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.