Wednesday, 20 March 1929
Dáil Éireann Debate
Minister for Local Government and Public Health (General Mulcahy): For the provision of housing, Bills have been passed and moneys voted by the Oireachtas, including, under these Bills, £850,000, and £1,000,000 made available in 1922. These made provision for a total of 18,134 houses. Of that number, 10,717 have been, or are being, erected by private persons or public utility societies, and 7,417 have been, or are being erected by public bodies. The sum of £200,000, which it is proposed to make available by the Bill now before the House, provides for, approximately, 3,550 houses, so that with the moneys provided under this Bill the total number of houses provided since 1922 will be 21,684. The Bill before the Dáil at present is framed approximately on the Bills that  have been before the House already, with this exception, that in the first place no provision is made for the financing of reconstruction. The amount of reconstruction that was done under previous measures was pretty small. Generally speaking, the houses that it was proposed to reconstruct were situated in unsuitable or congested areas and the original form of construction did not lend itself to reconstruction. The first object of the 1924 Act was to induce the owners of tenements in Dublin or elsewhere to convert these into flats, but no material progress was made in that direction, and it is considered that the money available by the local bodies would be more satisfactorily put into new houses. So that one of the differences between this Bill and the Bills that went before it is that reconstruction has been dropped.
Another change in the Bill is that the remission of rates by the local authorities in the case of houses built by private persons and utility societies assisted by State funds is made mandatory—that is, the partial remission of the rates for twenty years. The third difference is that the size of the grant made available to private persons, utility societies and local authorities is reduced. With regard to the matter of the reduction of grants, the giving of State Funds to the assistance of housing arose originally because of the fact that certain classes in the community have to be assisted in some way by public funds of one kind or another if they are to be provided with sanitary houses, and so that there would not be over-crowding, with the insanitary results that arise directly from over-crowding. An estimate was given of the number of houses required for the working classes in 1919. I am informed that that estimate was a generous estimate because the local bodies understood that there was a large sum available for houses, and for that reason the estimate supplied by the local authorities was pretty generous. In 1919, that estimate was altogether put at 40,000 houses. If these houses could be provided at a cost of £300  per house, the total capital sum would be £12,000,000—a very considerable sum of money. The financial aspect of the problem is so great that, apart from other reasons, the State cannot bear on its shoulders the burden of solving this particular problem, particularly where there does exist or is supposed to exist, as far as the Central Government is concerned, machinery in the local authorities which could be more adapted for the purpose. At any rate to give very considerable State assistance to the building of houses for an indefinite period would be unduly to keep up the cost of house-building. It would, no doubt, solve the problem if that State assistance were given, but it would solve it by saddling the community with very considerable sums of debt and, as I say, it would still keep up the cost of building and, therefore, create an interference that would re-act in future years on the provision of houses to meet the ordinary wear and tear, because, there would be annually a number of houses required to be built in order to meet the normal wastage. So that too great State assistance at the present moment would saddle us with debt and would make the cost of house building continue to be unnecessarily high.
However, steady progress has been made since 1922 in the reduction of building costs. Building costs here may fairly be compared with building costs in Great Britain, but if the house problem here is to be solved the present building costs must be reduced. Fairly substantial reductions have taken place since 1922. That position has been assisted very much by the State. That was done, in the first place, in 1922 by making very considerable grants towards the building of houses. The State grants at that time were to the extent of two-thirds of the total cost of the houses. Grants of such magnitude were only countenanced from State Funds because of the extraordinary circumstances of that time. Building operations had stopped in the country for a very substantial period. Machinery had to be oiled  and assisted to get into motion again. In 1924, in order to induce the particular capital lying in the hands of private persons to fall into the building arena—in order to induce this capital in the hands of private persons to be put into building —State grants were made available to private persons to build houses. In 1925 a reduction in the amount of the grant given to private persons took place. A further reduction is now made in the grants. In the case of a three-roomed house, in 1924 a private person was given a grant of £60. In 1925 he was given a grant of £45 for a three-roomed house. Under the present arrangement, it is proposed to give a State grant of £45 for a three-roomed house—same as under the Act of 1925. The reduction in the grant under the present Bill is in respect of the larger class of house.
However, by suitable withdrawing of the amount of State grants given to private persons, we are getting down to a normal situation. We are passing to the normal stage when we take it that State grants will not be made available to private persons building at all, but the reduction is being made in such a gradual way that, having assisted private capital to flow into housing, private capital will still flow into housing without any great jar by the stoppage of State grants to private persons just at this particular time. A very substantial contribution, too, has been made to the reduction of housing costs by the work that has been done in arriving at the most economical type of house. Much work has been done by the Local Government Department. In the first place, they made a very careful examination, particularly in respect of the local authorities, to see that the most economical use is made of the site. The design, secondly, is very fully examined to see that all unnecessary and uneconomic factors have been eliminated. In the same way, on the form of construction, thickness of walls, windows and roofing, a considerable amount of thought has been  brought to bear in the Department, so that to private persons or local authorities building the greatest possible amount of advice is given so that unnecessary expenditure be eliminated in this matter. In the same way, a considerable amount of elimination of expenses in connection with professional fees has been brought about. These are the contributions of the State to the reduction of costs in housing.
