, some promise must be held out of some return. I feel that if you go beyond the ten years, you are going beyond the normal life span of a county council. Generally, I do not think councillors will sit down and say to themselves: "If we do this to-day and give these supplementary grants, we will get a lot of money back in 20 years." They would like to look at it a little bit more reasonably.

I think the suggestion also came from Senator Carton that councillors in general should be acquainted of proposals and new proposals before, in fact, we discuss them here. I sympathise with the Senator's views, but, again, we must remember that the making of these proposals, the investigating of them, the agreeing to them and all that has got to be gone through at departmental level, in the first place, at Government level, in the second place, and that it is the right of Deputies and members of this House to discuss these proposals.

I can see the Senator's point in trying to get the views of councillors of very long experience, but I can assure the House that these new proposals are based on the experience of many of our councillors through the various cases found during the years when various housing schemes were operated. We are, in fact, finding the various weak spots by experience and, by and large we are pretty well aware of the views of our councillors throughout the country. We get the suggestions from the minutes of the various meetings which we receive in all cases. We give fair weight to the views of these people.

Of course, we must not forget that quite a large number of the members of both the Dáil and the Seanad are also members of many years' standing of local authorities. Members of the various Cabinets have also had experience in the past so that the position is not quite what might be imagined from the views expressed by Senator Carton, that we go on regardless more or less of the views, experience and advice we could get. We have quite a bit of it from among our own members and quite a lot of it from the statements and views expressed over the years by the various county councils.

There is one matter upon which I join issue with Senator Carton, that is, when he says that repeated requests were made to me to receive a deputation from the Dublin County Council on this Bill and other matters.

Not repeated—two requests.

Has the Senator any idea when they were made?

Yes, one to the Minister's predecessor and one to the Minister himself.

I have checked that, actually. It is subject to a final check. I am not aware of having refused to meet the Dublin Corporation or the Dublin County Council on a matter bearing on this.

Senator Tunney will bear me out on that. I accept what the Minister says.

That is all in good faith. I say that to Senator Carton and to Senator Tunney. I should like it to go out from here that any matter concerning the welfare of our local authorities, the ratepayers, or the residents of any particular area——

I am afraid Senator Carton got mixed up. The Minister refused to meet us on the question of a separate manager for the council.

I did not.

Will the Minister grant all those privileges to other county councils?

I am sorry for interrupting.

It is all right. I would like to get this matter clear in regard to the question of receiving a deputation on this question of degrouping.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I do not think the Minister is obliged to deal with that matter at all. It does not come within the Bill.

It was mentioned here. Due to the prominence that this matter may get, I should like, with the permission of the Cathaoirleach, to refer to it. The question of receiving a deputation on degrouping is one which was made, I think, in the first instance, about 12 months ago, by the Dublin Corporation at one stage and possibly by the county council at another. It was conditional on two Ministers being present. It was certainly conditional on the Minister for Health as well as on the Minister for Local Government agreeing on certain stated things. It was also made known, I think, at the time by the Minister for Health to two interested councils, both on his own behalf and on behalf of the Minister for Local Government, that the question of degrouping was one the discussion of which between the two Ministers and two councils would depend on their accepting the unified health authority. I do not want to get too involved in this; it is rather confusing——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

——and completely out of order.

I understand that the whole matter would not call for any intervention or receiving of a deputation. As far as I can gather, it did not call upon me to receive a deputation. I do not find that I, at the moment, have received or am refusing to receive a deputation on this matter. However, let me get back into order again.

The method of valuing old houses was condemned by Senator Carton. The method of estimating the cost of old house repairs was also condemned. I know Senator Carton's capacity in this matter and I feel rather chary in contradicting him. At the same time, while appreciating there are difficulties and that there will possibly be difficulties in the administration of these two things, I feel that, with the co-operation which he himself has expressed as being essential, we can get over both the difficulties he mentioned, and which undoubtedly we will encounter. It will require a certain amount of co-operation. Again, I am sure that co-operation will be forthcoming. It is co-operation which I am asking for particularly.

