Housing Bill, 1970: Second stage.

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

Sé phríomh cuspóir an Bhille seo ná deontais le haghaidh an furmhór de thithe príobháideacha a árdú, deireadh a chur le deontais le haghaidh tithe áirithe eile agus mion-athraithe a dheanamh san dlí tithíochta.

Tá súil agam go ngríosfaidh forálacha an Bhille tógáilithe chun tithe níos saoire agus de chaighdeán réasúnta a chur ar fáil, agus nios mó tithe, san iomlán, a thogáil.

The explanatory memorandum circulated with this Bill details its scope. I propose, therefore, to refer here only to its main provisions. In the 1960s, 98,000 houses were built and a further 93,000 reconstructed. At the end of the period the number of houses being built annually was more than double the numbers built annually at the beginning—just under 14,000 dwellings in 1969-70 as against about 6,000 in 1960-61.

While these achievements represent some progress, and are an indication of the priority given by the Government to housing, there is, I imagine, hardly a Senator in this House who would argue that enough has been done. In the 1969 White Paper—Housing in the Seventies—it was estimated that some 59,000 houses were needed to replace unfit houses and to eliminate overcrowding and related problems, and a further 9,000 houses, as a minimum, annually to replace dwellings lost through continuing obsolescence, demolitions, conversions, etc., as well as for internal migration and the increasing number of married couples living in the country.

The White Paper estimated that, to meet all these needs, housing output would have to rise from about 13,000 houses a year in 1968-69 to between 15,000 and 17,000 houses a year by the mid-1970s. Achieving this target and maintaining the present level of reconstruction and improvement works will involve an increase in capital expenditure in building and reconstructing housing from about £52 million in 1968 to £75 million approximately by 1975 at constant (1968) prices, and an increase in public current expenditure —mainly on subsidies—from about £11 million to £17.5 million by 1975.

The Bill is part of the programme to achieve the objectives of the White Paper.

The part of the Bill providing for changes in the system of grants for private houses will provide for the erection of houses of moderate size to meet the demand for dwellings from persons setting up homes; it will ensure that a greater number of houses are built for any given amount of capital; and, finally, it should encourage a greater flexibility of design, according to modern tastes and requirements.

Under the Bill, grants for private houses will be based on floor areas rather than room numbers. The Bill provides for increases in State and supplementary grants of up to £150 per house, with the largest grants for houses of between 800 and 1,076 square feet approximately, and for the abolition of grants for houses exceeding 1,249 square feet.

There has been some misunderstanding about what type of house exactly would come within the new floor area limit of 1,249 square feet. To remove doubts I should like to make it clear that an ordinary local authority house is usually about 800 square feet. A private house for which a house-purchase loan is made by a local authority is normally about 1,000 square feet. A house of this size would provide two living rooms, three bedrooms and reasonable ancillary accommodation. In fact, the house which won the commercially sponsored "House of the Year" competition was just over 1,100 square feet. I give these figures so that the persons can appreciate that the limit of 1,249 square feet on houses which will qualify for grants is by no means unreasonable. It would allow of four bedrooms and good living accommodation.

Although the new maximum floor area is reasonably large, I am conscious of the need to cater for the special requirements of the larger than average family. Accordingly, reconstruction grants will continue to be available for the addition of rooms and my Department will encourage, as it has in the past, the production of houses which are readily capable of expansion at reasonable cost.

The Bill also provides for the payment of grants for houses by reference to floor areas measured on a metric basis—this is in accordance with the Government's commitment to support the programme for the change to the metric system in the building industry. The Bill will also restrict grants to dwellings intended for use as ordinary places of residence.

or flats exceeding 116 square metres or

In the Bill as now before the House, it is proposed that grants for houses 1,249 square feet would be paid only if the house or flat is commenced on or before 31st August, 1970. In view of the recent dispute in the cement industry, I hope to arrange the moving of committee stage amendments to ensure that the date for the abolition of grants for dwellings with floor areas exceeding 116 square metres be put back from 31st August to 31st December, 1970. I will also seek to have amendments moved to increase the income limit for supplementary grants from local authorities and to provide for the recovery of expenses of paying such grants where a county has been divided.

In July, 1969, my Department announced that, pending the introduction of legislation providing for the payment of grants by reference to floor areas instead of room numbers, floor areas of individual rooms would have to conform with certain minimum standards for grant purposes which had been fixed administratively. For example, the minimum floor area of any bedroom could not be less than 70 square feet. I would now like to make it clear that, once a house commenced on or after 1st October, 1969, complies with the overall floor area limits laid down in the Bill no further minimum standards will apply in regard to the floor areas of individual rooms. My intention is to give designers greater freedom within overall floor area limits to decide on the sizes of individual rooms such as bedrooms, kitchens and so on.

Section 2 of the Bill sets out the rate of grant for ordinary houses. A State grant of £325 will be paid for a house of 75 to 100 square metres— 807 to 1,076 square feet approximately. A person buying a house of this size and qualifying for an additional supplementary grant of £325 from the local authority could be paid a total in grants of up to £650.

Section 3 deals with grants for farmers and certain other persons. Special provision is included in it for payment of grants to farmers providing houses in towns.

Section 4 will enable grants to be paid for flats in a building of less than six storeys at the same rate as for houses. If the flats are in a higher building and a lift is installed, the grant will include an extra £50 per flat.

Section 5 authorises State subsidy to be paid at the higher rate for dwellings provided by local authorities, in association with the National Building Agency, for the accommodation of key workers brought into an area for new or expanding industry.

Section 6 will facilitate the compulsory acquisition of land by local authorities.

Section 7 requires county councils who pay supplementary grants, to pay them subject to the same conditions in urban districts and boroughs in their area, other than boroughs or urban districts designated by regulations made by me. The principal reason for this provision in the Bill is that many small urban district councils simply cannot afford to operate supplementary grant schemes, with the result that there is an undesirable inducement to persons within the supplementary grant income limits, to buy or build houses outside urban areas, in places where water, sewerage and other services are not readily available.

Sections 8 and 13 will provide specifically that a local authority may pay a second or other reconstruction grant where a further State grant has been paid.

Section 10 will enable local authorities to pay supplementary reconstruction or essential repair grants in instalments—as they are already specifically authorised to pay supplementary new house grants.

Section 11 provides that the graduated rate remission over nine years provided for in the housing code will apply to dwellings provided by the Shannon Free Airport Development Company which conform with broadly the same conditions as to structure, size etc. as houses for which grants are paid under the Housing Acts, where the houses are completed after 31st March, 1969. The Shannon houses currently qualify for rate remission over seven years under the Local Government (Temporary Reduction of Valuation) Acts. The phasing out of this form of rate remission has already been announced. The section will also extend the nine year rate remission to houses completed after 31st March, 1969 by, or with the aid of grants from, the Land Commission, if the houses have floor areas which do not exceed the limits laid down in the Bill.

Section 12 will facilitate the execution of repossession warrants issued by the District Courts for houses provided by local authorities or the National Building Agency. The section extends the period during which warrants may be excuted from one week to one month and the time for execution of warrants from between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. It also makes the unauthorised entry into or use of local authority dwellings an offence, for which the penalty, on conviction, will be a fine not exceeding £50 or a prison term not exceeding one month or both such fine and imprisonment.

I commend the Bill to the House.

I should begin by welcoming the Minister to the House as I think this is the first time he has come here as Minister for Local Government, and I hope that he will find the contribution this House has to make to this Bill a useful one.

Having said that, I am sure that from his own personal viewpoint it must be disappointing for him to have to come to this House with a Bill of this type. The Minister has given the reasons for the introduction of this Bill as:

There will be changes in the system of grants for private houses to provide for the erection of houses of moderate size to meet the demand for dwellings from persons setting up homes; it will ensure that a greater number of houses are built for any given amount of capital; and, finally, it should encourage a greater flexibility of design, according to modern tastes and requirements.

With the last reason I can agree, and support the Bill, but to the first two I find myself totally opposed. As far as I can see the main purpose of this Bill is to force people to build smaller houses on the excuse that the more smaller houses that are built the more completed house units per year can be turned out, and that consequently this Bill will allow for more house units to be built in the country in any one year with the same amount of capital as would be necessary to build a smaller amount of larger units.

When I sat down to consider this Bill and realised what in fact it was setting out to do I asked myself "basically, what is a house?" Surely a house, in this country anyway, is a shell built with cement cavity blocks into which all the various fittings go to make living accommodation. There will obviously have to be a certain amount of carpentry, plumbing, and so on which are needed to make a house. If we look at the amount of time and the amount of labour needed to carry out the fittings in any one house unit it does not seem to me that whether a house is of 1,000 square feet or 1,300 square feet the time taken to build it will materially alter. Certainly there will be fewer blocks employed and consequently less block laying, but anyone with experience of building would quickly tell you that the fastest part in building a house is the actual block laying, and certainly anyone who sees the new housing estates being built at the present time would agree with this. Once that has been done there must be windows installed, door frames fitted, plastering, plumbing and electrical work carried out. I do not see how the fitting of electrical plugs and sockets and light fittings in a smaller house will be carried out more quickly or expeditiously than in a house of 1,300 square feet. I do not see how the fitting of windows and doors will be carried out more quickly or rapidly than it would have been done in a decent sized house heretofore. Certainly we may have smaller windows which will give less light to a room. We may have smaller doors. But I do not imagine that we will provide fewer windows or doors, and that can only mean that the work involved in fitting them will be exactly the same. I do not for a moment envisage that it is the intention or the expectation of the Minister that there will be less plumbing work to be done, or less water and toilet facilities to be installed, in a smaller house unit, so that there is no time saved there. I do not for a moment envisage that the amount of interior carpentry will be less. There will be the same amount of fitting and measuring, the same amount of jointing and dovetailing, that a joiner or a carpenter has to carry out in building any type of house, so that there is no saving there. Certainly there will be less area for plastering, but on the other hand anyone involved in building would say to you that the most difficult and most time-consuming part of building a house is involved in the small things— measuring, the setting out of the angles and corners, the alcoves, and setting out proper plumb lines. This is the sort of thing that takes up a plasterer's time when he moves in to work on a semi-completed house unit so that in fact a plasterer's time will hardly be appreciably less.

It does not seem to me that the amount of time involved in the labour element in building one house unit will be in any way reduced by forcing builders and potential purchasers to opt for smaller houses. The only people who will be able to move a little more quickly will be block layers. I cannot foresee any amount of time being saved at design stage on the part of architects or in the laying on of public services, development works, laying of roads, sewerage, drainage, public lighting and so on. None of these services will be hastened by the provisions of this Bill. As I said, any small saving in time would be on the part of block layers but that time will be wasted because the block layer will find that he will have to wait for his colleagues before he can proceed.

In that regard, it is well that the House would bear in mind the often repeated remarks of the Dublin City and County Manager who, whenever pressed during the past few years to hasten the programme of local authority building in the Dublin area by some means or other, insisted that the building industry was working at full stretch and that every available skilled operative in the country was employed in the industry so that even if a builder wished to build more houses, he could not get skilled labour. If that is the case I wonder why it is envisaged that we are to produce, as has been said in other places but I notice left out of the Minister's opening remarks today, 1,000 more houses per year because of this measure. I am afraid that an extra 1,000 houses a year are, to a large extent, in the mind of the Minister or, perhaps in the mind of his predecessor or in the minds of some members of his party who would prefer to be able to say that we would produce 1,000 houses more under this measure.

I believe that this Bill will not make for any appreciable difference in the number of house units being built in the country either now or in the foreseeable future. However, it will have a distinct and frustrating effect on the size, type and standard of the new houses being made available for our people in the 1970s.

To my mind this is a measure that falls little short of endeavouring to force our people and, in particular, young married couples, into inferior houses. Its effect will be that many young people who are now living in the comfort of their parents' semi-detached surburban homes will be forced to move from such homes into inferior houses because they decide to marry— inferior houses forced on them by an inferior Government. I am quite sure that in his own way the Minister is far from happy with some of the provisions of this Bill.

It has been my opinion for some time past that the system of providing a State grant on new house units is not always of any great benefit to potential house purchasers. During the years there have been many developments and builders in this country have devised a system whereby they work out the cost of a building scheme to which they add their profit and, as an extra bonus, add on the applicable State grant which they will get for each house unit and which, unfortunately, is paid direct to the builder and not to the purchaser. Therefore, the only real benefit affecting the price of a house in so far as the purchaser is concerned is qualification for a local authority supplementary grant.

We should examine generally the prices being charged for a fairly modest house at the present time. If one peruses any of the morning or evening newspapers he will see that the average price of a modest house in the Dublin area is somewhere in the region of £4,800 net of the State grant. As can be ascertained from the advertisements these houses are in no way pretentious or ostentatious and, further, many houses that could not in any sense of the word be regarded as mansions, are being offered at £6,000 and £7,000 in the Dublin area.

A house similar to those being sold here at £4,800 are being offered in urban areas at approximately £4,000 net of the State grant. In his introductory remarks, the Minister has said again that he intends, in conjunction with this Bill, to introduce a maximum limit of a purchase price of £6,000 houses to qualify for State aid.

A limit of £6,000 might have been acceptable some years ago but by present day standards it is a sick figure indeed especially when one remembers that there has been a rise of 5½ per cent in the consumer price index for the first six months of the year and also that there has been an increase of 16s 8d in the price of cement following the recent trade dispute in that industry. This increase in the price of cement will be directly and immediately reflected in the retail prices of house units throughout the country. About 6s of this increase is due to the wage increases that have been granted.