When we come to consider the position of the private person, under the measure that is before us now, normally, the public purse ought not to be opened to assist private persons to build houses. There is a definite difference between the communal responsibility for helping in the provision of houses for the poor and the responsibility that exists, or may exist, communally in respect of the provision of houses for the non-poor. There are very strong grounds why, with the problem that is before us, such public monies as are available should be devoted exclusively to assisting the building of houses for the poor, but such is the state of the building trade at present, after the period in which building practically stopped in the country, that the trade is only now getting on its feet; such is the position with regard to the amount of capital that can be made available for housing generally that it is considered still desirable, to entice private capital to come into housing, to assist private persons.
Under the 1924 Act, a private person building a three-roomed house got £60; building a four-roomed house, he got £80, and for a five-roomed house he got £100. Under the 1925 Act, that was reduced so that the £60 for a three-roomed house became £45, the £80 for a four-roomed house became £60, and the £100 for a five-roomed house became £75. What is proposed now is that a flat payment of £45 will be made to a private person building a house whether it is a five-roomed, a four-roomed or a three-roomed one, once it comes within the space area laid down in the regulations prepared  by the Local Government Housing Department. There is a flat grant of £45, plus a remission of a certain amount of rates for twenty years. As far as the remission of rates goes, in a rural district with a house of £6 valuation, where the rates are 10/-, the grant as given to a private person through a reduction of rates alone, is £21. If we add to the £21, being the present value of that reduction, the £45 grant which he gets, that is £66 in all. £66, then, of grants or assistance from public monies is 15.2 per cent. of £400, if the house built is a £400 house.
In the case of a town area, if your valuation is £10, and the rates £15, the value of the remission of rates from the local authority would be £52 10s. to that type of house—a £10 valuation house in an urban district. Take a city area, where a house is being built by private persons at a cost of £1,000. The valuation is £28 and the rates 15/-; the value of the assistance from the local authorities towards the building of that house is £147. Adding to that, £45, the State grant, such a person building a £1,000 house is assisted to the extent of 19.2 per cent. of the cost. In spite of the reduction to 45 per cent. for a private person, very substantial assistance is being given under the present Bill both from the State and from the local authorities to private persons building houses.
In the case of public utility societies, they have been in receipt of the same amount of grants as local authorities—that is, for a five-roomed house, £100; for a four-roomed house, £80, and for a three-roomed house, £60. It is now proposed that a flat grant of £60 be given to public utility societies, the same as local authorities. The idea in giving greater assistance to public utility societies is in the first place because the formation of public utility societies helps to strengthen private persons who join these societies and get their houses built through them. It is, perhaps, more easy to get credit and to get houses built at a reduced cost when a  number are being built together. Just as it was possible at one particular time to get industrialists to build houses for their own workers, it is felt that the fostering of public utility societies may, at a time when industrialists are not apparently prepared to do anything in the way of building houses for their own workers, give other industrialists or local authorities—who, for one reason or another, do not want to engage directly to too great an extent in providing houses for the working classes—machinery by the operation of which they may do a considerable amount to meet the housing shortage.
Now, in the case of local authorities, the grants available to them were £100 for a five-roomed house; £80 for a four-roomed house, and £60 for a three-roomed house. It is now proposed to reduce those grants to a flat grant of £60. One of the outstanding reasons for the reduction of these grants generally is that there is a limited amount of money available for this particular class of work. Such money as was put into building plans up to this was put in in the way it was put in because of the special circumstances with regard to the building trade, and with regard to the availability of capital. There have been complaints then on all sides that the class of houses being built has not been a class that has been satisfying the main and the important need. That has been recognised all along by the Executive Council, but the stimulation of the building trade was only possible, in our opinion, in the way in which that stimulation took place. Owing to the stimulation of the trade, the reduction in building costs and the facts that the trade was, to some extent, put on its feet again, we are now getting into a position in which we can divert the monies available to a greater extent for the provision of the class of houses that will suit the lesser-paid workmen and meet the need that is most crying for houses. Therefore, the reduction of the present grants to local authorities, while being, to some extent, measured  by the reduction of costs in building, is also intended to induce local authorities to concentrate on, say, the four-roomed house, so as to meet the very special need of the lesserpaid working classes.
With regard to the costs on which these reductions were based, in May, 1926, in respect of a scheme of 104 five-roomed houses in the city of Dublin, the cost per square foot was 12s. 7½d. In September, 1928, approximately two years later, in respect of the same class of house, the cost per square foot was 10s. 9d. You have a reduction of 14.6 per cent., involving a reduction in the total cost of that class of house, which was 844 square feet, of £77 7s. 4d. As far as the reduction in the grants now is concerned, there is a reduction of £40 as compared with that reduction of £77 7s. 4d. In Cork, in May, 1926, in connection with a scheme of 148 houses, of which 18 were five roomed houses, the square foot measurement of the houses being 896, the cost per square foot was 12s. 9d. Two years later, in May, 1928, in connection with 152 houses, of which 16 were five roomed houses, the cost per square foot was 9s. 6d., a total reduction of 25.5 per cent., or a reduction in the building cost of a house of that particular kind of £145.