Senator Carton also referred to the procedure under the Small Dwellings Act being unrealistic. He talked of the many limits imposed by the various councils. What I want to say applies to some of the suggestions made by Senator Tunney or some other Senator. The Small Dwellings Act limits we impose are: provided the income earner has an income under £832 per year, that person is in the group that may apply for a small dwellings acquisition loan, both for the purposes of the old Acts that enabled a loan in respect of a new house only and I think also in the case of the new provisions we are now making. I think the likelihood is that they will apply. In the case of farmers the only condition is that there is a maximum limit of £50 valuation. All those under a £50 valuation may have recourse to Small Dwellings Act money under the local authority.

Those are the only limits that will apply, and if there are procedures that must be followed, apart from that, then these are the making of the local authorities in their own wisdom. If that wisdom is questioned by a county councillor—he is a member of a local authority and he is probably very right in making a point of it here, but if he went back to his council—I am not saying that——

I am not complaining; I was merely reporting.

The matter of conditions for making Small Dwellings Act moneys available by local authorities is one traditionally that has been left to local authorities, because it is their responsibility. As such, being the lenders, they are entitled to make certain of their own conditions.

That is where you may find the lack of co-operation I referred to, in the application of that.

That is possible, but with many members in both Houses who feel the lack of co-operation in this matter, they may make every effort in their respective councils to see that they are not too strict in the application of the conditions.

The matter that has been raised about the delaying tactics of the Department is suggestive again of our not having the money available. Those who draw attention to these delaying tactics, as Senator Carton did—and there was a lot on the same lines which I have listened to for some days past—must remember that if we are delaying things, we are doing so, possibly although there is plenty of money which they are saying we have not got. I want emphatically to refute the suggestion that we are using delaying tactics. I want to make it adequately clear that where delays occur, they are often very necessary delays and, in the last analysis, are not only in order to benefit the country as a whole and the general Exchequer, but to benefit the finances of the local authorities too.

I refer particularly to getting tenders for building schemes. Sometimes figures are received in which the people in the Department of Local Government are well aware the costs are too high and inflated by comparison with similar schemes in adjoining areas or adjoining counties. We know that the job can be done for less. We know that it has been done for less and we want to make it clear that we are not going to sanction inflated prices for any jobs. We are doing that in the interest of the taxpayer, of the local authority and of the ratepayer in turn. If delays occur, they are legitimate delays. They are not done purposely in the way of holding up work. I want to assure Senator Carton and other members of the Seanad that that is not the intention, that that is not the position and that I hope it never will be, while I am in the Department of Local Government.

Senator Colley raised the question of help to landlords or owners of a number of houses. He also wished to know, I think, whether local authorities could go in in default of a landlord doing repairs which had been duly noticed to him in the proper manner and whether they would get the benefits of the new increased grants. The answer to both his queries is that landlords and owners of groups of properties or houses may get these grants and the benefit of loans for repairs and improvements. Therefore, in the case of local authorities, if they must go in and do a job, the benefit of the grants will be available to them to the same amount as would be available to the owner of a private house carrying out similar repairs.

He questioned the amount of rates remission available in all cases of repairs. In order that I do not get confused regarding the different types and stages of remission, I will refer to a note I made on this matter while the Senator was speaking. I can say, by and large and straight off, that all repair jobs will get a remission of rates. The housing jobs under various housing schemes getting grants will get the remission in the following manner: the remission under the Housing Acts is that valuation is not increased for seven years on account of the work. That was the position and no change is proposed in the Bill.

Regarding new houses, the present remission is two-thirds of the rates for seven years, whether or not State grants are paid. The proposed remission is nine-tenths remission in the first year, eight-tenths in the second year and so on up to the tenth year when the full rate is paid.

The third category is remission for buildings other than houses which get grants. The total increase in valuation which arises solely or partly from the extension is reduced by two-thirds for seven years. That is according to the Local Government (Temporary Reduction of Valuation) Act, 1953. Under the Gaeltacht Housing Act, full remission is given for 20 years for jobs. I trust that that will clarify the position because there is confusion about methods of computing the remission under the different heads.