While a figure of £6,000 might have seemed quite fantastic to the Minister or to me two or three years ago it will look quite fantastically sick, outmoded, out-dated and too small within 18 months or two years. This is the situation which we are facing in the building industry and in the construction industry. This is the situation which young couples are facing if they try to get together enough money to provide themselves and their future families with decent living accommodation. The answer which the Minister for Local Government offers them under this Bill is that he will give them a greater grant than heretofore if they build smaller houses than their parents lived in, smaller houses than they want to live in and smaller houses than would be generally acceptable in a country which it was loudly proclaimed was daily becoming more affluent. It is hardly the mark of an affluent society that the Government of the day have to introduce a measure to try to force the people of the country to live in smaller and inferior type houses.

As I understand it exactly 50 per cent of the people who apply for State grants on new houses at the present time apply for grants on houses of over 1,000 square feet in area. Those figures were given either by the Minister, his predecessor or somebody acting on behalf of his predecessor. I understand that 3 per cent apply in relation to houses of under 800 square feet, 40 per cent apply in relation to houses of between 800 and 1,000 square feet, 32 per cent apply because they want to buy a house somewhere between 1,000 and 1,250 square feet and 18 per cent apply because they want to build the quite modest size house of somewhere between 1,250 and 1,500 square feet in area.

Under the provisions of this Bill that last category, that 18 per cent or one-fifth of the people at present trying to purchase a modest size house, to get married and rear a family in decent Christian comfort, will be denied a State grant or State aid by this Government under the measure put before us today. One-fifth of the people who currently qualify for assistance from the State and who may very well qualify because of this for a supplementary grant from the local authority concerned will be denied that by this measure. Is this a Bill which will help us to become a more affluent society, a better society? One-fifth of those who are at present paid assistance from the State to provide decent accommodation will in the future be denied that money because this Minister today comes in here and asks us to accept this measure. One is tempted to think that houses of over 1,250 square feet have suddenly become palatial mansions, some of the often pictured residences of stars of stage and screen we find in Beverley Hills or some such place. A house of 1,250 or 1,300 square feet is unlikely to have a swimming pool or even a second toilet.

The Minister is looking after the swimming pools.

I cannot speak for this Minister but many of his colleagues live in houses far in excess of 1,250 square feet with private swimming pools for their own use. I do not deny them that.

The question of swimming pools does not arise under this Bill.

I merely point out that a house of 1,250 or 1,300 square feet is unlikely to have a swimming pool or any such luxurious appointments. A house of that size is unlikely to look out of place in this country. It is not the sort of house one might stop one's car to look at and say: "I would love to live in a house like that if I could afford it." A house of that size is not an unusual sight in the City of Galway never mind the City of Dublin but a house of that size when the Minister is finished with this Bill will no longer qualify for a grant from the Fianna Fáil Government.

Let us consider that 1,250 square feet will now be the maximum size. That will amount to 625 square feet on the ground floor and an equivalent amount upstairs unless the Minister has some strange ideas on the new house design. This will generally be the position. What does 625 square feet on the ground floor amount to? It amounts to 25 feet by 25 feet. When this Bill is passed if you are unfortunate enough to buy a house which is 26 feet by 25 feet or 25½ feet by 25 feet the Minister's Government will refuse to give you a grant.

Let us look for a moment at 625 square feet and what in fact that would amount to. There is nothing fantastic in two living rooms of 12½ feet by 16 feet. I am quite sure most of the Members sitting here today have at least two living rooms in their houses of that size.

I have not.

It would amount to a kitchen eight feet by ten feet and a hallway of nine feet by 15 feet. I am not an expert on technical design but most hallways, to accommodate a stairwell, would have to be of at least that size. This is the type of house that will no longer qualify for a grant when this Bill is passed. It seems to me if this is all the Government can offer after the many years of boasting about their housing record and if this is all they can offer after the lengthy promises which eventually produced Housing in the Seventies and the high sounding aims contained in that document then it is time they allowed someone else to rectify the terrible backlog in housing which exists at the present time.

The Irish people for many years, as we all know too well, lived in very substandard accommodation in what were described as bothans throughout the country. Occasionally we see a few of them as we move around. The Irish generally thought that this was their lot because they were unfortunate enough to be governed by a foreign power. Is it not somewhat lamentable in 1970, after 50 years of self-rule, the native Government of the day are asking the Irish people once again to go back to live in smaller sized houses? I do not believe this attempt will in any way solve the housing backlog which exists at present and which all political parties admit exists.

This is little short of a panic measure introduced by the Minister's predecessor after he had seen the figures published in the OECD Report, which showed that Ireland built the lowest number of house units per thousand head of population in 1968 of any member country, in an effort to increase the number of completed new house units. I remember hearing him give an explanation that houses in Ireland were generally larger than houses in many other countries. What do we do because we are ahead in the square footage league and are providing decent-sized houses compared with most other countries? We rush in a panic Bill to bring us down from the commendable position of producing decent size houses. This is an attempt to remove us from the bottom of the league of completed dwellings. It will take a considerable number of extra dwellings to bring us up from four new houses per thousand of the population. The second to bottom country is Turkey, a country not well renowned for its economic strength or development which built 4.7 new house units per thousand of the population. Obviously it would take a considerable effort for us to displace Turkey. On looking closer at the table I see that Belgium built only 4.1 new houses per thousand population but that figure is not really comparable with the others because it applies only to dwellings started and not those dwellings completed in 1968.

It is interesting to note that in the ten years from 1948-49 to 1958-59, 100,000 new house units were built in this country, 50.5 per cent of which were local authority houses. In the ten years from 1959-60 to 1969-70, 95,000 new houses were built, in other words 5,000 houses fewer than in the previous decade. Of this number only 28.6 per cent were built by local authorities. These figures show that the trend is away from State-subsidised local authority housing to grant-aided private housing. This is obviously the result of a Government decision taken many years ago. It is lamentable that fewer houses were built in the second decade than the first and the local authority content fell because preference was given to private grant-aided houses. We are now being asked to make the grant-aided houses smaller.

We were told not by the Minister but by his representative speaking on the Bill in the Dáil that because of the loss of rate remission, the loss of stamp duty exemption for people purchasing houses of 1,250 square feet or over, and the loss of State and subsidised grants also envisaged in this Bill a person buying a house of over 1,250 square feet could suffer to the extent of £1,000. I am sure the Minister will not quibble with this figure because it was a figure given on his behalf in the Dáil. What this means is that there is not much option to the potential house purchaser once this Bill becomes law. He will suffer from the point of view of rates remission, stamp duty exemption, State grants and local authority supplementary grants. There are not many young married couples who can afford to opt for a decent sized house at the expense of £1,000. Young couples getting married will be forced to buy smaller houses, they will not even be able to look at a house over 1,250 square feet.

What will happen to returning emigrants, these people the Government would love to have back and are working hard to provide employment for? A returning emigrant with five or six children will find it difficult to obtain a house with sufficient bedroom accommodation, never mind living accommodation, under 1,250 square feet. Once the children are over the age of eight or nine they will require separate bedrooms by virtue of their different sexes. He will be excluded from State aid, local authority supplementary grants, stamp duty exemption and rates remission if he tries to buy a house big enough for his family.

Another point about which I have spoken here is the problem of families who send their aged relatives into local health authority homes. To some extent this is due to the fact that their housing accommodation is not adequate to bring up their own family and provide care and comfort for the aged relatives as well. Of course, it must be said that young people are very often not prepared to pay the necessary care and attention to old people. This is regrettable and it is part of what the doctors and medical journals now refer to as the ever-increasing geriatric problem.

Very often it is because they shirk the responsibility of care for old people.

I was not able to hear the interruption from the Leader of the House, so I am not able to comment. I shall continue on the Housing Bill.

Obviously a young couple who up to now might have liked to provide for a parent or parents or for an aged relative in the new house with them will find it increasingly difficult to do so because of the fact that, under the provisions of this Bill, they will be forced to buy a smaller house. The bedroom area will be further cramped. Many will feel that they no longer can afford to look after their senior citizens. I feel there is a moral obligation on people to provide for these aged relatives. Many young people would feel that way but they would be faced with the hard decision about providing accommodation for their children in the skimped size house which the Minister will allow them to live in, or continuing to look after their relatives. These are two examples at random of the bad social side-effects which will be produced by this Bill.

I would like to ask the Minister to explain the special farmers' grant to us. This grant has been administered under section 16 of the 1966 Act. A farmer was entitled to special grants allowing him to build a house in certain circumstances. Under the 1966 Act I understand that this applied to farmers and others. "Others" were defined as people who derived their livelihood almost entirely from farming or farm husbandry, such as farm labourers or farm contractors. Under this new Bill farmers will be allowed to build a house for themselves within the urban area and still qualify for the special grant. The reason for that is that the necessary services are often not available in the rural areas. These services are available in urban areas and this fact would encourage a farmer to build a better type house for himself while still working on the farm. Under this Bill a farm labourer or contractor will not be entitled to build a house in the town while continuing to work on the land outside the town. That point requires clarification. I would be grateful if the Minister would enlighten us about it.

I understand that the Minister has undertaken to increase the income limit for the new house supplementary grant from the point of view of the local authorities. This income limit stands at present at £1,045 per annum or at a valuation of £60. The Minister intends to increase this sum to £1,250. There is a provision whereby a man is allowed £100 for each of four dependants so that certain people with four dependants and less than £1,650 could still qualify for a supplementary grant. There is the ridiculous situation which has existed over the years that while one must earn less than £1,045 to qualify for a local authority supplementary grant one may earn up to £1,200 in order to qualify for an SDA loan administered by the local authority. This discrepancy has been the cause of many headaches not only for potential house purchasers but for every member of a local authority in the country. The Minister has done his stint on a local authority. I presume he has met people earning £1,150 qualifying for a local authority loan but discovering that they could not get a supplementary grant because of earnings being more than £1,045. It is time that some attempt was made to bring sanity into this whole business of house purchase. The income limit set for the SDA loan should correspond exactly with the income limit set for the new supplementary grant. If the Minister sets that at £1,250 with £400 for dependants the SDA loan limit should be at the same level.

There is another anomaly which it is difficult to understand. Someone with a valuation of £60 may get a supplementary grant while a person with a valuation of £50 only is eligible to receive a loan. As the Minister is aware, these figures are inexplicable to anybody trying to do business with a local authority. People discover that if the valuation is £55 they can get a grant, but the income limit for that is £1,045, but if they have a valuation of £55 they cannot get a loan although if they were on an income alone they could get a loan if their income was under £1,200. It is impossible to sort out the tangle.

Most of the Health Acts including the recent Health Act introduced by the Minister in the past few months, equate £1 valuation with £20 income. The level set is £1,200 per annum or £60 valuation. On that basis alone the valuation limit for SDA loans ought to be £60 because £1,200 is the income allowed. If £1,200 is to be the income for the supplementary grant the figure for valuation purposes should be slightly over £60. We discover, looking at the figures, that the £1 sterling in mid-August, 1969 was reckoned to be worth 16s 8d in purchasing power in terms of 1966 money.

The present limit for supplementary grants was fixed somewhere late in 1965 or early in 1966. Taking 16s as the value of the £ sterling in 1966 terms we find £1,045, the present limit for the supplementary grant, should be £1,306 and the £60 should be £75. If we go back to the earlier figure in the 1960 Act we find that the £ sterling in August 1969 was worth 13s 3d in 1960 purchasing power terms, so that the limit of £850 ought to be £1,233 and the £50 ought to be £75. There is a difference in the conversion of income figures in relation to both of those but in relation to valuation figures it works out the same. The valuation should be £75 in regard to the new house grant. In introducing an amendment at a later stage the Minister should raise the valuation to £75 also. However I think that in this regard I have done no more than to prove, I hope to the satisfaction of the House, the undeniable case for the raising of the valuation limit.

I should like now to give my personal view as to what I feel ought to be the income limit for both SDA and new house supplementary grant. It seems to be absolutely essential that both of these should be at the same level so as to wipe out the anomalies and to make the administration of these two schemes much easier for the local authorities and more simple for applicants to understand. It seems to me that the figure of £1,500 as a limit of income for both SDA purposes and for new house supplementary grant purposes is a fairly fair figure in the light of present circumstances and the present retail prices of semi-detached houses net of the State grant. Ideally that figure of £1,500 could have built on top of it an allowance of £100 for each dependant up to four. I understand, of course, that the Minister will to some extent be tied in relation to these things to his Minister for Finance and that there will always be certain difficulties, and that perhaps privately the Minister might prefer to have higher income or valuation limits which he cannot get sanctioned at cabinet level, but I am putting the case to this House that there is a very fair case to be made for an income limit of £1,500 in relation to both of these, and allowances for dependants on top of that also. I would also suggest that the valuation, at an income level of £1,500 level, should be somewhere between £75 and £80, and I think that £75 would probably be a fair figure.

Now in relation to these things a crux arises. The maximum payable under the SDA loans at the moment is £3,000 and I think that that is simply in the Dublin area and that there is a figure of £2,700 in the rest of the country. That is the maximum which someone who earns £1,200 per annum can receive under the SDA regulations, which the Minister has power to vary. Obviously somebody who earns less than £1,200 a year, which he has to in order to qualify for a local authority loan, will find it extremely difficult to buy a house for £4,800 if he gets a maximum loan of £3,000 and has then to find £1,800 for a deposit before he can buy the house. Where a man who earns less than £1,200 per annum can find £1,800 to place on deposit for a house is quite beyond me.