General Mulcahy: I am speaking of facts in so far as building costs are concerned. I do not want to deal with the manner in which these facts actually came about. But actually, between May, 1926, and May, 1928, in Cork there was a reduction in building costs of 25.5 per cent., involving a reduction in the cost of a five-roomed house of £145. The present State reduction is £40 as against the reduction in Cork of £145.
In the case of a four-roomed house in Cork the reduction between May, 1926, and May, 1928, was from 13s. 2d. per square foot to 9s. per  square foot, a reduction of 29.1 per cent. of the total cost, involving a saving of £134 on a four-roomed house. The State reduction in this case is £20 as against that reduction in Cork of £134. In Limerick in April, 1927, where a scheme of 14 four-roomed houses was carried out, the cost per square foot was 13s.; in April, 1928, one year later, it was 11s. 8d., being a reduction of 10.2 per cent., or a total reduction in costs in the case of a four-roomed house of a reduced standard, of £38 6s. 8d. The reduction in the grant to Limerick under this particular Bill, in respect of houses of this class, is £10 as compared with a £38 reduction in the year I mentioned. In the case of Tuam the cost per square foot, in respect of a number of houses there, was reduced between October, 1927, when it was 9s. 2½d. per square foot to 8s. 3d. in January, 1929, or a total reduction of £27 10s. 7d. in the case of a reduced standard four-roomed house. Under the present provision in regard to grants to local authorities, the reduction is £10 as against a reduction of £27 10s. 7d. in respect of the building cost of the houses.
There have been definite and substantial reductions in the cost of material in the same period. There has been a considerable amount of demand that local authorities should be given loans from the Local Loans Fund on fairly long terms if they are going to be expected to make good the housing shortage for the working classes that exists. For many reasons, it is not proposed to open the Local Loans Fund at present to give assistance to local authorities in this particular way. The first is the price of money at the present time, taken into consideration with the cost of house building. If, simply because they were assisted by State grants, local authorities plunged in any way into housing at the present time, with the cost of housing what it is, and the cost of money what it is, we feel they would be unnecessarily saddling themselves with a debt that could easily be avoided, and that they would be helping to keep up the building  costs to a point to which building costs ought not to be kept up.
There is another point that helps us to come to that conclusion; it is the very small extent to which local authorities are prepared to cooperate in meeting the cost of providing houses that are necessary in their areas. If the wants of local authorities in the matter of house shortage are to be satisfied, then we want a very thorough examination of the situation locally. If the State were to shoulder in any large way the cost of making good the house shortage, then wants would be magnified; there would be carelessness in the matter of pressing down building costs, and there would be a want of responsibility in the matter that we hope will not be there when local authorities are brought to shoulder, in the way in which we feel they ought, the responsibility of helping in this important matter. We have seen cases in which local authorities when, say, dealing with grants out of their road funds, wanted to pay the workers higher wages out of monies received from central sources than the wages they were prepared to pay to their own employees——
General Mulcahy: I would suggest to those who have some experience in the matter that there is a certain tendency to be flaitheamhail with money that comes from the tax-payer rather than the ratepayer.
General Mulcahy: If you want the local authorities to be fully satisfied, satisfied economically, and not unnecessarily to keep up the cost of  building or place a heavy debt on the taxpayer or ratepayer, the local position must be fully put under the microscope. Housing shortage has spread from one end of the country to the other. The position of every urban district must be put under the microscope if the real wants of any particular town are to be met in the matter of housing. The economic position of the town, whether it has declined or grown; the position of the workers from the point of view of rent capacity, the possibility of getting low building costs by the machinery available in the town— all these things require the greatest possible scrutiny, and that scrutiny must be done by local representatives. I suggest to Deputies that we have not seen as much of that careful scrutiny and responsibility in outlook on the part of local authorities in the matter of housing as we want to see, and which we must see, if we are going to get the credit facilities which must be available if this problem is going to be tackled. Having got those facilities in the proper way, we are not going to build up towns that are in a state of change for the worse and leave unassisted towns which are spreading because of economic forces and which require to be assisted in that particular way.
If we look at one particular aspect of that, it will be seen. I think, that some houses—four-roomed, reduced standard houses— were provided in Tuam at an all-in cost of £359. Take the case of Tipperary Town. In 1919, it was estimated that 514 houses were required. Since then 48 houses have been built. Let us say that 450 houses are required in Tipperary and that it is possible to get four-roomed reduced standard houses at a cost of £300. The economic rent would be 9/4½ if the money were available for 35 years at 5¼ per cent. If the tenant was able to pay that economic rent, there would be no necessity for a State grant or subsidy. If we want to give houses to tenants at 5/- a week the yearly loss would be £11 7s. 6d. If 450 houses  were built, the yearly loss would be £5,118 15s. 0d.
General Mulcahy: I am taking a case which cost even £300. If you build 450 at £300 each, and if you are going to rent them at 5/- a week, the annual loss will be £5,118 15s. A penny in the £ in Tipperary produces £48 7s. 3d., and the total loss to the rates can be made up by the payment of a rate of 8/10. That will give you, in Tipperary, without grants from anyone, 450 houses, costing £300 each, at a rent of 5/- per week, the tenant also paying the rates. I think Deputy Corish suggested that they could be built for less than £300.