Senator Miss Davidson raised the question of the possibility of recreating what we might term tenements. This matter was raised in the Dáil in a much more vocal manner by Deputy Dillon, but I certainly take very much more notice of it now when Miss Davidson has raised it and that is casting no aspersion on Deputy Dillon. There is no question whatever that the thought furthest from the minds of myself and my advisers and the members of the Government who agreed to this measure was that there should be any recreation of tenement conditions. Inspectors from my Department will be available to advise and ensure that proper standards are maintained, and if they are not, no assistance or aid by way of grant or loans will be allowed to be paid.

The question was also raised by Senator Miss Davidson in regard to the Local Government inspector being regarded as something of a watchdog for house purchasers. I am not quite clear about the conditions about which she is making that statement, and what conditions might exist which would give rise to it.

I will write to the Minister.

Please do, and I will try to deal with it. Senator Hogan raised a point in which I have taken quite an interest over the years, that is, the question of rural housing. As he has very truthfully said, in some counties, including his and my own, there is a gap to be filled by catering through the local authorities for the provision of houses for the £25 valuation small farmer class. It is true again that where a farmer is in the £20 to £50 or possibly, in my own county, £15 to £20 class, he is in a position to avail of the Small Dwellings Act or other loan facilities, but Senator Hogan does rightfully suggest that there is an in-between who cannot be catered for under the Small Dwellings Act housing scheme and who is not sufficiently creditworthy to obtain a loan under the Small Dwellings Act or for title reasons to his property, may not even wish to apply for one.

That group has been a problem and is still a problem to a degree, but if we look at it, we might find the amount of benefit that does accrue to those people from this Bill by way of the extra £25 in the case of the building of a new house. In a three, four or five-roomed house, there is the Government grant and the local authority is being enabled to pay a grant of a like sum increased by the £25, so that in fact a five-roomed house or upwards may get by way of grant up to £600 of free money from the local authority and the Department of Local Government. In addition, there is the provision that up to £100 may be obtained by those smallholders by way of loan from the Land Commission. The administrative limit is there of £100. It is only administrative, and I have for some considerable time past been in touch with the Minister for Lands on this matter.

All I can say is that if something further can be done by way of making further and better provision for this group of the small non-creditworthy farmers in the country, undoubtedly one of the worst housed categories still remaining in the nation, then the Minister for Lands and I will do everything possible, but I can say no more than that, except that it has been a very live issue in so far as the Minister for Lands and I are concerned. If we can get any good news for them in that matter, we will be very quick to make Senators aware of it.

Can the Minister tell us at what rate is the £100 refunded?

I cannot, except to say it is compounded with the revised annuity and paid back over quite a number of years. I am sure that the Land Commission do not like anybody talking for them, but I know that Senator O'Reilly is aware that there is not the same administrative difficulty in the case of their loans as there is with some other loans, because the Land Commission can add the repayment to the annuity, and they have the holding as an entire holding within their grasp and can have that charge against it, which nobody else has. Therefore, there does not arise the question of the same proof of title as they would have to produce, if they applied for Small Dwelings Act Loans.

Senator Tunney referred to one matter in rather particular detail. Undoubtedly, if the position was as he alleged, I would have great sympathy with him and would not be surprised at the justifiable anger that might have been engendered by the position he outlined in regard to the proposed Lucan housing scheme. As far as I can understand it, the history of the Lucan scheme is as follows: during the latter year or so of the previous Government, a proposal to build approximately 80 houses in Lucan was forthcoming from the local authority. As a result of that proposal, an officer of the Department consulted with the local housing officer, and as a result of this consultation, it was agreed by those two people that somewhere around half of that number were then justified. In the meantime, before further action had been taken, the Government changed and so also had the departmental officer, who had gone out, in the first instance. He had moved to another position, with the result that a further and new officer from my Department then consulted with the local housing officer for the county council. The conclusion again was the same in regard to needs—somewhere around half of the 80 proposed. That was approximately a year ago. All I can say at the moment is that development work on the site is now in progress. Work of construction has not yet started.