There is a case also to be made for raising substantially the income limit on which the SDA loan is set at the moment. In relation to the prices which new house units have gone to in the last 12 months the maximum loan of £4,000 would not be a very lavish figure. It would still be graded as £4,000 or 95 per cent of the purchase price net of grants. That limit seems to be far more realistic in the context of present retail house prices. There is to my mind a second reason as to why this is a matter of urgency. £1,200 is the maximum income which one may have to get an SDA loan, but in relation to that the local authority insists on taking into account the basic earnings plus all overtime; but as far as I can make out £1,500 approximately is the lowest which will be acceptable by any building society before a substantial loan is given and the building society will insist on taking into account basic income only. It will not accept overtime earnings, bonus earnings or profit sharing earnings, and insists only on basic, which must be around £1,500 a year. The local authority insists that the figure of basic plus overtime plus bonus plus profit sharing shall be less than £1,200 a year, so that there are quite a sizeable number of people with basic incomes of between £1,000 and £1,500 who find it at the present time virtually impossible to receive loan finance to purchase new houses from any sector. This is something again which supports the case for upgrading the income limit for SDA loans and also the income limit for new house supplementary grants. There is also a need, not so urgent, but a need, to upgrade the figures for essential repair grants and reconstruction grants.

At this stage might I say that I would like to put forward a personal theory of mine that I have held for quite some time? I feel that many young couples, when they get married, buy a house that is too big for them. To this extent the Minister will say that I am justifying his Bill completely, but what I am talking about is that young people who get married buy a house with, let us say, four bedrooms, not having to use two of those bedrooms, or perhaps one, for a number of years until their family grows. There is, I realise, a certain amount of the snobbery element attached to this thing. If everybody's neighbour or colleague has bought a house with four bedrooms then the potential wife is usually going to insist on getting a four bedroom house for herself. It seems to me, however, that there is a case to be made for a special type of grant to be designed which would be applicable to an expandable type of house, large enough to accommodate the husband, wife and one or two children, and which could readily be extended and so again qualify for a further grant at the date of extension. I think that many young couples would like very much to set out on this system of building their houses along with their families, but they find the inhibiting thing is that there is a 15 year limit imposed, and that one cannot qualify for a second grant within 15 years of the original grant for a new house unless a very serious case of overcrowding can be made by representations to the Department.

Most young people do not even realise that they could get a grant within the 15 year period upon making representations about overcrowding, and even if they did realise that this system obtained they would still be reluctant to build a small house and have to wait till they got to the overcrowding stage and had to make representations to the Department before they could hope to get a grant to expand. I am suggesting to the House and to the Minister that we might well study, and that the Minister's officials should set their minds to the task of seeing, whether a special grant scheme might be devised whereby, without any special representation being made in relation to a 15 year time limit, a second or subsequent grant would be payable within seven or eight years of being married to couples who wanted to extend their homes.

Might I refer in this regard also to a case which exists in Dublin and which is causing great concern to the members of the local authority concerned at the present time. If a local authority developes sites and makes them available for private houses to be built upon them, for people who would otherwise qualify for local authority houses, these people obtain the sites from the county council and build their own houses upon them. The local authority is entitled to one-third site development cost up to a maximum of £150. It has been found in some parts of the country, and especially in the Dublin area, that there have been people who embarked upon this venture and have been stuck half way through the building of the house, and for a considerable length of time the site is left with houses half built, at considerable expenditure and potential expense and no real possibility of finishing their house.

For that reason both Dublin Corporation and Dublin County Council and, I think, recently, the Borough of Dún Laoghaire have embarked on a scheme whereby they not only develop the sites but employ a contractor to build a number of houses on them in what is commonly known as a package deal. A local authority then buys these houses in bulk as it were from the contractor and sells them to people who would otherwise have found themselves in the position of developing sites and trying to build their own houses. The local authorities charge a small amount for administration, something like a one-half of 1 per cent.

The difficulty encounterd by Dublin County Council in relation to a scheme of this nature at Malahide is that the Minister and the council discovered suddenly that the Minister was not entitled to pay the one-third site development cost to Dublin County Council for the simple reason that Dublin County Council had themselves gone ahead and commissioned a contractor to build houses on that developed site. The Minister discovered that he was excluded by law from giving the grant—the maximum grant is £150 —and the answer given by the Minister was that the indication was that while he was in sympathy with what we were trying to do, he found himself precluded by law from paying the grant. Might I suggest to the Minister that he would consider introducing an amendment at the Committee Stage which would preclude his preclusion and allow him to pay to Dublin County Council and other local authorities the appropriate site development grant?

It is my opinion that the Minister and the people of the country will discover in the coming months that most local authorities will be forced to embark on ventures such as this because of the fact that local authority building programmes can only progress at a certain rate. Young couples will find it increasingly difficult to buy these developed sites and to commission a small builder to build a house on their behalf. I would ask the Minister to give serious consideration to this matter not only because it would help Dublin County Council but also because it would help any other local authorities who wish to embark on future schemes of this nature.

In that regard, might I refer briefly to the present State subsidy for local authority houses? I understand that at the present time the maximum of two-thirds of the loan charge of £850 is the amount payable. In 1948 £1,000 was the figure on which the two-thirds loan charge could be paid. For non-serviced houses, the figure was £1,100 in 1948: it is now £1,200. For serviced houses the figure in 1948 was £1,650 whereas it is now £1,850. In 1948, too, the figure for one- to five-storey blocks of flats was £2,200 whereas now it is £2,650. The figure for flats of six or more storeys was £2,200 in 1948 and it is now £3,100. Therefore, it is obvious that the most appreciable increased scale has been in respect of six-storey or more flats. In relation to those figures it is interesting to bear in mind that £1 in mid-August of 1969 was the equivalent of 9s 2d in 1948. In other words, in 1948, £1 was worth approximately what £2 is worth in 1969 but the State subsidy has not increased by anything like 100 per cent. The largest State subsidy is in respect of six or more storey flats. This subsidy has increased by £900 or less than 50 per cent. Again, this is a case where there is need for a dramatic increase in the amount of State subsidy on loan charges for local authority house purposes.

As I have already said, the OECD figures show that we have the lowest new house units—four per 1,000— of any of the member countries. The main reason for this Bill is, presumably, to bring us up the list a little, but even if we succeed in being second or third on the list this will only mean that we will be placed in a better position than, say, Portugal and would not that be a marvellous achievement? Furthermore, the price we would pay for that improved position would be that instead of providing better and larger houses than are provided by most of the other member countries we will provide houses of inferior standards.

Finally, I hope the Minister will be able to answer us in relation to section 12. This is the section which deals with the local authority's powers of repossession. I had taken it that section 12 was designed also to some extent to cover people who were illegally occupying local authority houses. Perhaps the Minister would clarify whether this was one of the intentions of section 12 or whether this was being left simply to the provisions envisaged in the Prohibition of Forcible Entry and Occupation Bill which is currently in the long queue of Bills waiting for attention in the other House.

As I have said, provision in this measure whereby Irish people are forced to live in smaller and inferior houses than those lived in by their parents is not a provision that can meet with the general approval and acclaim of any responsible House debating this Bill. It is unfortunate that when a Housing Bill is introduced one finds a provision in that Bill for increased State grants for houses while, at the same time, discovering that in order to qualify for those increases, people must be prepared to live in houses that will be less than the ideal for most ordinary, hardworking, middleclass Irish people of today. In that regard, one can only deplore the fact that the Minister has been so insistent on refusing to allow grants to be paid in future on houses of more than 1,250 square feet in area. We shall try to convince him of his folly on the next Stage. Perhaps by then the contributions made by the many Members who, I am sure, will be speaking, may have some influence in convincing him that there is vast room for improvement in the proposals outlined in this Bill.

One of the main objects of this Bill is to meet presentday needs. In my experience of dealing with people building new houses I find it is very rarely one finds a house being built that is more than 1,200 square feet in area or, for that matter, more than 1,000 square feet. The average area is about 900 feet. Most people find it difficult enough to build a house of that size. The Minister is helping those people who build the more popular size houses by these increased grants. The last speaker had a lot to say about the size of houses, but if he were to go down the country or even through his own area he would find that the number of houses of more than 900 to 1,000 square feet in area would be very few indeed. At one stage he mentioned the snob value in relation to houses.

The Bill is justified if it stops that tendency and encourages people to build within their means. About two years ago the Minister's predecessor mentioned the question of building half a house and completing it when the family came along. If Senator Boland goes down to Dunboyne he will see two houses, one completed, with a family living in it and the other half completed. It takes very little alteration to make it into a double storey house with extra rooms built on. It will qualify for an extra grant when the rest of the work is done. It would take only half an hour for the Senator to drive down and see those houses and I am sure the people living in them would have no objection to showing them to him. This idea has been going around the Department for four or five years. The Minister came down and opened the houses in 1968.

The tenant of the unfinished house has been waiting two years to get the extra rooms built.

Senator Crinion will get that done.

Senator Fitzgerald is nearer to it. I am surprised at that because the Minister gave the undertaking that when they required the extra work to be done, to make it into a five-room house, the extra grant would be forthcoming. Senator Fitzgerald was there the day the Minister gave the undertaking. We very often hear criticism that we are not able to build houses quickly enough. We have only to look at the position 12 years ago at the change of Government when there was an economic recession. People had left the country and there was quite a number of houses vacant. Dublin Corporation had 1,200 houses vacant and there was nobody to take them. At that time people were not able to get loans or they had not the money to purchase houses.

Things are different now because people have confidence in the country. Many people have sufficient incomes to be able to build new houses. The majority of young couples are able to look for a new house. People are not worried about the price of the house. They are only worried about the deposit money. They borrow the money for the deposit. The Government must seriously consider modern trends. Steps will have to be taken to control the size of houses. You must cut your cloth according to your measure. The Department have only a certain amount of money voted annually.

I have heard no criticism of this Bill in County Meath and I do not believe I will. Very few people building houses would go anywhere near the area specified in the Bill. The people who are prepared to build larger houses of 1,250 or 1,500 square feet will more likely go for houses of 2,000 or 3,000 square feet and they know they are outside the scheme of grants. They can therefore go ahead and build accordingly.

With regard to the withdrawal of grants the money given in Dublin was to a certain extent wasted because the people who were getting the houses never got the money. They went to big companies and asked about Government grants which in many cases went direct to the builders. It may have kept down the price of houses. The demand for houses is now greater than the supply, so naturally the builders are inclined to keep their profit margins higher.

With regard to the raising of the ceiling for SDA loans I feel that that deals with a certain income group who are unable to get loans from other sources. The figure of £1,200 is related to social welfare and health. It is possible if the Minister's colleague increases the limit the Minister may do the same.

A person in the country is very restricted as to the places where he can obtain a loan outside the county councils which are, of course, limited. Insurance companies are only interested in giving loans in certain areas. Unless one has been a policy holder for a number of years they will not be willing to give a loan. The banks are not interested in giving loans. This leaves only the Agricultural Credit Corporation. One has to be in dire need of rehousing before they will consider financing the building of a new house. In towns and cities there is much greater scope. Certainly, the building societies have a high income limit. Special concessions should be made for persons living in rural Ireland with valuations over £60. Senator Boland said that the valuation limit was £50 but my understanding is that it is £60 for an SDA loan. The SDA loan will help persons with an income of less than £500 to build a house in certain circumstances.

Last year the Department issued a circular to local authorities stating that if a person had an income of over £1,200, and if there were extraordinary circumstances, the local authority could raise the income limit. Some county councils have done it. Meath have a very few cases over £1,200 whereas Kildare are very rigid. I saw cases where the incomes were £1,209, £1,211 and £1,218, which were refused even though all these people had overtime of over £300 in the 12 months. The county manager said that if he raised the limit in these cases he would be opening the floodgates. The Department should repeat the instruction and make it stronger than it was last year.

In this Bill the Minister has met the requirements of the vast majority of the people. He is helping the less well off sections of the community by giving increased grants to them. It is my experience that these people build 95 per cent of the houses in rural Ireland. When a person is prepared to go outside the limit he usually goes for something in the region of 2,000 or 3,000 square feet without any undue hardship. This Bill will receive very little criticism in the country because it meets the needs of people who are building houses.

I should like to join with other Senators in welcoming the Minister for Local Government to this House and in wishing him well in his term of office. The Minister has inherited an enormous social problem. I sincerely hope that his term of office will be marked by the measure by which he can solve this problem. It was a sobering thought for all of us who read the White Paper, Housing in the Seventies that we require 59,000 houses to replace unfit dwellings and to deal with overcrowding. I am afraid this Bill will certainly not do what the Minister has said it will do. It will not go any way to solving that problem. It is however a Bill of particular interest to all of us involved with local authorities. Because we are involved in local authority work we are suspicious of the Bill because it tends to restrict and we are all too familiar with the restrictions already operated by the Department of Local Government. We understand the need to conserve what scarce resources there are for housing. I can see some justification in limiting the amount to £6,000 on houses qualifying for grants. I tend to suspect anything which restricts a section of our community. The restrictions operated by the Department of Local Government tend to produce a sameness with regard to houses. Certainly we have suffered from this in relation to local authority houses.