General Mulcahy: For every £10 reduction in the cost of the houses, there can be a reduction of 6½d. on that rate of 8/10, and for every 6d. in rent that you get over 5/-, there can be a reduction in the rate of 1/-. A Commissioner was appointed in Tipperary three years ago. In his three-year tenure of office, he reduced the rates by 3/6 in the £. The wastage which there had been in administration would, if put into houses, provide 185 houses, even if they cost £300 each and were rented at 5/- a week.
General Mulcahy: Let me take the case of Ennis. In the course of three years, the Commissioner reduced the rates from 16/- to 10/-, or 6/- in three years. That tidying-up there, that  6/- in the rates had not, perhaps, been spent in any particular way. It went in odd pieces of maladministration here and there. Supposing houses are going to cost £300 each and are going to be rented at 5/- a week, and also that Ennis required 450 houses, that 6/- in the £ reduction in rates would provide 270 houses. Local authorities must, therefore, stand over their problem and examine it if there is going to be a sound basis of credit on which to solve the housing question. In the same way, money that is being spent in this particular way locally in inefficient administration has to be looked at. We have to see whether, without cost to the ratepayers and without much more expense than 6/- in the £, the housing wants of urban authorities cannot be provided, without the expense falling on the State at all.
If the matter were made a local authority responsibility entirely, the position would be faced in a much more responsible way, and we could get down much more to what the real requirements are and how these requirements should be provided. In the meantime, as I say, because of the cost of housing, the cost of money, and because of the fact that we want local authorities more thoroughly to examine the problem that lies before them, it is not thought opportune or possible to open the Local Loans Fund to local authorities to meet their housing costs at present. When you compare the reduction that has taken place in the cost of housing within the last two or three years with the amount of the reduction we are making, and the fact that we desire local authorities to build smaller houses than they have been building up to the present, it seems to me that the present Bill ought not to stop in any way the activity of local authorities. As far as Dublin, Cork and other cities are concerned, they can raise their own money, and have been raising their own money. There is nothing at all to prevent these places from going fully ahead. It will be seen in the case of Cork and in the  case of Dublin that the reduction that has taken place in house building is very much greater than the reduction in the grants that have been made in respect of these places. I beg to move the Second Reading of the Bill.
Mr. Morrissey: One would have thought from the speech, or at least, from the length of the speech, made by the Minister that at long last we had got what we have been promised for the last four or five years, the Government's full and comprehensive policy for dealing with the problem of housing, instead of having before us a Bill which is a step back in every way. The Minister, realising, I suppose, that he had a bad Bill to put before the House, thought it necessary to give to the House a lot of figures, some of which may be of some use to the House but most of which, in my opinion, are of no use whatever. Of course, like the solicitor in the Petty Sessions Court who has a bad case, he resorted to the old trick of abusing those whom, apparently, he looks upon as rivals, but who should be his friends—the local authorities. Most of the Minister's speech, particularly the latter part of it, was directed towards the inefficiency of local authorities. So far as I could gather, the test in the Minister's mind of efficiency in local authorities is the lowest possible rate. Apparently that is the reason why we have reductions taking place nationally, such as have been shown to us in the Estimates for this year.
In my opinion, this is a very disappointing Bill. It is a Bill which will put a premium on the building of three-roomed houses, houses that should not be built in this country and in which families cannot be maintained as they should be maintained. I know that I shall be met with the reply that a three-roomed house is better than one room in a tenement in Dublin or in Cork. I agree, and so far as I am personally concerned, I want to see houses built three, four, five, or six-roomed houses, but I suggest it is not desirable that we should aim at building  three-roomed houses in this country. If you have cannibals, for instance, you will not cure the position by making them semi-cannibals, if there could be such a thing. That is what the Minister suggests. The effect of this Bill will be that people who are anxious to get grants will build a three-roomed house and will get their £45 just the same as if they built a four or a five-roomed house. There may be something to be said for that in so far as it affects the City of Dublin, and in the absence of something better I would be prepared to give assistance and approval to a large scheme for building three-roomed houses in the suburbs of Dublin if by doing so we could get people out of the tenements but only as a temporary measure. We have heard a lot of talk about local authorities. I want to say to the Minister, if he does not know it, as one who has had a little experience, that if there is one matter in which local authorities all over the country are intensely interested and to which they devote most of their time, it is this question of housing. I want to say that it is not fair and it is not right that the Minister should try to blame local authorities for not making more progress in the building of houses. They are not in a position to do it, and the Minister knows that quite well. You cannot build houses if banks will not lend you money for a period longer than ten years, and the Minister knows that. It seems to me that where the Minister makes a great mistake in this matter—and that is borne out in his speech—is that he and his Department are looking at this question of housing as a local and not as a national question.