In fairness, it is within days of starting.

They were to invite tenders——

The site at the moment is being bulldozed.

So I understand. Although the council were to invite tenders, we have not yet got them and we await them.

I am glad to hear that.

The comparison with pigsties has been made by the Senator in regard to some of the housing in that locality. I would make an appeal to him, a very influential member of the county council, that surely if those conditions are still existing within shouting distance of our principal city and in a most progressive county like County Dublin, would there not indeed be an effort made to introduce supplementary housing grants, even in part, in order to help out? There should be repairing and maintenance of the houses, lest others might become as some of those in Lucan have become in the recent past. I would appeal to him on that basis. If we can do anything to prevent further deterioration of other houses into conditions like those he described, a very big step forward would be that Dublin County Council might try now to give more benefits and encouragement by way of supplementary grants which at the moment they are not paying.

The suggestion about legal costs being exorbitant has been made on quite a few occasions. This is rather an involved matter, when dealing with these legal people, whether you are talking for them or against them, and I was glad to hear one of their fraternity go to some lengths to set out the position as it is. Further than that I do not feel very safe in going.

There has been a suggestion that there should be no stamp duty up to a certain valuation. Without going into details about that, there are some very strenuous objections to that course, and whether I see them in that light or not is immaterial. I am inclined to bow to the advice tendered by those who are pretty well versed in matters of this sort.

The question of a purchase scheme for urban houses is one which has been approached in a different light in the Dáil. That was the disparity between the manner in which houses may be purchased in urban areas and the privileged way in which they may be purchased in the rural community. I should possibly be slightly unfair if I were to turn it around as I got it in the Dáil and make practically the same answer. The agricultural community or the working classes, whatever we may describe them as, being in a very privileged position have a well supported and subsidised method of purchasing their houses. I think there can be no doubt that that can be justified fully, but to extend it to all types of housing, no matter where they might be or by whom they might be occupied, is a matter about which I would not be too sure.

Therefore, we come back to the question whether or not there should be a levelling up or a levelling down. The answer, so far as bringing rural people into line with urban people is concerned, is that no one would consider it. It is a very privileged position which they held for many years, in regard to the purchase of their houses, and it is one which, with the flight taking place from rural Ireland, we would be very loath to consider revising in any way, in order that we might be able to finance something similar in urban areas.

For the moment, we have to leave that matter and leave the law as it is, which is that an urban house owned by an urban authority must be sold at the lowest possible price it will fetch; and the law says that as soon as that house has been sold, all subsidies from central funds must stop. That is the law at the moment and I do not see that we can hope, in the immediate future—possibly, at any time—to change it.

Senator Tunney mentioned that there is a rather despicable, rotten practice of turning away prospective tenants from doors of flats, if they have children, and if the people get into the flat and have children, every effort is made to get them out. He said we should try to introduce certain conditions, that if we assist the making available of flats in the city by way of grant or loan, we should take powers to ensure that this type of thing will not happen. I am in full sympathy with the Senator, but right off I cannot see clearly how that can be managed. However, when further flats become available and as they become available, the supply will catch up with the demand; and prospective owners, or the people about to let flats in future, will not have the same privileged position as they now hold. Possibly, they will be glad to get a man and his wife and a couple of children, rather than turn them away, if there are children to be dealt with at all. Possibly that will right itself and I sincerely hope it does.

Despite the fact that I am not a Dublin man, I have always felt strongly about what he described so aptly when he talked of squandering all the good land in County Dublin. I agree wholeheartedly that the sprawling out of our city over the best soil and land around Dublin City is something that should not continue. It is not likely to continue, or indeed likely to be justified in the future. Undoubtedly, we must house our people. Perimeter building has gone on in the past. That perimeter building is regarded now as having run almost to its conclusion. The energies of all concerned in the Dublin Corporation and in the Department of Local Government must in future be turned inwards to the centre of this city to try to rebuild the broken-down, rotten core that is there as a result of the clearance of the people from the slum conditions during the great rebuilding that went on in past years.