This Bill attempts to apply restrictions to the private sector. More freedom of design should be allowed in the construction of local authority houses. I hope the operation of this Bill will not be to put a certain badge on houses so that those who do not have recourse to grants will be distinguishable from those who do. No social legislation should do this. There is a big difference in the standard of living acceptable today and what was accepted some time ago. I cannot understand the Minister's logic. In making a case for this Bill the Minister tells us that the average size for a private house for which a house purchase loan is needed is about 1,000 square feet. We cannot see the point in introducing this Bill at all if we accept this. Regulations and legislation emanating from the Department of Local Government tend to change slowly so that the need for a change has passed before a change is brought about. For that reason I would oppose any further restrictions with regard to State grants for local authority or private houses.

The question of providing for expansion at a later stage is theoretically a good one. This facility should be utilised to a larger extent. In practice, we find that at the time when the need for extension is greatest, when families are growing up, the resources available to parents to carry out these extensions are at their lowest. Without further aids, grants and loans and without the elimination of the gap which exists between the State aid available and the actual cost of constructing an extension, no extension can be built. This gap must be bridged. The theory of constructing a house which can be enlarged subsequently is a good one, but it is not realistic. This Bill appears to me to be notable for what it omits rather than by what it contains. There are a few very welcome proposals, such as the move to increase the ceiling for supplementary grants. This is welcome and long overdue.

I concur with the views of Senators who mentioned that the figure of £1,200 income as a limit for a housing loan is unrealistic. I cannot understand why some allowance is not made for dependants. We have this provision with regard to grants. A man and wife alone would not have the same expense or need for aid as would a couple with five or six children. Dependants' allowances should be introduced.

There is very little reference in this Bill to local authority housing. This is a field in which there is reason for great criticism. We have frustrating delays. I should like to see a measure introduced which would eliminate these delays. The correspondence which goes on between the local authorities and the Department is enormous. The delays are becoming more frustrating as time goes on and the amount of data required by the Department is greater than is was a while ago. I should like to see a measure introduced which would speed up the housing drive and narrow the gap between the housing needs and the actual number of houses built.

There is an unrealistic qualifying limit for local authority housing. There is also the question of overcrowding and unfit housing. We hear much about houses for the newly-weds. Many people who wish to get married cannot do so without grants and aids for building their houses. These young people cannot build houses out of their own resources. They will not qualify for local authority aid unless the local authority decide to build a house for them without a subsidy. This subsidy is only payable if houses are built for those in overcrowded accommodation or in unfit houses. This is having a detrimental effect on the housing drive. The legislation should be amended to allow subsidies to be paid in the case of newly-weds.

The soaring price of land for housing is mainly responsible for the big difference between the cost of building a house today and the cost a few years ago. Other causes are also responsible. Housing is one of the greatest social needs we have.

Reference was made to the question of housing for old people. I am greatly concerned about this. Reports on the geriatric problem emphasise that one of the reasons why we have so many people in hospitals and homes is the inadequacy of their housing accommodation. In this Bill the Minister shows recognition of this and he has made provision for essential repairs. There is the problem of providing self-contained units in local authority housing schemes and of expanding this plan into the private sector. Elderly people need to be independent and still they may need some help. They are best off in their own environment, yet living on their own. Elderly people have not the resources to help themselves. We seem to be paying very little attention to them in our housing drive.

The main purpose of this Bill appears to be to build more houses. I cannot see how the output of houses will increase by 2,000 to 4,000 houses per year. The Minister admits there are restrictions. We need to recognise that housing has priority in our social needs and that there is a need for the reorganisation of the Government's finances to cater for it in a proper way. However, this is not a matter for the Minister on his own but rather one for him to bring to the notice of the Minister for Finance and of the Government generally.

I have no other points that I wish to make on this. I do not welcome the Bill, but I would welcome it if it contained something like these improvements, something to eliminate the restrictions which I know exist at the moment and that are standing in the way of solving this problem. I cannot see that this will, in any way, solve the problems that exist today. Frankly, from my experience on a local authority I could not welcome anything that would result in further restrictions.

One sentiment I share with Senator Boland and Senator Desmond is the pleasure of welcoming the new Minister for Local Government to this House. I do not share either the begrudging of Senator Boland or the suspicions of Senator Desmond. I do not see how anyone in the present situation can begrudge a Bill that will give the community a thousand additional houses per annum. I feel that Senator Boland must be completely out of touch with the community when he describes people in need of housing driving in their cars and looking at some of these new houses of 1,250 square feet and having the reaction that they are not good enough, that they are not big enough. That is a non-sensical reaction. My concern is for the people in our community who would gladly welcome three good, clean, dry airy rooms—that is my major concern. Certainly, I think that this Bill is to be welcomed in that it does channel money towards the lower income areas, towards the place where it is most needed. In the same way I would just make a basic political point. Suspicion is the wrong attitude towards a Bill which is implementing the proposals put before the electorate in a White Paper last June. Everything about this Bill has been open to full public debate and it has indeed received the endorsement of the community.

Having said that, I will go on—and some of what I say may sound critical, may sound apprehensive. This is one point that I would share with Senator Desmond. The Minister for Local Government should have every possible support in having it established once and for all that housing and the problems of housing are our major social priority. The situation at the moment —and Senator Desmond referred to these figures—is that the White Paper Housing in the Seventies shows that we have an accumulated need of 59,000 houses. I can understand people being concerned at these figures, but my concern is even greater than that because I feel that, if anything, these projections are possibly overoptimistic.

I would think that we may well have more than 35,000 unfit houses in the community and we may well have more than 24,000 houses which are overcrowded or in which families are living in similarly undesirable conditions. I suggest this on the basis of my experience in the Dún Laoghaire area in which I live where, I understand, that the figure supplied by the local authority there for the preparation of these figures was something in the region of 500 houses. This would be part of the accumulated need, but I feel that the figure should be larger, because the local authority cannot have the experience or knowledge of the situation in many private houses, what their conditions are, whether they are fit or unfit. Indeed, unless there is a housing application from a particular house they may not know whether it is overcrowded or not.

In the same way, too, I think that, without any intention of deceiving, local authority officials in the face of the present housing position, are reluctant to classify many houses as unfit or overwrowded because they realise that, should they do this, they may be creating greater difficulties for the occupants. They realise there is going to be difficulty, there is going to be a waiting period, before they can find alternative accommodation. So, for these reasons, I think that the figures in the White Paper may well be overoptimistic.

It is notable, too, that the White Paper says quite clearly that, if we have a building rate of 15,000 new dwellings per year, it would take us 15 years to eliminate the accumulated need and to meet prospective annual needs. These figures were presented to the people by the Government to indicate the size of the problem, with no attempt to hide it or to run away from it but to present a realistic statement of the position. This does not, of course, mean that the people living in unfit or overcrowded houses will have to wait 15 years before they are rehoused, because already we are achieving a growth rate of 14,000 new dwellings a year and with the thousand new dwellings which will additionally come from this new Bill we will have reached the figure of 15,000 houses a year. But it does mean that in the next 15 years we will be living with a situation very similar to that we have at present, in which, again in the area with which I am familiar, Dún Laoghaire, people who are living in appalling housing conditions have had to wait five years, in some cases more, before they can be rehoused.

I have a real personal concern for people in this sort of situation. It is the sort of situation in which official definitions of unfitness or overcrowding are of very little use to us. I would suggest that the Minister might take an extremely progressive step if he adopted the sort of idea which Shelter, the national campaign for the homeless in Britain, is trying to get across to the housing authorities in Britain. It is salutary, when one hears in this House and elsewhere so many people praising the situation in the United Kingdom, to realise that Shelter, the national campaign for the homeless in Britain, is a major pressure group and that there is a major housing problem there. Shelter's definition of a homeless family, the definition which I adopt, is that any family is actually homeless if it is split up because the home is too small or if it is living in housing conditions so unfit or overcrowded that it cannot lead a civilised family life.

Is this pertinent?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

It certainly seems pertinent to me.

Certainly I think that this is a basic concern, and if it is not pertinent to the Bill there is something seriously wrong with the House. I am surprised at the suggestion of the Senator. I am concerned because I believe that by this definition, or by any definition, we have homeless families in this country. The fact that the Minister and the Government realised it was necessary to insert section 12 on Committee Stage in the Dáil—the section which renders it an offence to squat in a local authority house—is a sign of the recognition that squatting has become a problem. It is a recognition of the reality of the desperation of homeless people. I know there are many people who argue that squatting is a creation of revolutionaries who are anxious to challenge the system or of hippies who do their own thing in their own way. Nevertheless, I believe that in any area in which squatting has occurred, whether it be Rome, Oslo, London or, indeed, Dublin, the problems and the desperation of genuinely homeless people are part of the growth of this phenomenon.

I am glad that section 12 has been inserted in the Bill to deal with this problem because, even though hardship may occur in some cases as a result of legal action being taken against squatters, I regard squatting in local authority houses as a particularly vicious form of pressure group action. By squatting in these houses squatters delay the allocation of the houses to people who have been judged by the local authority to be in grave need of rehousing. Certainly, people on housing lists throughout the country who are working within the system and who are waiting patiently to be rehoused deserve the full protection of the law. Even though there will be legislation to prevent squatting this must not, however, deter us from recognising that the basic aim of housing policy is to end the type of situation that can lead to genuine squatting. That aim is to get rid of the whole pattern of high mortgages, big rents and intolerable conditions, to end the common struggle and difficulties which most people experience in their endeavour to get a house.

I welcome the Bill because it will have a marginal effect on this basic situation. Apart from the provision of an additional 1,000 new houses each year, better value will be derived from the money spent. This Bill, by continuing the policy of subsidies, encourages further owner occupation and encourages, in particular, owner occupation of houses by the section of the community in the lower income bracket. I welcome also the amendment which the Minister is to introduce in this House to increase the income limit for supplementary grants for local authorities. This is a move in the right direction.

The problem in relation to subsidies is that we are spending money that might be spent on houses. There is a feeling that the whole approach of subsidies may not be the sort of radical solution which I, in expressing my concern for the human problems, consider to be necessary at present to deal with the housing situation. Thinking in these terms I was impressed by a paragraph relating to subsidies that appears on page 18 of the White Paper, Housing in the Seventies. This paragraph reads:

Theoretically, the subsidies could be eliminated by building houses to a standard and at a cost which the average worker could afford. However, this standard would be economically wasteful particularly at a time of rising standards of living generally. There is no point in building houses now which will be substandard in ten years.

Because I believe there is a great need for houses I should like to put a question mark in the margin beside that paragraph. I would be interested in seeing if the Minister in his reply could perhaps explore a little more the implications of an entirely new approach to our housing problem on these lines. As a layman concerned with this problem, I can see some possible advantages of a radical approach on these lines. For example, it seems to me that if we would build a great number of houses even of this substandard—I use the word in the absolute sense—type, it would bring down the cost of private houses. Because it would meet a large part of the demand for houses, I am not sure that it would be economically wasteful in that the building and ultimately the replacement and so on of these houses might well give a greater continuity and stability to the building industry—something that we have been trying to bring about for years.

Further, in the long run there might be other advantages from building a large number of houses at lower prices at this time. It might leave valuable funds available for investment in the provision of badly-needed infrastructure such as water and sewerage. When I look around me I see houses built in their time to the best available standards which are, 20 years later, already defective in many ways. If, today, we could build houses, recognising that they had a built-in obsolescence, so to speak, we might be helping ourselves in the future because we cannot know what developments there may be in the community, such as a complete revolution in the way of living, in transport and so on. In ten or 20 years time we might well be glad to have large areas of cities and towns that we could level to the ground so that we could rebuild on them in a way that would be more in keeping with those times.

I know that the Minister has indicated his interest in modular design and in competitions for new house designs and so on. I hope that part of the research and thinking about houses will be devoted to the type of house referred to in this paragraph as well as to the standard grant-type house. In this regard, too, I hope that the full independence and freedom of the research bodies, which are so much under discussion at the moment, will allow them to explore any new development they might hope would lead to a breakthrough in solving the housing problem. It seems odd that at this point of time we are still building houses with bricks and blocks in the way in which everybody seems to have built them for years. Surely it must be within our grasp today to have a breakthrough which would radically reduce prices?

Much of the attention of the debate has been on the floor area necessary for the grant-type house to qualify. Again, on this, I welcome the Bill in that it encourages the building of flats equally with the building of houses. In this country we have an unnatural suspicion of flats, but flats are one of the few ways of providing homes reasonably convenient to working places. Also they are better value for money in terms of usable floor area in the home.

On this point I hope Senators who are concerned about the floor area of houses will be reassured that when we talk about floor area we are talking about useful floor space in the home. It is fashionable in this debate to draw to the Minister's attention weird and wonderful figures from all parts of the world. I would like to add to that litany one figure which caught my eye in the February, 1970, No. 5, issue of Plan, page 14, according to which, in 1966-67, in a European Table, in Ireland the useful floor space per dwelling in square metres was 62 and that compared with 139 in Belgium, for example. That is the sort of figure I found interesting in my reading on housing. It underlines the need for good design and the fact that when we talk about feet or square metres in the home we are talking about genuinely useful floor area.