So far as we are concerned here we say it is not a local question and we say it cannot be solved by local authorities no matter how efficient they may be or how hard they may work. At the same time it is the duty of the State to supply that housing deficiency and to help to meet that deficiency, if we are going, as the Minister suggested we are going, to arrive at a normal state of affairs. If we were at normal, I  agree it would be the policy and the duty of the local authorities to maintain the supply of houses. The Minister gave us some very interesting figures regarding reductions in the cost for a couple of years. I think those figures would be even more interesting if the Minister had indicated how the reductions came about, what was responsible for the reduction and I would have been very interested to hear from the Minister what was responsible for the very substantial reduction in Cork city in two years. It seems to me that this Bill if passed—and I suppose in the absence of a better one we will have to agree to it with whatever amendments we can induce the Minister to accept—will be of very little use outside the city of Dublin and the city of Cork. It will be of practically no use whatever to local authorities. I do not believe that local authorities can possibly take advantage of this Bill. It will not be of much use in the rural areas, because the person building a house there does not want to build a three-roomed house. Most houses which have been built under the previous Acts and the Principal Act have been four and five-roomed houses. I would very much prefer that the Minister would give £45, as is in the Bill, for a three-roomed house and £60 or £70 for a four-roomed house, even if he only gave the same amount for the four-roomed and the five-roomed house; I think it is very desirable that there should be a substantial increase on the amount granted for a three-roomed house, so as to induce people to build a better type of house than a three-roomed house. If that were done, I believe you would get those houses built.
There is another flaw in the Bill, which was also in previous Acts, that the Minister has withdrawn the grants formerly given for the reconstruction of houses. That is another step in the wrong direction, because these grants were availed of to a considerable extent. So long as they were being availed of, houses which were useless were  being put in a condition in which they could be used by people to live in, and I think the Minister might have continued the grants.
To come back to the general question. In 1922, the Provisional Government raised a loan of £1,000,000; it was one of their first Acts, and that money was given to local authorities for housing. That was the first effective and, I might say, the only really effective step taken by the present Government with regard to the building of houses. I am not suggesting that that grant got more houses built for them than they got subsequently built, but it was the first time that they showed they had an appreciation of the great necessity for houses.
Mr. Morrissey: The only time if you like. If the Minister will allow me, I am coming to another point. I know the complaint I am going to make will be quite familiar to him, because we have to make it not only in respect of houses, but in respect of many other things. Since 1924 we have been told year after year that the Government had a big Housing Bill on the stocks, that it was in course of preparation, and that it would be before the Dáil any day. Then we were told by the Minister for Finance, I think, in his Budget speech of last year or the year before, that the Local Loans Fund would be opened up for housing, that local authorities would get long-term loans, and that, incidentally, the unemployment problem would be solved. To-day we are told, according to the reasoning, if you can call it reasoning, of the Minister for Local Government, that the Local Loans Fund will not be opened for that purpose, nor will the Government's comprehensive housing policy be produced until building costs are back at the prewar figure, until wages are brought down to the figure which appeals to the Department of Local Government—27/11 for a broken week. The Minister referred to that in the  course of his speech, and told us that we were faced with public bodies that wanted to pay more wages out of the grant than they were prepared to pay out of the rates. I should like to ask the Minister if he can tell us where that happened. I could give him the names of many councils, in fact nearly all county councils and urban councils are paying considerably more out of the rates by way of wages than his Department allowed them to pay out of the grant. When they wanted to bring the wages paid out of the grant up to the wages paid out of the rates, the Department refused to allow them. The Minister knows that quite well.
As far as I can gather from the Minister's speech, the position is this: the Government have been telling us that they are not going to do any more than they have been doing to encourage the provision of houses because of the high costs of building; that they were not prepared to do any more until costs came down substantially. But now that the cost of building, according to the Minister himself, has come down, he presents us with this Bill and tells us they are prepared to do much less now than they were prepared to do five or six years ago. If this is the only contribution we are to have from the State for providing houses, then the 40,000 shortage will not be made up not only in the lifetime of the present Government but in the lifetime of any Deputy, and the only way in which I can imagine the housing problem eventually being solved is that emigration will make the population so small that in time the existing houses will be sufficient to meet the needs of the depleted population.
Mr. O'Kelly: I am of one mind with Deputy Morrissey in his description of the Bill as a most unsatisfactory one. I do not think that anybody seriously interested in this very pressing and grave problem could see anything in the Bill that could give any hope, as Deputy Morrissey said, that in the lifetime of any Deputy a solution would be found for this grave problem. It is, to my  mind, postponing a solution to Tibb's Eve. It is certainly disabusing anybody's mind of any hope that may have lingered there as a result of the pronouncements made in this House and outside at different times by Ministers as to what was going to be done by the Dáil at an early date to bring the housing shortage to an end. The Bill is merely trifling with an issue that is too grave to be trifled with. The Minister told us that 18,134 houses had been or are being built as a result of grants made under the various Acts since the Principal Act was introduced.
It was last October, I think, that the President, in moving the Second Reading of the 1928 Bill, told us that the total number of houses erected, or in course of erection, under these various Acts of 1922, 1924, 1925, 1926, was about 14,000, and he said the Bill he was then speaking to would provide for an additional 2,500 houses, making 16,500 new houses in all to be built, or in the course of being built, since 1922. The Minister to-day tells us that 18,134 houses have been built, or are being built. There seems to be a discrepancy in the figures given by the President last October and the figures given by the Minister for Local Government to-day.