I shall in every way endeavour to help that central city building. Every help we can give from the Department of Local Government will be only too readily forthcoming, because not only would I like to see the centre of Dublin rebuilt, but I would also like to see some of the green fields of County Dublin left untouched. In recent years, it almost looked as if we were going to meet the houses in County Meath, when driving up; and I would not like to see that happen. I do not think it should happen. Repair and improvements grants, together with loan facilities, will further ensure that our people will maintain the pretty good houses that are becoming somewhat neglected in various parts of our middle city area, if you like to call it that. By the repair and improvement of these houses, we will curb that tendency, evident in the past, to go out to virgin soil to build.

Also, the availability of loans to our lower income groups, to purchase what I might call secondhand or already used houses, will in itself help to maintain the population more within the city centre limits than has been the position in the past. That also will have a very great effect in reducing the traffic chaos which has been developing, where one finds that a man working in the north of the city is living five miles out on the south side, and his pal is working on the south side and lives on the north side; and not only does it cost them money to pass each other in O'Connell Street each morning, but it creates chaos for others who have to go through the same street. It costs money, it creates traffic chaos, and in general it is not the very best way of having things.

I think these features will be gradually wiped out and that we will get more of our people back into the city beside their work, so that there will be less expenditure by the individual and there will be less traffic chaos as the result. In that way, generally speaking, it will be possible for these people to be near their jobs and they will not have to pay high bus fares.

Senator Donegan talked of no money being available in the Local Loans Fund, now or a couple of years ago. He went on to justify that remark by saying that there was never any money in the Local Loans Fund. Candidly, I do not know whether there is or not, nor am I going to dispute that statement. He went on to develop that into the story that we had delaying tactics in the Department, in regard to local authority schemes, housing and so on and so forth. I want again to say to Senator Donegan that this is far from being the truth, that it is not so, and that we hope, in the year to come, to show that it has not been so, that it is not so and will not be so. It has been stated that money came during the scare—which I take it refers to and describes the year 1956 or early 1957, the last six or nine months of the term of the previous Government. He states that money came then just in the same way as it is coming now. He goes on to tell us of the colossal reduction there is in the provision for housing, etc., this year in the Book of Estimates.

I want to give a few figures which I think will convince even Senator Donegan that what he has said is not so and that the reverse is in fact the case. The colossal reduction he has talked about, that provides less this year, does not amount in fact to £700,000-odd. There is a drop from £2,000,000 downwards but in fact the net drop is very much less than £700,000. A sum of £2,000,000, let us say, was provided in 1957-58; £473,000 of this was saved and £1,527,000 was spent. This year, on actual estimates of the work available for us to do, by proposals received in the Department, that provision is reduced to £1,300,000 —in other words, £227,000 less is provided than was actually spent last year. That is closely related to the demands we know, from applications on hands, will arise this year.

That is not the entire story. Under the provisions in this Bill, if it becomes law, we expect, within 12 months working, that an additional £350,000 will be required which will be additional to the £1,300,000 odd provided at the moment; and that will bring the total this year up to £1,650,000. It will be over £120,000 greater than was, in fact, necessary last year in all respects. In addition to that, the draw from the Central Fund, again through the Local Loans Fund if this Bill becomes law, will be an additional £500,000 for various purposes for which we now intend to provide this money.

I want also to refer to the suggestion that money came during the scare period, that was, the last six or nine months of the previous Government's term of office, to which Senator Donegan referred, and that it was coming then as it is coming now. This was the position on 31st March, 1957: the outstanding debts to housing authorities at 31st March 1957, increased over and above what they normally have been in past years by £750,000. In other words, there were outstanding commitments over and above the normal commitments for that end of the financial year of £750,000, in two housing authorities. In addition, there was approximately £350,000 of inflated overdue debts in regard to sanitary and other services due to local authorities at that date in that year, 1957. On top of that, in the Department, there was £865,000 worth of schemes from local authorities that were queued up, awaiting sanction; sitting there and no sanction forthcoming.