In supporting this Bill it is important that we should be assured that the increased housing grants go to the people they are intended to help most. I would like to refer, in that regard, to the booklet, A House of Your Own, produced by the Department of Local Government, which is read more than any other book by the people who will be applying for grants. I was struck by the phrase on page 17 of that booklet: “The State grant for houses built speculatively is normally paid to the builder. You should therefore be careful to inquire whether the price quoted to you includes or excludes the grant.” This in my view points to a real danger I found particularly in new housing areas which fringe the city and in areas like Foxrock where I have met many people who are seriously concerned that the money paid as a grant towards the houses they purchase is not really reducing the price of the houses. They feel in some ways that the grant is almost part of the builder's profit. We are giving larger grants for particular size houses in this Bill and I would like to hear from the Minister exactly how he proposes to ensure that the grant gets to the person who needs it most and that it generally keeps down the price of the house.

I wonder if one of the implications of this Bill, administratively, is that A House of Your Own will have to be reprinted to keep up to date with new developments. This is a splendid booklet as it stands but I would suggest that the Minister might consider reproducing it in a slightly cheaper format and making it readily available to the sixth forms in schools, to young people and to credit unions. This type of information can help young people to avoid the traps they may fall into when they get married, which have led so many people into bad housing conditions, often through no fault of their own.

I understand the subsidies which we are improving in passing this Bill are linked closely to an inspection system to ensure that the houses on which a grant is paid are of proper quality. I ask the Minister to do all he can to ensure that this inspection is thorough and adequate because it is an absolute nightmare to young people who have put practically all their savings and made a genuine effort to house themselves in the best possible conditions to find that very often in a surprisingly short time there can be serious structural defects in the house.

I should like to say that in my view there are obligations on both the speculative builder and the workers who build houses when it is a matter of social need, to ensure that although they may make profits, they should not make exorbitant profits out of social needs in the community. Many workers will be living in those houses. So there is a moral obligation on them to put the finest possible workmanship into the building of new houses. I can never understand how corporation developments particularly are very often delayed through a firm falling behind in the target time or the local authority finding it necessary to ask for modifications or additional work to be done. I cannot see how members of a trade union movement which is involved in the improvement of the whole community, can stand by and almost tolerate what seems to be a poor standard of workmanship and a very slapdash approach to the building of houses.

I am not in any way attacking building workers generally. I simply point out something which is morally wrong. Everybody involved in the business of housing, whether it be the Government who provide the grants, the builders, whose business it is, or the workers engaged in the trade, has a duty to do his best to help in the betterment of the community. I recognise, as indeed the Minister recognised in his opening speech, that hardly a Senator in the House would argue that enough has been done. The Minister has also pointed out that even achieving present targets and maintaining the present level of reconstruction and improvement works will involve an increase in capital expenditure on building and reconstructing houses from about £52 million in 1968 to £75 million approximately by 1975 at constant 1968 prices and an increase in public current expenditure, mainly on subsidies, from about £11 million to £17.5 million by 1975. I am fully aware, in expressing my concern about housing, I may be accused of being totally unrealistic and that we cannot pay for the sort of changes which I consider we must have if our present pattern of economic development continues as it is. People may say that the superhuman measures I would like to see would require something phenomenal in our economic development. I am not sure the situation is as bad as this.

It is quite wrong when the housing revolutionaries, people like the Dublin Housing Action Committee, say the only thing for the homeless today is either to accept the status quo or to defy it. This is a false picture of the situation provided the Government and the Fianna Fáil Party who support the Government, act with energy and imagination and, where they feel it is justified, call on the community, after giving a proper lead, to make a sacrifice towards tackling once and for all this social ill of bad housing.

It is a major social ill. I believe a great deal of our health expenditure arises because of physical illness and more particularly mental illnesses which members of families inevitably contract by living in bad and overcrowded housing conditions. In the same way I believe alcoholism and juvenile delinquency are also due to bad housing conditions. Every time I am tempted to welcome major advances in education I realise there are children in the community who cannot avail of these opportunities because there is no privacy in their own homes to enable them to do their homework even when they have the ability to go on to further study. It is because of this sort of social problem that I would argue for any sarcrifice to be made in order to solve our housing problem.

I have suggested massive building on a utility scale as one way of solving the problem. The idea should not be dismissed as merely theoretical. It is well worth examining because if it were at all effective it would bring down the price of houses generally on the open market.

While providing some positive measures this Bill does not prevent some of the housing ills from continuing to occur in our community. Parallel with improvements we need to take preventive action. I understand, for example, the provisions in the 1966 Housing Act and the 1963 Planning and Development Act are not enough to prevent the continued development of multiple dwellings which provide extremely poor housing conditions. When considering future legislation the Minister and his Department should review this matter.

I welcome this Bill for its encouragement of private ownership of houses. The Minister must do everything to encourage individual ownership of houses through tenant purchase schemes. I understand a tenant purchase scheme is in operation in the Dún Laoghaire local authority area which may require some flexibility if it is to be brought to full fruition. The theoretical loan is limited in the same way as the loan under the Small Dwellings Act. I understand tenant purchase applicants of the kind involved should be treated differently from applicants for loans under the Small Dwellings Act.

I was very glad last week to hear that the co-operative advisory unit in the Department of Local Government promised in the White Paper was now in action to assist this type of voluntary housing effort in the community. This was to me an earnest of the Minister's intention to do all he can in the situation.

I support the development of housing and the housing policy of the Government. I shall be glad to promote the ideas behind this Bill in the community at large as much as I can although I must continue to call for more. I suggest there would be a much greater understanding and appreciation of the housing policy and help for the most needy if the Minister could ensure by briefing or otherwise that at least the members of his own party were fully cognisant with the Government's housing policy particularly on issues such as differential rents and matters like that where there is a genuine effort to achieve social justice. Very often the Minister's colleagues at local authority level do not appreciate the points of the recommendations from the Department of Local Government and in all innocence may hold back the achievement of the pattern of social thinking which the Minister is trying to promote.

Senator Boland said that if the housing programme was boosted much more there would be a shortage of men and materials in the industry. Quite frankly I do not believe that. I should like to hear a full explanation of this statement instead of simply hearing it made as a statement of fact. As long as we have people unemployed who are capable of mixing cement and as long as we have industries keen to expand it is impossible for us to have a shortage of men and material.

I was talking about skilled operatives.

I know skills are involved. Research is being done to find ways of overcoming or dispensing with some of these skills. White collar workers in some instances with very little knowledge or skill have managed to build their own houses.

An Leas-Cathaoirleach

The Senator is going rather wide of the Bill.

I appreciate the Chair's point but I am prepared to sit here and listen to anybody talk on housing because I believe so strongly about it. It is a major problem. If there are Senators prepared to sit and accept every argument and then go home complacent I am unable to do so. I certainly felt it was worth while questioning Senator Boland's statement.

It is in this spirit that I have tried to contribute to the Bill. I realise it is the sort of speech which Members of both Houses of the Oireachtas will be making until the end of time but if it helps the Minister and the community at large to know of our concern and if it helps the Government in their assessment of priorities in the community, the sort of remarks I have made, however inadequately, will have been worth while.

Business suspended at 6 p.m. and resumed at 7.30 p.m.

I have the greatest respect for Deputy Cunningham, the Parliamentary Secretary, but I am sorry that the Minister is not here at the moment. I will couple the two of them together. I was very pleased to see Deputy Molloy, the new Minister for Local Government, here today. Compliments were paid to him already by previous speakers. I offer Deputy Cunningham, the Parliamentary Secretary, our best wishes and I am glad to welcome him.

The debate on this measure started some hours ago. It opened on a very serious and constructive note. The Bill is not all we would expect a Bill of this nature to be. Senator Mrs. Desmond referred to this point and made a statement which I endorse completely.

Senator Boland in his opening remarks referred to the purpose of the Bill, which is to give grants for dwellings with a floor area of up to 1,050 square feet. He made the point that this is not sufficient and suggested that a higher grant should be given to a bigger area. The point was made that the community would be better serviced if the higher grant was given in respect of such an area. Now this floor space connotes to me at any rate a certain density. I am not quite certain about the density but in an estate it is probably ten to the acre. Senator Boland made the point—and I agree with him—that a house of these dimensions would not be much dearer than one with a floor area of 1,250 square feet. Let me anticipate the Minister's objection to Senator Boland. The Minister will say, I am sure, to Senator Boland that this involves fewer houses to the acre.

Now I want to draw the Minister's attention to something I said about 11 years ago in Dublin County Council— that the whole of Dublin county should be serviced. By servicing I mean that sewerage and water should be put in, not roads, and I suggested that when it came to be used a levy could be put on each site that the owner of the land was giving up or selling. This would enable site to compete against site rather than builders competing for sites. What has bedevilled housing in County Dublin probably applies also to other areas of the country and that is the cost of sites and the piecemeal development of areas around County Dublin. This has inflated the cost of these sites and the cost of the houses must bear the cost of the sites.

If, then, we had developed a huge area we would have so many sites that the price would be so moderate as to make for much lower priced houses. I have said this often before. Senator Boland says that I repeat myself but I am going to risk doing it again on this occasion. The validity of this is borne out by the fact that the county manager has introduced a plan into Dublin County Council to develop a huge area north of the city which includes Blanchardstown, Clonsilla and areas towards Malahide. I am sure the Minister is aware of this plan. I agree with Senator Boland when he says that the labour content involved in building a house of from 800 square feet to 1,050 square feet would not be very much lower than that involved in building a house of 1,250 square feet. The only extra requirements in regard to the larger type house are a few more blocks and tiles. Plumbing, drainage and so on will be the same. The essentials must be provided regardless of the size of the house.

I believe it is better to have the bigger type of house. On page 2 of his statement the Minister said:

Although the new maximum floor area is reasonably large, I am conscious of the need to cater for the special requirements of the larger than average family. Accordingly, reconstruction grants will continue to be available for the addition of rooms and my Department will encourage, as it has in the past, the production of houses which are readily capable of expansion at reasonable cost.

There is a grant available for such extension. However, to get back to my original statement about the density of houses—the number of houses per acre —let us say that there are ten houses to the acre but if one must have an extension to one of these houses what kind of space would be left per acre? What kind of garden or what kind of open space would be left? If the Minister is going to emphasise houses with a floor area of 800 to 1,050 square feet and if he is to give bigger grants in respect of them, he is, in effect, emphasising his desire, because of the present price of land, for higher density. However, if he is to allow extensions to these houses there will be very little space left.

It is evident that the Minister would prefer the house with a floor area of 800 to approximately 1,050 square feet. If that is the case there will be no room in these houses for bigger families. Nor will there be accommodation for relatives, friends, or people who might have to receive domiciliary care in such a house. We are concerned to keep people out of institutions and with endeavouring to see that they get domiciliary care in their own surroundings either from relatives or from outsiders. By emphasising this smaller type of house the Minister is more or less precluding the possibility of domiciliary care for those who might otherwise be able to get it. He is also precluding married couples from taking their parents into their homes and, as we all know, it is very good if children can look after their parents. Senator Boland referred to applicants for loans and grants. Differences in income should not be an issue at all. This would lead to much simpler administration.

The Bill is primarily a measure of the Small Dwellings Act type. It impinges to some extent on municipal housing in that if we can get people to buy their own houses we take the onus from local authorities to provide housing for them. In County Dublin last year we were told there were no further loans available from the Local Loans Fund under the SDA loans and that all the applicants up to the 1st September, although they were eligible for loans, could not get them because there was no money left. The estimation then was that if it was put on to this year's Estimate, and including this year's SDA loans, we would need from the Local Loans Fund £2 million. That has been negatived to some extent by the bank strike and the cement strike but if neither of those strikes had occurred Dublin County Council would have had to service the SDA loan in the coming year plus practically half of last year's account, almost £2 million.

Senator Crinion said that in County Meath they are quite satisfied with what they are getting. It is all right for them but the local authority which needs most of the amount allocated under the Small Dwellings Act is County Dublin. The Minister should take this into consideration. Actually, the Dublin County Manager, who is also the city manager, had to make arrangements with building societies and insurance companies to provide finance for houses that would normally qualify for loans under the Small Dwellings Act. He made the best arrangement he could but their loan charge was higher than we would normally expect. Had the loan been obtained from the Local Loans Fund, Dublin County Council would not have had to meet the amount they are being charged for this service by the building societies and insurance companies. The loans from the Local Loans Fund are, of course, the cheapest that can be got. The local authority add a ½ per cent for administration. They make no money at all.

Reference was made by various Senators to different matters in relation to this Bill. Senator Keery referred to tenant purchase houses. He was slightly confused. Tenant purchase houses are built for people who pay the purchase money over a fairly long term of years. When paid they own the houses. The Senator mixed that up with a local authority asking those occupying a local authority house to purchase the houses they live in. I should like the Minister to reply to this point because the aim of every local authority is to ensure that everybody should own his own house. That is good from the civic spirit point of view. The people look after the house. It is also good in that the local authority do not have to maintain the houses. There may be some method of subvention to help people who want to buy their own houses. I am referring to municipal authority houses. Those houses may be so dear that the tenant may not be able to purchase it.

Senator Keery was not correct in saying that Dún Laoghaire is being developed. What is being done is that sites are being provided with water, sewerage and a proper road surface. These amenities are being provided at the expense of Dún Laoghaire Corporation. This is really a pilot scheme and we do not know yet how it will work out.

Senator Keery stated that Senator Boland said that there was not sufficient labour in the country to carry out all the necessary building. That is not what Senator Boland said at all. Senator Boland said that the Dublin city manager insists on all skilled operatives being employed and, as the industry is working to its limit, how can 1,000 extra units be provided?

I understood Senator Boland accepted that from the city manager.

That is not what the Senator said at all. You said labour in general; you did not refer to skilled labour at all.