The President: The Deputy is misinterpreting two sets of figures. The figures mentioned by the Minister for Local Government exhaust the total grant, including those on the stocks at the moment. That would mean dealing with the houses constructed or in the course of construction, those up to and including the 1st April of this year. That is the figure of 18,134.
Mr. O'Kelly: It does not matter very much, but there is a discrepancy somewhere in the figure. This Bill, we are told, will provide for an additional 3,500 houses. I hope that 3,500 houses will be built as a result of the Bill, but I have grave doubts about it. As Deputy Morrissey said, the local authorities will find it difficult, if it is at all possible, to raise money to build houses. It may be done in Dublin and Cork, but in few other places will it be possible, if in any other place, to raise money to provide the additional sums that will be required to build houses with the grants now offered.
On the figures as given to us by the President last October, I have calculated that in the last seven years an average of 3,357 houses have been built. On that figure, it would take another 20 years at least before the 60,000 houses estimated some years ago as required for the whole of the Free State would be built, and that is not taking into account any increase that may naturally arise in the demand for houses over the period of 20 years. Twenty years may not seem a long time to take to solve such a problem, but, in my opinion, it is too long. To put it at a moderate figure, it is 10 years too long. Even taking the state of the finances of the Free State at the present moment into account, in my considered judgment, it is certainly 10 years too long to take to build the houses necessary.
I think everybody in the country, taxpayer and ratepayer, who has any idea of the seriousness of this problem, would agree, seeing the problem is so urgent, that we would be doing a good thing for the country as a whole in bringing forward proposals here to end that problem perhaps in 5 years and using the money of the State to do it. This Bill makes available a sum of £200,000. That will not go very far in helping to solve the problem, and £50,000 along with it would be required, at least, in the next five years in Dublin  city alone, to do anything like what would be adequate to meet the need of the next five years, at any rate, for housing the working classes and the poorer classes in Dublin. We would want at least a quarter of a million for the next five years available for the city of Dublin in order in any way adequately to tackle the problem before the citizens of the capital. In my opinion, the Free State Government has neglected and shamefully neglected the city of Dublin so far as the question of housing is concerned.
I was reading the other day a report which I have here of a gentleman who was then—I do not know what he is now—Chief Engineer of the Local Government Board, Mr. P.C. Cowan. In that Report, published in 1918, presented to the Local Government Board, and published and sent down to the Dublin Corporation, this gentleman, who is an expert, said that Dublin city then required 16,500 houses and, in addition, that 13,000 existing houses should be reconditioned or rebuilt.
Mr. O'Kelly: Possibly he did. I had no time to look up his words, but I read over the Corporation report, and I saw his signature to protests against the aspersions made on the working of the Housing Committee of the Dublin Corporation at that time. I have not got any words of his own with regard to the housing needs of that time. I have not looked for them.
Mr. O'Kelly: Mr. Cowan estimated that all that would be necessary if the poor of the city of Dublin were to be decently housed. Now, the number of houses built in the city of Dublin, both by the old Municipal Council and by their successors in the eleven years since 1918 numbered 3,214 out of 29,500 that were stated to be necessary by the then Chief Engineering Inspector  of the Local Government Board. That will give those of you who are not already aware of it some little idea of what the housing situation in the city of Dublin is, and Dublin is seriously increasing its population, especially its poorer population, since 1918. These 3,214 houses have been built at the rate of 420 a year; that is, in the last seven years they have been built at the rate of 420 houses a year. I have a list somewhere here of the number of houses that have been built each year in the city of Dublin by the municipal authorities. Judging by this Bill, the Minister is satisfied that notwithstanding the grave and urgent need there is for houses in Dublin without at all going outside Dublin—and the problem is almost as serious in Cork, Limerick and other places as it is in the city of Dublin—that 420 houses a year are sufficient to provide for the needs of the population of Dublin.
Mr. O'Kelly: At that rate, providing houses for Dublin City alone would take 60 years, and that would not take any account of such increase as might take place in the population of Dublin during that period. I do not know who it was who estimated some few years ago that 60,000 houses were necessary in the Free State. I came across that figure somewhere. I have never been able to trace it. It may be a slight exaggeration or it may be an underestimate. At any rate, I think 50,000 would not be an over-estimate of the number of houses that would be required to house the people of the Free State. Taking into account the houses that have been built or that are being built as a result of the grants that have been already made under different Acts here, I believe, remembering the need there is for housing, that the State would be only doing its bare duty by providing grants at a much higher rate than is at present proposed in order to enable the 30,000 houses that I estimate, at any rate, would be required to be built during the course  of the next five years. If such a number as 30,000 houses were built in the next five years I do not think that that would solve the problem, but I believe that a solution would then be in sight.