If proof were needed that things have changed, we can look to the first six months after the new Minister took over, to find that £865,000 worth of that work was sanctioned within the first six months of his term of office, whereas, in the previous six months and the last six months of office of his predecessor, only £13,000 was sanctioned—two small little schemes of £13,000, while £865,000 worth were queued up awaiting sanction, while, at the same time, a figure of £750,000 of inflated outstanding debt due to local authorities was lying at the door, and another figure of £350,000 also due on sanitary and other services outstanding, inflated over and above the normal level at which those debts usually run.

The position to-day is, as I say, that that queue was dissipated by sanction almost a year ago. Money is available. These schemes that were then sanctioned are going on and, in all, will incur expenditure of over £1,000,000 on £865,000 worth of sanctions. That has been the case and any other schemes that are now coming in are being dealt with in like manner. I am and have been in the very happy position that I have not been placed in the position of my predecessor from my own county, Deputy O'Donnell, who had to stand by and see these schemes awaiting sanction accumulate, while he could do nothing for them, because of the fact that the money was not available. The money then became available and has been made available and the schemes have been sanctioned. That is exactly the difference between the financial year ended 31st March, 1957, and the financial year ended 31st March, 1958.

Senator Cole mentioned that local authorities may be spending too much and that some of them in the past had to stop making advances—I take it under some of the loan schemes—I am not sure—because of repayment costs. Possibly it may have been grants as well as loans——

Grants, yes.

——because, in the ordinary way, the local authority usually tries to make ¼ per cent. profit on the loans they put out and most of them succeed in doing that. However, through the Chair, I would direct what I have said earlier in this matter to Senator Cole and hope that it will have good effect on these people who have been scared of the rising costs on the ratepayers and I again hope that they will co-operate.

Senator Cole also asked a question about water and sewerage grants from my Department where a farmer had already got for himself a water grant from the Department of Agriculture. It is very hard to say "yes" or "no", that he will or that he will not get any grant from us. It would be safer to say that, if the water has been brought into his house, his case would be very doubtful; if the water has not been brought into his house, his case would be rather bright. On the other hand, should the water have been brought into his house and he wanted to put in a bathroom and hot and cold water and sewerage, he could likely go for a reconstruction grant for the job in hands and possibly a sewerage grant as well for the outfall.

By and large, it is unlikely that people will make money by getting the grant from both of us and getting more than, in fact, it cost them. We will try to ensure that that will not happen, that there will be no profit but, it does not follow, if they get the one grant, that it is impossible to get another. Their best plan is to try and, if it is justified, we will help them and, if it is not, we will not.

Senator Laurence Walsh raised the question of the ability of councils to provide the supplementary grants, as also did Senator Louis Walsh. I would appeal to both Senators to try to ensure that these moneys will be provided in order that we can replace the broken-down houses and those that are now deteriorating throughout the country, that we do not allow them in our time to get any worse than they were when we came along and that, in fact, we should be able to say that while we were there and while we had control both of councils and Departments, or whatever you will, we improved the situation generally.

There is, I think, nothing further that I want to add to what I have already said. If, for any reason. I have omitted any specific points on which any of the members of this House have requested information, if Senators remind us of them, we will try to clarify them at the earliest possible date.

I appreciate very much the intelligent manner in which the Minister has answered the points raised. There were two points I raised on which I should like to get an answer. For instance, when does a house that is being reoccupied cease to be a small dwelling or is there any limit to the valuation? I instanced a house, the valuation of which is £26. Is it still a small dwelling?

Could the matter be left over to Committee Stage?

We could tell the Senator that. There is, in effect, no valuation limit. There will be other sorts of limitation but valuation is not one of them.

That is very good. The Minister stated that a farmer up to £50 valuation can come under the Small Dwellings Act?

That is right.

Since when?

I do not know if it was always the case or, if we did it—May, 1957, I am advised.

Of course, it will be affected by the outgoings of the person who is purchasing the house. If the valuation is £26 and the rate is £2, that is £52 and that, of course, will influence any local authority in giving a loan.

So far as we are concerned, there is no limit.

It has nothing to do with the Department.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 23rd July, 1958.
The Seanad adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 23rd July, 1958.