The Senator should address the Chair.

Would the Chair ask Senator Keery to address the Chair as well? Senator Keery, in his speech, referred to labour in general, but Senator Boland was quoting the city manager.

Senator Keery mentioned the provision of more flats and I agree that this is a good idea. It is very difficult to get people used to the idea of living in flats, but, since land is becoming so expensive, we shall have to condition people to living in flats. In this Bill certain subventions and grants are given to people living in flats and I congratulate the Minister on this.

Senator Keery also asked to whom the grants should be paid. I should be glad to hear from the Minister to whom the grants should, in fact, be paid. It may be true that a minority of builders are unscrupulous and if they knew a grant was available they might push up the price, but I do not think we can take it that all builders would do this.

We, in the Opposition, believe that only one investigation should be carried out, and if a person is given a grant he should also be entitled to a loan without having to undergo a second investigation. We believe the income limit should be raised to £1,500 and the valuation to £75, plus an extra amount for children in the family. The income limit for all grants and loans should be raised as the value of the £ falls. There is a ceiling for grants of £3,000 in Dublin and £2,700 elsewhere. It would be very difficult to get a house for that price today. Some years ago when a valuer valued a house for a local authority he valued it at a lower figure which resulted in the amount of the loan given being too small. The valuer did not take into account the actual value and the saleable price of the house and the person borrowing money for the house could not meet his commitments because he could not get a sufficient loan. A house which would normally sell at £3,500 or £4,000 would be valued at £2,500 or £3,000 and the borrower got only a percentage of that value; he did not get the full value.

These are the only remarks I have to make on this Bill. I am glad to see the Minister here. I do not think he was here when I welcomed him to this House; I believe his Parliamentary Secretary was present on that day. I would, however, wish him well in his new office. I look forward to seeing him again in this House. I hope to get great results from him.

I do not intend to talk for very long on this occasion because most of the matters I want to discuss will be raised on the Committee Stage. It is a Bill by which the Minister hopes to expedite building and to produce the greatest possible number of houses. The Department make decisions in these matters in the light of the amount of money available to them for this particular work. This must of necessity be related to the percentage the Department can obtain from the gross national product. If one can afford to do a certain amount of work, then one is obliged to do it. If the money is not available, then the ordinary limitations of common sense tell one not to go any further. The Bill seems to me to be directed entirely towards making greater use of the funds available to the Department from the gross national product so as to produce the greatest number of dwellings within a given period and to give them a number of refinements.

I might ask the Minister a question on the Committee Stage on this point. It is stated in the Bill that a house which has been built under the conditions laid down in the Bill can be made so that a reconstruction grant will be made available after a period of time in order to enlarge it. I am not quite sure of the period. My experience tells me—and I have experience of this because I have been in an urban authority for over 20 years—that very often we find people and build houses for them. At the time they occupy the houses the houses are too big for them. As their families increase the houses are adequate. These people have to pay for these houses which are really too big and are not required by them at the time they get married.

I am talking about young married couples. If the reconstruction grant is available to them and if there is a limitation as to the density in which these houses are built, it would be much more useful for a young married couple to build a house for them suitable for immediate occupation. They would then have the option of getting a reconstruction grant when they require to extend the accommodation. If my assessment of the Bill is right I think this is a good thing to do. I have travelled around the country and it is not unusual to see on houses which have been built under the SDA a notice outside the door saying: "Bed and breakfast" because these young people have accommodation which is in excess of their immediate requirements. Practically every new house which I see being built is availing of this opportunity to cash in on the tourist business because the occupants do not immediately require the accommodation.

This Bill does not perplex me, but there is one little point which does perplex me. If one reduces the area of the house can it be assumed now that the house will be built more cheaply? The grants are laid down for the houses and my experience tells me that whether you reduce the size or not the builder will charge the same amount for the house. Maybe the Minister might have some comment to make on this. My experience is that the higher the grant paid the higher the price of the house. The more loans which are given the higher the prices of houses go. I do not know whether this Bill will control that matter or not. My experience tells me otherwise. If the price of building these houses can be controlled and related to common sense, I feel that young people getting married will be prepared to take a house of reduced area in the knowledge that, when they require it, they can get a reconstruction loan for the expansion of the house. At the moment I think that if one gets a grant they cannot get another loan for 15 years. I would be doubtful about this matter if that condition applied. My opinion of the Bill is that it is a good one. If grants were available for reconstruction within five or seven years it would be good, but 15 years would be too long to wait.

Somebody mentioned tenant purchase schemes. I have some experience of these. I do not know of any regulation which prohibits a tenant from buying his house from a local authority without any down payment. Senator Dr. Belton mentioned a down payment. A tenant would be required to pay an annuity to redeem the outstanding part of the loan.

I do not think I mentioned down payments.

I understood that the Senator did. I have seen great benefits flowing from the fact that people were given reasonable terms on which to purchase their houses. This arrangement has transformed those people from being local authority tenants to being respectable citizens who look after their houses and maintain them in excellent condition, whereas before they were knocking on the doors of the various urban and city councils in order to have various repairs carried out on their houses. Every facility should be given to tenants to buy their houses under purchase schemes.

I would much prefer to leave my remaining questions to the Minister until we come to the Committee Stage. I do not believe in making long speeches on a complex problem like housing. The terms of the Bill are acceptable to me. I see considerable merit in having a reduced area in a house if the cost can be controlled and if the person has entitlement to a reconstruction grant within a reasonable period, but I think that 15 years is too long, if that is the period intended.

We can welcome the Bill as it is in so far as it goes to implement some of the recommendations in the White Paper, Housing in the Seventies, which was most thorough and enlightening and certainly provided a tremendous range of facts on financing and availability and the housing requirements for the decade ahead. The first thing we must observe in looking at this is the failure of the grants to keep pace with inflation. Grants which were £275 20 years ago have at least gone up by £25, but in some cases they have been reduced. The purpose of the grants is largely to help people to help themselves, and these grants back in the forties were quite appreciable. A grant of £275 for a house costing somewhere around £2,000 or £2,500 was an appreciable help, especially if the owner qualified for a supplementary grant of the same amount. Today, however, that £275, though in some cases it might be increased very slightly, is making less than half the contribution to the purchase of the house that it made 20 years ago.

You may say, of course, that money is the root of all evil and that the difficulty here is that the State has got to pay and that if we were to restore the 1948 value of the subsidies for housing the bill would be almost doubled. We may be frightened by that, but we have to look at the purpose of the exercise. The purpose of the grants is, as I say, to have more private housing and therefore to make the demand on the public housing sector less.

The figures show that the State is getting a very good bargain in this case for an expenditure of £3.3 million, which is what at present induces £25 million financing from private sources compared with £25 million demand on the public sector. If that £3.3 million, that is, the total cost of grants given both by the central authority and supplementary grants by local authorities to private housing, was brought up to 1948 values, the cost would probably run to double the £3.3 million. It would probably cost in the region of £6 million.

What is the saleable price of the houses at the moment?

For the investment of that £6 million it might possibly be that the State would succeed in inducing a fair proportion of those catered for by public housing costing £25 million a year to actually do the job themselves. Therefore, if you could get a quarter of those off the State side and turn them into people providing their own houses—obviously there would have to be a reasonable increase in grant—then that would be a worthwhile investment for the State as well as being a worthwhile sociological advance by creating more private ownership in the housing sector.

There has been a radical change made in the basis of grants. Previously, grants were given on the number of rooms according to certain specifications. Therefore, up to a maximum of five rooms or over, the larger house within that context was given a sum which admittedly varied from £200 by £25 up to £300. Now that has been reversed and the main grant is concentrated on houses with an area of between 800 and 1,000 square feet. I have no quarrel with that if the money value could be brought into line, but I think that at present the inducement given to those building houses of between 1,000 square feet and 1,250 is very small. The Government have departed from the recommendations of the White Paper, which allowed for and recognised the fact that there are a very large number of houses between 1,250 and 1,500 square feet that are not occupied by millionaires. They are occupied by ordinary people with relatively small incomes, somewhere in the order of £2,000 a year or so. These are people who are definitely in need of assistance. I do not think we can move an amendment here because it would be ruled out as imposing a charge on the State. Perhaps we could appeal to the Minister to reconsider that upper limit and at least allow the upper limit to go to 1,500 square feet.

Again we have the vexed question of equating farmers' incomes with salaried incomes. There is the old notional figure still used that £60 valuation is the equivalent of £1,050, which is shortly to be modernised to some figure around £1,400. Of course, we all know that this is not so, that the living provided on a farm with a valuation of £60 is not in any way comparable to that of £1,050 a year. We also know that farmers' incomes over the past ten years have not either in this country or indeed in any other country kept pace with inflation. Therefore, there is a real case there for adjusting that upper limit of £60 valuation to bring it into reasonable line with what is regarded as the labour income of that farmer, and to line that up with the corresponding maximum labour limit allowed to a salaried worker.

It is very unfair also—in fact, it is indefensible—that, whereas in the case of a salaried worker the limit is adjusted by the number of children and so on, this is not applied to farmers. It is an excellent principle—I am not criticising it in any way—whereby a man with two or more children and a wife can get an increase in allowance of £400. That is as it should be, but why not apply the same to the farmer's income? This kind of valuation, if it is accepted as being equivalent to the unmarried salaried worker at whatever figure corresponds to the £1,050 at the moment, should allow for adjustments in income to take account of his family commitments. Indeed, this is very much required in the case of farm building, because it is the energetic young men with growing families who may be the persons who need the houses and who have the initiative and drive to try to provide them. I would, therefore, appeal to the Minister to try to remove these anomalies and bring the two into line.

Another figure from the housing White Paper shows that the cost invested by the State in every house built under a local authority is at least around £170 per annum. That is on top of the subsidies being made up, the biggest item being £108 on average as a subsidy towards the cost of servicing the loan providing the house, and then lack of rates and so on make up the others. The comparable figure for private housing, in respect of the grant, the supplementary grant and whatever other assistance is given, is estimated in the White Paper as slightly over £40 a year.

Again, there is a great disparity in treatment as between £170 and £40 and I am suggesting that we consider increasing the £40 in order that we might achieve our main purpose of encouraging people to build their own houses rather than to depend on local authorities.

In this Bill, the Government do not seem to give sufficient credit to the local credit unions. I am aware that co-operatives and so on are mentioned in the White Paper but credit unions are more fundamental and continuing. In many cases we can see the excellent work being done by those credit unions. They have a real part to play in housing in relation to deposits and in helping out with loans. The Minister has promised some legislation in the future on the question of private availability of finance through building societies, assurance companies and others. When drafting that legislation I would ask the Minister to take special cognisance of the position of the local credit union movement and see what incentives could be given to them. Any such incentives that might be given would boost the morale of local communities.

It is right that we should avail in building of the latest advances in science. The very good work being done both by An Foras Forbartha and the National Building Agency in this field is to be highly commended. We welcome especially the recognition that today so much can be mass produced and that we can utilise modular type buildings which, of course, cut costs considerably.

I am aware that the Minister has indicated his support for that. And I would ask that in the decade ahead every assistance and encouragement be given to achieve the maximum in economy in this regard. As well as building there is the question of preservation and upkeep. Generally, the standard in this regard leaves a lot to be desired in many parts of our cities where commons and so on which are nobody's concern are not very well kept.

Local authorities should be encouraged to provide a better standard of maintenance services. For a private individual the cost of a lawnmover could represent quite an expense. There is also the question of disposing of cuttings. This work could be handled much more expeditiously by local authorities who would have the necessary equipment and who could go from house to house. Even if this meant a small increase in the rates it would be well worthwhile to have a proper standard of maintenance in our cities.

Most of the other matters can be dealt with on Committee Stage, except perhaps the question of the prohibitive cost of sites. Despite all the statements that have been made I do not think that any effective action has been taken in this regard and the result is that the cost of sites continues to increase. There is also speculation in sites. This is something to be deplored. So far the Government have shown themselves to be totally unable or unwilling to cope with this problem. The time is long overdue to do something about profiteering in lands for house building. This type of land is exceedingly valuable by virtue of the fact that it is in a developing area. Some of the exorbitant profits made on that land should go in some way towards the provision of houses. In other words, some form of capital gains tax is long overdue in that respect. Most other countries, including the USA have such measures. If the Minister were to provide grants that would be equivalent to the 1948 level, it would be necessary for him to almost double the present amounts.

I welcome this Bill and I also welcome the Minister to the House. It may seem a retrograde step to reduce the size of houses that would qualify for a grant but, when all factors are taken into consideration, it is both justifiable and logical to do so. Prices of houses have continued to increase but, despite this, the demand for houses has continued to grow. There is no sign of a slackening off in demand.

It seems clear, then, that until the backlog in housing is reduced considerably State assistance must be used to encourage the building of the greatest possible number of dwellings from available capital. If a reduction in the size of a house results in some people building less elaborate houses than they otherwise might build, it would be possible to finance the building of more new houses for the same amount of money. A more likely effect is that speculative builders would be inclined to build smaller houses and this would also help to ensure more houses for the same amount of money. This does not mean that the Bill encourages the building of substandard houses. A house of 1,250 square feet in area can accommodate the average family. Neither is the Bill an attempt to prevent people providing themselves with a house of a higher standard. It simply means that the grant is used for those who cannot afford luxuries in housing. People will still be entitled to build houses of a standard that is suitable for their circumstances.