I believe that if that problem is to be settled it must be tackled in some big way like that, and this House must face it. It is a very urgent and pressing problem—one of the biggest problems with which the Dáil and Government are faced. The Government is not facing it. As the Leas-Cheann Comhairle said, frequent promises were made in recent years that this matter of housing would get serious consideration. We were told that the Bills were on the stocks and that experts were working on them. We were told that a big Bill would shortly find its way into this House, a Bill which would face the problem in a national way and which would put forward a reasoned contribution towards the settlement of this question. That may come some day, but judging by the speech of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health it will not be in our time. The Minister has flatly turned down any suggestion that this problem ought to be treated as a national problem. He is trampling on any hopes that may have existed in the minds of anybody that the Government were going to face this problem in a big way and provide the money for the work out of the national treasury. I believe it is in that way the Government ought to provide the money. It should provide it at a much more generous rate than is set out in this Bill here in order to help to solve this problem.
Of course there are difficulties in the way and one of these difficulties is the cost of building. It is said that the higher cost of building seems to be shared equally between the building contractors and the ordinary operatives. That is a matter that I have not investigated. I do not know on which side the responsibility lies. I do agree that the cost is high. I agree that that is so if we compare the cost to-day with the  pre-war cost. If the Minister's figures showing a reduction in the cost are correct, that is very satisfactory, and it is one of the things that will help in the solution of the problem. I think that another way should be found of lowering the cost and of speeding up the rate of building, and of bringing in, say, five years' time, the question within measurable distance of a solution. That way, to my mind, would be by the Free State Government taking its courage in its hands and telling the people of the country how urgent and pressing this problem is; telling them the necessity for its early solution and of the need for the setting up of a housing authority, a Board or Committee, call it what you will, and providing that authority with funds so as to enable it to give grants, say, at the rate of £100 a house for a four-roomed house. I would urge also grants for three-roomed houses, because there are small families in the country. There are certainly small families in Dublin who are living in one room, and they would be better off in a small house, say a three-roomed house, than in one large room in a tenement. It is agreed, of course, that three-roomed houses are not the best type of houses for people where the families are fairly large.
I think the Government should take its courage in its hands, face the problem and find the money. They had that matter in mind at one time evidently, because some time ago they promised a £15,000,000 scheme. I am glad Deputy Rice is here. He will tell us about that scheme and what happened to it in the course of the last twelve months. He said eleven months ago that the Government were considering a scheme which was going to cost £15,000,000, and that this scheme was going to solve the housing problem. I had better quote his own words. Deputy Rice, who was Chairman of the Committee, said: “With regard to the report of the Unemployment Committee, they recommended that the Government  should undertake a continuous housing programme at a cost of £15,000,000 spread over ten years. That was a definite problem.” Here is the relatively more important part of the statement: “The Government have given an undertaking to me that they would take up this great programme the moment this election was over.” Of course, provided he was elected, but he has been here for the last eleven months and what has become of the great programme, the great housing scheme that was to cost £15,000,000?
Mr. O'Kelly: You fooled the electors all right. Your man is here now and over the whole eleven months he has been a dummy except for one speech on this question. I hope that he will speak to-day. When he did talk he talked in a reasonable way, and he told you that you let down the poor. “The Government have given an undertaking to me that they would take up this great programme the moment the election was over.” We have had another election since, and at that election similar promises were made, or at least promises in somewhat similar terms. Of course a burnt child dreads the fire, and any statements that were made were made in a  general way about all that they would do for housing. Probably twelve months hence Deputy O'Higgins will be in the same unfortunate position that Deputy Rice now is in, of having to stand over statements of that kind and not be able to produce the goods. Deputy Rice talked of the £15,000,000 scheme, and he said that the Government promised him that they would undertake a big programme. Whoever gave him the undertaking must have had a £15,000,000 scheme in mind.
If the Government were men of courage, and if they had an interest in the poor of the Free State or the poor of Dublin to whom they were addressing those remarks eleven months ago, they would have made some serious effort to bring forward a Bill to meet the problem. Instead of that they bring in a Bill for a paltry £200,000. That will go a very small way towards erecting the 30,000 houses that are necessary in order to house the poor of the Twenty-six Counties. That is not good enough. It is a most miserable spirit and it is not the spirit in which to tackle this great problem. It is not the way in which it should be tackled. I suggest to the Government that within the next five years they should raise a sum of £2,600,000 a year. That would be £13,000,000 in five years. Of that amount they should give one-fourth, £3,250,000 or thereabouts, in grants. That would be £650,000 a year. I know, and I think every Deputy here knows, where £650,000 could be saved without grave disadvantage to the country. The Minister for Local Government talked of inefficiency and maladministration amongst local authorities. He showed where money could be saved by the local authorities in order to build houses. There may be some, and no doubt there is and there has been maladministration amongst local authorities here and there, but I do not think you would find in the history of any local authority in Ireland a greater waste of money than has gone on in the last seven years here or that you  will find going on in various Government Departments to-day. I am satisfied that if any Deputy here, who takes the housing problem seriously, were given power he could, out of the amount annually expended by the Dáil, save £650,000 a year, and in that way could provide grants that would in five years help to erect 30,000 houses, the minimum number necessary. Until something of that kind is done, until a national authority set up for that purpose is given charge of this question of housing, you will be simply nibbling at it as the Minister proposes to continue to do by this Bill; you will be nibbling at the problem until Tibb's Eve and we will be going from bad to worse. In fact, Dublin is going from bad to worse although there has been a certain amount of building done in the city.