I welcome this Bill in some respects but I also disagree with some points in it. I should like to draw attention to the provision enabling local authorities to pay supplementary grants in small urban areas where the local authority are unable to pay them out of their own resources. Take a small town, where a penny on the rates brings in only £35 to £40. Houses have been built on the outskirts of some of these small towns, leading to increased costs for water and sewerage. Therefore, the assistance provided in this Bill is welcome.

If the Minister honestly believes that a slight reduction in the floor areas of houses will result in more houses being built, then we welcome this measure. I should like to hear the Minister's explanation for not increasing the income limit to £1,200 or PLV of £50 for a person applying for a local authority loan under the Small Dwelling Act. These limits were fixed by regulation a few years ago, but in the meantime there have been increases in the cost of living. These have led, in turn, to increased wages and salaries which, however, did not necessarily mean any increase in that person's status. Some of those people because they now go over the £1,200 limit are not entitled to get a loan even though they are no better off than they were before they got this increase in salary.

Let us take the cost of purchasing a house. If we take the figure of £1,200 and go back a number of years, we find that sum represented half the cost of erecting a house. Does the Minister seriously think that sum still represents half the cost of erecting a house? If the Minister agrees it does not, then he appears to be defeating the purpose of his own Bill. I should like to hear his explanation on this.

There are certain anomalies in regard to these limits. The figure of £1,200 is equated with £50 poor law valuation. That is a ratio of 24 to 1. When we come to the supplementary grant an income of £1,045 is equated with £60 valuation, which is approximately a ratio of 17½ to 1. I understand that in the Health Act the ratio between income and poor law valuation is about 20 to 1, and I believe that some time ago, when county council university scholarships were awarded, the ratio was 16 to 1. The Minister, in conjunction with , the Minister for Finance, should work out some fixed ratio between poor law valuation and salary.

I do not clearly understand the provisions governing the payment of a supplementary grant, where an allowance of £100 per child, up to £400, is made, whereas no family costs are taken into consideration in the provision of a loan. That means that local authorities will be compelled to build more houses than they would have to build if the person wishing to build privately were given the incentive of a reasonable upper ceiling in salary and a special allowance in regard to his family commitments. There should be standardisation in regard to this. If a person qualifies for a supplementary grant he should also qualify for a loan or vice versa.

I would respectfully ask the Minister to give particular attention to the point I wish to make with regard to the grants for reconstruction of dwellings.

The White Paper on housing states that State and supplementary grants of up to £280 may be paid for the reconstruction of a house with five rooms or more and that a further grant of £90 may be paid to provide water and sewerage. It also says that the 1966 Housing Act provides for a formality free loan of £200 from local authorities for reconstruction. I have made a number of inquiries today and I understand that the sum of £280 was decided on in 1956. As a member of a local authority I know that the ordinary rule of thumb with regard to reconstruction grants is that the State pays one-third, the local authority one-third and the person concerned pays the other one-third. When one takes into account the phenomenal rise in prices between 1956 and 1970 I should like to know if this one-third rule of thumb still applies. The grant of £280 represents a much smaller fraction of the total cost of carrying out reconstruction work than it did in 1956.

On numerous occasions Cavan County Council appealed to the Minister's predecessor to increase the supplementary grants for reconstruction in order to make them commensurate with the increases in the cost of building new houses but with no result. I leave it to the Minister to decide what the figure should be.

Looking at the White Paper I notice that approximately 173,000 houses were reconstructed in one year with the help of grants. I do not think it is likely that the reconstruction of houses has proceeded at the same rate because the depreciation in the value of money has made the £280 grant of miserly assistance.

I find fault with the Bill because no provision has been introduced to assist people to reconstruct houses; no effort has been made to make the reconstruction grant commensurate with the grant given for the building of new houses. A person who has spent a great deal of time and money on his garden may prefer to reconstruct his house rather than move to a new house and start all over again. For that reason I would ask the Minister to reconsider the question of higher reconstruction grants, to see if a provision can be made in the Bill which would bring these grants up to the same level as grants for the construction of new buildings.

A Chathaoirligh, ní choimeádfaidh mé an Teach ró-fhada mar tá na pointí tábhachtacha sa Bhille seo cíortha agus sean-chíortha ag na Seanadóirí a labhair. Ach mar sin féin, is mian liom fáilte a chur roimh an mBille. Sé an cuspóir atá leis ná breis cabhrach agus breis airgid a thabhairt don duine lag, agus eirí as cabhair ró-mhór a thabhairt don duine saibhir. Níl ach roint airgid ar fáil chun tithe a thógáil agus teastaíonn ón Aire oiread tithe agus is féidir a thógáil leis an airgead sin. Leis na hathruithe atá sa Bhille seo beidh ar chumas an Aire 1,000 tigh sa bhreis a thógáil gach bliain.

Níor thaithin sé riamh liom an t-airgead céanna a bheith le fáil ag daoine saibhre agus ag daoine bochta, airgead chun tithe galánta a thógáil agus go minic chun tithe saoire a thógáil. Beidh áthas orm ach deireadh a chur leis seo agus deontaisí níos aoirde a chur an fáil don ghnáth-dhuine chun tithe réasúnta mór a thógáil.

I welcome the new clause in the Bill which allows the grant to be paid on the floor area instead of the number of rooms. I believe a person should be allowed to decide on the size of the rooms and the lay-out of his house. I commend the section which allows a certain amount to be paid for flats and which also applies to the dower house. These houses are suitable for persons living alone.

Many Senators have referred to the newlyweds. It is a reflection of the prosperity of the country that there is such a great demand for housing because people are marrying so young. Newlyweds should be encouraged to make provision for a house in the years before they are married. The present Bishop of Kerry devised a novel scheme when he introduced his housing drive in England. He obtained flats for newlyweds and out of the rent they paid him a certain portion was saved and when enough was saved for a deposit on a house they were moved into a house. Whilst young people have plenty of money to spend on dancing, bingo and all the other activities they indulge in we seldom see them prepare for their nest. A scheme should be undertaken which would encourage saving for a deposit on a house.

Someone asked whether the grant should be given to the builder or to the person buying the house. This is a debatable point. I am in favour of giving some of the grant to the person buying the house as part of the deposit on the house. I would like to see more co-operative building. Our trade unions could go into this co-operative building. I welcome the Bill. It is putting the amount of money which is available to the best advantage and making houses available for the people who need them.

I should like to give a limited welcome to this Bill. It would be unfair to suggest that the Bill does not make some advance in the provisions for SDA housing. It takes some cognisance of changing circumstances of potential house owners and the devaluation of money over the past decade. The Minister has made a mistake in his premises that by cutting back the maximum size of the SDA houses the result will be that approximately 1,000 extra houses per year will be provided for the same money. I have been in Limerick City Council for many years and my experience has been that the reason for the decline in the building of local authority houses and SDA houses at any period has been lack of money.

Every local authority has adequate engineering personnel and sites, and members of local councils have not lacked in ambition to provide homes for every family in their locality. We have had anything but a steady record in the building of houses. This has been due primarily to the fact that the necessary finance has not been available. I do not propose to go into the reasons for the lack of finance. I appreciate the efforts which the Department of Local Government have made from time to time to cover up the lack of finance by delaying the sanction for house construction. I have often admired the ingenuity with which the letters have come back from the Department seeking clarification on trivial points. I am satisfied that every local authority would build houses if they had the necessary finance to do so.

In my view the best way to encourage the building of SDA-type houses is to ensure that people who can build these houses without incurring financial embarrassment to themselves or their families are encouraged to do so. That prerequisite should influence the Minister generally in framing his legislation. Home ownership, as we would all agree, is not only socially desirable but is also good economic policy. The more we can do to relieve ratepayers from the growing burden of the cost of providing houses the more we should try to do it. The Minister would agree with that idea.

The Minister in his introductory speech has recognised the special needs of large families. I am sorry to say that unless I misunderstand the Minister's intentions he proposes that their accommodation needs should be dealt with by extension to their existing premises. This may not be practicable. It is wrong in common social justice to deny the father of a large family the opportunity of building a home of his own. The Minister has made what appears to be a strong case in regard to the general accommodation on floor levels of houses and has mentioned a figure of 1,000 square feet as the norm of the applications which local authorities receive. If this is so, there does not seem to be much reason for the Minister changing the maximum ground area for houses. In other words, if that has been the norm over a number of years why not leave it so and have a provision whereby the father of a large family would be encouraged to provide a home of his own? We in this country should do all we can to facilitate and encourage large families. If the 1,500 square feet maximum was retained it would not interfere with what has been the practice up to now where the average family would be looking for 1,000 square feet. This would give an opportunity to the father of a large family to build a home of his own. I would be interested to hear the Minister's reasons for excluding the larger type house from his schedule.

I welcome the Minister's intention to give greater freedom in design. That is a step in the right direction. This freedom of design inside the house might, with profit, be extended to the exterior of the house. Most of us have seen with regret the unimaginative boxtype structures without any distinctive features being built in every city and town in the country. It is a tragedy that people like ours who have imagination cannot produce some standard of their own that would be at least distinctive. We have all seen the houses going up with every house exactly the same as the one next door, with no difference or no effort to have some distinctive features. It looks as though the designer presumed the people who would go into them would be identical. Irish people are individualistic and we should try to provide individualism in housing. I regret that the architects and builders have not taken more advantage of the efforts of successive Governments to provide the necessary finance, whether by way of grant or loan, to expand the building of homes and to extend the right of home ownership. I must pay tribute to the successive Governments for their efforts in providing the finance. I am sorry that the Minister has decided to withdraw all control over the size and number of rooms in the SDA houses.

At least some control should be exercised as to the minimum floor area of bedrooms. It is not unknown that SDA houses have been built and subsequently resold and converted into flats. I may be exaggerating when I say that I see a danger there if the Minister does not retain some control over the type of internal layout of the houses, particularly as regards bedrooms. I would like to see the Minister at least retaining some degree of supervision in this regard. I do not know if the local authority has that power as of now, but I have an idea that in some of the earlier housing legislation there was specific provision that there must be a certain minimum cubic capacity for persons living in a house and I would be very sorry to see that control going by the board. In principle I am all in favour of controls passing from the central authority to local authorities, but in this particular instance I would urge the Minister not to surrender his controls in regard to the internal construction of houses.

Many speakers in this debate have dealt with the question of supplementary grants and loans. I do not propose to reiterate all that has been said, but I would like to support very strongly the point of view of the Senators who have spoken in favour of equating the income limits for both supplementary grants and loans. There is a great deal to be said in favour of it, and the Minister, who has already taken a step in the right direction by indicating that he proposes to bring in an amendment at the Committee Stage increasing the income limit for supplementary grants from £1,045 to £1,250, might go a little bit further, and if he is not prepared to increase that to £1,500 which I think would be in line with the depreciation in the value of money over the past decade, at least he might raise the limit for loans and also the rateable valuation for persons building houses in rural areas. The Minister may not appreciate it but this is a very important point. The Minister was a member of a local authority, and will have had experience of people coming to him with certain incomes and qualifying for a grant but not for a loan. Having regard to the huge increase in the cost of housing, now to go up even more in the light of recent settlements, everything possible should be done by the central and local authorities to close the gap that remains.

I do not think I am being very fanciful when I say that it is now impossible to buy a three-bedroom house for less than £4,000, and in fact I have noticed in my journeys from Limerick to Dublin a number of housing estates where three-bedroom houses are being built substantially in excess of £4,000. We should not forget that every applicant for an SDA loan does not get the maximum grant; in Limerick Corporation the grants are scaled down; we used to have three grades and now we have two; in other local authorities they have three and only certain people in the lower income bracket get the maximum grant. Even assuming that an applicant gets the maximum grant for a house costing £4,300, with all the grants available, he might have to find a sum of £600 or £700. That is a very big sum for any young man with perhaps a young family to find these days. Every possible encouragement should be given by the Minister, and there should be every possible assistance to close that gap, so that the policy of house ownership we all subscribe to can go on uninterrupted.

I am very glad as a Limerick man, knowing the city's potential for very large industrial development in its environment, to see that the local authorities can now obtain a State subsidy for houses specially built for industrial workers, but again, like other speakers, I should like to urge the Minister to have some regard to the present cost of local authority housing. To provide two-thirds subsidy on a house costing £1,850 is only living in cloud cuckoo land. I should like to know where a house can be built nowadays having two or three bedrooms at a cost of £1,850. I would suggest that the figure is close to twice that. In fact when the Minister or the Department talk about a two-thirds subsidy what they are really talking about is a 50 per cent subsidy. In order to put this matter in proper perspective a figure of £3,000 should be inserted for the purpose of grants or subsidies to local authorities.

I know that the whole question of subsidies to local authority houses is outside the provisions of this Bill, but it does come in in connection with the building of houses for workers in industrial developments, and I hope that the Minister when he comes to considering the whole question of housing subsidies will keep current costs in mind.

Section 8 of the Bill refers to "further grants". I am not too clear on the point, and perhaps the Minister when replying would give more information on it. As I understand it at present—I am talking about reconstruction grants—a second reconstruction grant cannot be paid within a period of 15 years, and I am wondering if this provision does make it possible for a second grant to be paid at whatever period. I hope it does. If it does, it would certainly be a very big improvement on the present situation.

A matter that does not come within the scope of the Bill, but which does come within the provisions of grants and loans for SDA houses, is the provision of open spaces and playgrounds. I should like the Minister to exercise some control over the matter of the very inadequate spaces left by private developers in housing areas. My experience over the years has been that the local authority has paid far more attention to the needs of families for playgrounds and recreation centres than have private developers, and indeed in Limerick we have had some appalling cases where there are houses built without a square foot of space for kiddies to play in. To my mind one of the most important amenities that can be provided in any housing scheme today is adequate open space where young people can play games, where small kiddies can have recreation and where their mothers can go with prams and at least have an opportunity of having some fresh air. The Minister should seek control to limit grants to private developers or indeed to local authorities unless adequate provision has been made for open spaces and playgrounds. As far as I understand it at the moment there is no such thing; there is a rule of thumb—one acre for every 100 houses —but I do not think that it is written into any legislation.

The Minister is a very young man and I would like, in conclusion, to join with the other speakers in welcoming him to the House today. There is a great deal to be said for young men with, I hope, uninhibited ideas, going into positions like this and even though he has sat patiently, if possibly, with some sense of frustration and boredom, listening to the many speeches made here this afternoon I hope he has received the germ of some good ideas and, as I said earlier, having been a member of a local authority himself I do not think he will forget that we in our possibly inadequate way do represent the people who elected us. I hope the Minister will keep an open mind on this Bill and will take cognisance of the generally helpful suggestions made. I wish him every success in his office and I hope that when he comes to the Committee and other Stages he will have the independence and freedom of mind to include some of the helpful suggestions made to him this afternoon.

I should like the Second Stage of this Bill to be finished. Could we have an idea as to when the Minister might get in to reply and how many speakers there are left?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

This is on a point of order?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Perhaps other Senators who wish to contribute to the Bill would rise in their places so that we would get some indication. The indications are that of those present six wish to speak.

That is all right.

I should like to welcome the Minister to the House, in particular, as he has shown his social concern by the fact that he is giving higher grants on lower areas than before. I disagree with what has been said that the cause of lack of provision of local authority houses is a matter of money. It is not. It is that many builders are too busily concerned with building the type of houses demanded by some of the Senators here today, houses in excess of 1,550 square feet. There are too many builders employed in building this type of house, and I welcome the Minister's action in removing the grant from these people. Some Senators did suggest that higher grants should be paid and that the Minister is living in some kind of cuckoo land but when the Government were looking for taxation in order to provide these grants, these same people were complaining that the Government were looking for too much taxation. Surely the Government cannot give grants if they do not have the money?

The only aspect about which I would be worried would be the standards of houses. As far as I can see, there is no standard employed in the building of speculative houses. Such houses are going up all over the country. The best built houses are local authority houses. These houses are built under constant inspection. An engineer is employed in their construction but such is not the case with speculative houses. In that regard, I would advocate that the Minister encourage local authorities to provide some four bedroom houses because many people living in local authority houses have large families of boys and girls and if a child becomes ill, it would be much better that there would be available a spare room into which he could be cared for during his illness. Also, these people are entitled to have visitors.

I am greatly in favour of the differential rent system and I encourage tenant purchase schemes. I agree with this new idea whereby people in all urban districts will now be able to avail of grants. Up to this some urban districts had been giving supplementary grants but now they are all entitled to give them and they are encouraged to do so. I would like this to apply also to reconstruction grants. Some of the bigger local authorities do not give reconstruction grants. In the Bray area the only grant a man can get is the Government grant because the local authority did not adopt the necessary procedure to provide for this. I would like also if this were extended to cover areas like this so that they too could avail of the one-third grant from the county council.

I welcome the Minister's promise to increase the limit of valuation. I laugh when I hear people talk about farmers whose valuation is £60 but who are not earning £1,400 a year. As an auctioneer, I can guarantee to get them £1,400 a year for letting the land alone not to talk of working it. They would then be in the position of being able to send the dog out in the morning and if he returned wet they would know it was raining and so could stay in bed; otherwise they would arise.

The time has come to consider young couples who wish to buy houses but who have never before availed of a loan. There should be a grant for such people provided that they have not already had the benefit of a grant towards the purchase of a house. I do not see why they would have to buy a new house in order to qualify for a grant. Neither can I see why some speculative builder who attempts to cover up the cracks with a trowel should be given a grant while a person who is buying the house is not entitled to a grant.

First, I welcome the Minister to the House. Like Senator Russell, I give this Bill a mixed reception because it is my belief that a number of people are disappointed with it. The Minister has stated here, as does the Bill, that a person buying or building a house—that is the smaller type of house—will get an additional grant of £100. Some 12 months ago houses in my area were selling at £3,400 but the cost of them now is £3,775. I fail to see, therefore, what impact this additional £100 will make in this case.

I am a little disappointed with the supplementary grants. They have not been increased and I also have doubts, as had another speaker this evening, as to whether the supplementary grant is serving the purpose for which it was originally intended. This brings me to the question of the control of house prices. Increases in supplementary grants will have no effect if speculators can hoover up that grant and, as a result, the unfortunate person who has probably spent some years trying to accumulate a certain amount of money in order to acquire his or her own home, will not derive any benefit from it.

Local authorities provide supplementary grants and, as everybody knows, local authorities design their own schemes. I would like to get the Minister's opinion on this. He will probably say it is a matter for the authority but I would like to get his view on the method of assessing an applicant's income in relation to qualification for a supplementary grant. I know of one case in particular where a man and his wife were both earning. The wife earned £300 in one year. Because of that she was considered to be no longer a dependant but she got no personal allowance and while the husband's and wife's earnings were taken together, the £100 personal allowance was not determined as a result of which the applicant lost one-third of his supplementary grant. Perhaps when he is replying, the Minister will make some reference to this type of case.

Under the 1966 Act, a higher rate of grant was available to farmers in rural Ireland. This Act covered also others with limited means. Section 3 of this Bill proposes to extend to farmers the higher rate of grant but others will not be entitled to this higher rate. I fail to see the sense of an applicant earning £15 a week and living in an urban area not being entitled to that higher grant even though he may have five or six children while somebody who lives two miles from him in rural Ireland, who would be earning £17 a week and who, perhaps, has no family would qualify for the higher rate of grant if he was living in an overcrowded or in an unfit house. I am not suggesting for a moment that a man with £17 a week and no family is not entitled to the grant, but I also believe that the man with a lower income with five children in the urban area is fully entitled to it. I would ask the Minister to reconsider this.

As regards the loan of £1,200 I am not too happy about this because I feel £1,200 at the moment is not a realistic figure taking into account the cost of living. That ceiling should be raised. The £50 valuation should also be raised to £60. The previous speaker said he did not think it should be because farmers down the country were very well off. I admit they are not that badly off at the moment. You might hear city people who do not go around rural Ireland saying farmers literally dig up money but I did not expect to hear a Donegal man saying that. A man with £60 valuation qualifies for a supplementary grant. It is an indication of what the local authorities and the Department of Local Government think when it is included in legislation that he qualifies for a supplementary grant up to £60 valuation. The Health Act also provides limited help to a farmer up to £60 valuation. So all those people who are responsible for this legislation must not be aware of the great prosperity my friend is aware of. I would ask the Minister to raise that ceiling.

The smaller house will finally become a bit of a headache to the Department, the local authorities and also to the tenants. It has been mentioned that a reconstruction loan will be allowed. I take it that that is intended for an additional room. If you take the present ceiling of £140 from the Department and £140 from the local authority, which gives a total of £280, I do not know of any contractor who will put up a room for that sum of money. If he was in Limerick at the moment there would be a great rush for him. We will have to raise the ceiling in regard to reconstruction grants.

I would like to refer to the inspection of houses by the Department inspectors and by local authority inspectors. I know of cases where people have put all their life savings into a home but discovered the house was quite unsatisfactory afterwards. There is also an obligation on local authorities to make sure the money that is given in loans and supplementary grants is not wrongly used and that we are not handing over our money for an inferior home.

I intend to be very brief but like the other Senators I should like to welcome my western colleague to this House and to assure him as far as we are concerned we will always be very happy to have him here on any occasion and to give him the same welcome and co-operation he is getting in connection with this Bill. I would like to correct some misapprehensions which may be in the minds of people, according to some of the speeches made here today, particularly that of the first speaker, Senator Boland.

One would imagine the type of house which is encouraged by this legislation is nothing less than a bothán. The average valuation of 90 per cent of the tenants in County Mayo is under £5. For many years those people were living in very poor houses but it is an extraordinary fact that they always maintain as high a sense of dignity in the family and as citizens of the State as some of the people living in much more pretentious houses in other areas.

I should like to visualise that in the future we would make available to our people in every county houses which would be most suitable to their needs and within their capacity to pay for them. One of the things we forget in connection with our tremendous enthusiasm for rather palatial buildings is the fact that some tenants in the future will find it extremely difficult to make ends meet and that in fact a palatial house now might be a millstone around their necks in the future.

I have been dealing with the housing problem from the other side of the fence as a public authority engineer and since I became a Member of this House I have been helping people to help themselves in getting better accommodation by every legal means available to them. One of the points put up to me most frequently by people who are thinking about building a house is: "Can I afford to do it? How will I be able to pay for it in the future?" This is a very pertinent question and a very pertinent thought in a county where the rates are £5 17s in the £.

Let us get back to the type of house for which the Minister very properly is now giving the maximum grant, that is, the house which will be within the 75 to 100 square metre area, which is approximately 1,076 square feet. What can you get by judicious planning with 1,076 square feet? I do not profess to be an architect but I can do certain figures and calculations and with a house 42 feet by 25½ feet I will of course admit that I would not provide for a nine-foot hallway or any waste of space like that but I would provide a kitchen-cum-dining-room which is the common thing in my part of the country where people are very happy to dine in their kitchen except when they have visitors. In this kitchen-cum-dining-room I would be able to afford 155 square feet, that is 13 feet six inches by 11 feet six inches which is quite a good size kitchen for any ordinary house for the people I am interested in.

In addition to that I would provide a sittingroom of 13½ feet by 12 feet which amounts to approximately 162 square feet. There would be four bedrooms: No. 1 bedroom 13½ feet by 12 feet which amounts to approximately 162 square feet; No. 2 bedroom 11½ feet by 11½ feet which amounts to approximately 126.5 square feet; No. 3 bedroom 11½ feet by 10 feet which amounts to approximately 115 square feet; No. 4 bedroom 10½ feet by 9½ feet which amounts to approximately 100 square feet. This leaves 62 square feet for a bathroom and toilet combined and a hallway 5½ feet wide with a return passage four feet wide. Provided the house was properly built and reasonably furnished I do not think anyone would think of it as a "bothán". I would not be the least upset if tomorrow it was the lot of my family and me to spend the rest of our lives in such a "bothán". If the Minister is encouraging people to live in that type of house and ensuring that they can afford to do so I think he is doing a good job. Criticisms have been made of the Bill but criticisms should only be made if they are able to be supported by facts. Many of the criticisms put forward here today could not be supported by facts.

The most important thing in regard to housing is to encourage people to live within their means. The second most important thing is to encourage people to become the owners of their own house. Every step should be taken to allow people to purchase their own house. By the time I left County Mayo less than 400 houses were under the control of the local authority. All the other houses were vested in the tenants. This gave the owners not alone the pride of ownership but the responsibility to maintain and repair these houses. If a nail comes off a hinge in a door in a local authority house by the time the tenant reports the matter to the local authority and the county council get around to repairing it the door has collapsed. The fact that people are responsible for the maintenance and repair of their houses saves the local authority hundreds of pounds. They will look after the house for their own satisfaction.

Local authority houses have always been built in one row and Senator Russell quite rightly objected to this but whether or not they are built in blocks or groups provision should be made for old couples, small families as well as large families. Small two-roomed houses should have been provided for old couples; three-roomed houses for small families and four-bedroomed houses of reasonable standard in accordance with the standard for which the Minister is now giving the maximum grant for larger families. I know of many cases both in the town of Castlebar and in County Mayo where houses which could accommodate four, five or six people are now being occupied by only two and in some cases one old person. There is no means of getting these people out because there are no smaller houses in which to put them.

We are attributing the fact that young people are not willing to look after aged relatives in their own homes to the fact that houses are not big enough. I do not think this is the reason. I think we have a social problem here which is not directly connected with the size of house at all.

With regard to building schemes I believe local authorities should have control over the contractors. I have a grave suspicion of the building agencies who come along and build houses on "spec" or otherwise for local authorities. The local authority engineer has no direct responsibility for supervising that scheme. I have seen some atrocious things in connection with house building that one would never expect. The strictest supervision is necessary and any money spent on supervision is money well spent.

I cannot for the life of me understand how any reasonable person can find fault with the differential rent system where people are asked to pay according to what they earn. I know of housing schemes built 30 years ago where the rent is only 7s 6d or 8s a week.

I do not wish to interrupt the Senator but there is nothing about differential rents in this Bill.

The income coming into some of the local authority houses is as much as £60 or £70 a week and yet the people are paying only 7s 6d or 8s a week instead of a realistic amount of £2 10s or £3.

I agree that the income allowance should be increased beyond £1,250. I believe that a figure of £l,500 would be more appropriate. In fact, last Saturday I went to inspect a proposal for a member of the Garda Síochána who had a wife and two children. The principal difficulty which this man had in connection with the building of a house was whether he could afford it. He mentioned that he was looking for a loan. I am satisfied that it would be wrong for a young man like that who is starting off on a reasonably small salary and taking on the responsibility of a wife and family to be in fear and dread of providing himself with a proper house.

Debate adjourned.
The Seanad adjourned at 10.5 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 23rd July, 1970.