A great many Deputies here know Dublin as well as I do, but I can say from some recent experiences that I doubt if ever the housing conditions were worse than they are in some places. Even within a stone's throw of this very building you will get housing conditions of the worst type, and you will find families of four, five and six living under conditions that would be a disgrace or a shame to any Christian country or any Government. This is not a trifling matter. I know it is a difficult and a hard thing to get money, and perhaps the cost of housing to-day is greater than before the war. But the problem is even more urgent now than before the war, especially in Dublin. In the northern and southern portions of the City there are conditions existing which are not due, perhaps, to housing alone but to poverty. Outside the City, where there are families in a position to pay a reasonable rent, they cannot get houses and they are living in conditions that would be a disgrace to savages. The people themselves, thank God, are decent, good-living people, and the things that might happen do not happen, but it is not due to those in charge of the housing that those things do not happen. It is  not due to those on whom the responsibility of Government lies; it is not due to those whose duty it is to remedy these evils that these things do not happen.
I urge that this Bill be reconsidered and that the Government take their courage in their hands and provide money without increasing the estimates that have been introduced. If authority were given to a small Committee of this House to go through the estimates, money could be found. The Minister said that money could be saved under the local authorities. That may be so. No doubt it can be saved in places where money is loosely spent. Money is loosely spent here and money could be found to do as I suggest—to build 30,000 four-roomed or five-roomed houses inside the next five years. That would do something to end the problem. It would not end it completely, but the end would then be in sight. I do not agree with the Minister when he says the State cannot bear the burden of solving this problem. I think it is the State's primary duty to bear the burden.
The poor of the country are in such a state and the problem is so urgent that in no other way will a solution be found. If you wait for private contractors to build houses for the really poor who need them in each city, town and village and in rural parts of Ireland, you will wait a long time, because it is not an economic proposition. Therefore, it is a job for the Government and the nation, and the nation will have to bear the cost of it. I would be prepared to go so far as to suggest that a State housing authority should be set up. I look on the problem as so serious that I suggest such an authority should be established. Not alone do I suggest that the burden ought to be borne by this authority, be it a State housing authority, a Board or a Committee, but I would authorise the Board to do the work, if necessary, by direct labour. Deputy Good will not like that, I know.
Mr. O'Kelly: I am sure you do not. I doubt if Deputy Good or any other citizen of Dublin will see a solution of the problem on the lines laid down by the proposer of the Bill. I would certainly go so far as to give authority to that Board when it is set up to do the work by direct labour, if necessary. I would even go further and authorise them to take control of and erect factories so as to provide materials for building, say cement factories, saw-mills, ironworks and foundries. I would do that, believing that we would do better for our poor citizens by speeding up the building of houses. This appears to me, at any rate, to be the urgent problem at the moment, and in no other way can it be solved than by some big effort on these lines.
If we could induce contractors and the public utility societies as a result of the increased grants, I would propose, if I had my way, that increased grants should be given. If we could get a guarantee from contractors and public utility societies that the necessary number of houses would be built in that time by giving, say, £100 a house for four-roomed houses and £120 or thereabouts for five-roomed or six-roomed houses, then it might not be necessary for the housing authorities that I would give the power to to do the work by direct labour, but unless I could get a guarantee that the work would be done and that 30,000 houses would be built in five years, I would set up such a housing authority and get experts, both contractors and workmen representing both sides and people who do not belong to either side, on such a Committee. I think I would be able inside Dublin itself within a brief time to select a number of men provided  they be given the money necessary to be able to do the job inside five years. I believe it can be done by a Government that has all the material in its control. It has certainly credit enough, I think, to raise £13,000,000 in five years and to put that money to the building of the number of houses necessary. If, as I think can be done by a building authority of that kind, that number of houses could be built, surely a Government ought to be able to do it. They have already at their disposal professional men who are expert in that kind of work. I am sure there are many employed by the Department of Local Government. There are inspectors that go around to examine into housing schemes. Some of them—I do not know any of them—I imagine, have been long years in the employment of the Government and ought to have had very considerable experience in that time. They should be able to produce—probably they produced before now—designs for housing that would be satisfactory and they would be able to see that the work was properly done.
I do not know, if the big 30,000 scheme were launched, whether you would have enough professional men to superintend it, but they can be got. If the Local Government Department or the Board of Works or both combined have not got them, there are plenty of men outside who would be available for such work. I believe there are plenty of workmen also idle. In the 1918 Report of Mr. Cowan, he said in his opinion 1,600 houses could easily be built in Dublin in a year. Now, as far as local authorities are concerned, there are only 420 houses a year being built in Dublin in the last seven years. Therefore there must be a considerable number of men connected with the building trades unemployed. It is no use stressing the fact, which is apparent to us all, that if we were solving the housing problem in that way, we would be also helping to find a way out of the difficulty of unemployment. A great many of the houses that have been built during  the last seven years by the use of the grants that have been given have not been built for the poorer classes who need them most. However, the building of houses, perhaps, has relieved the strain, and it is well to see houses of any kind being built, but there is a very urgent and grave problem so far as the poorer classes are concerned. I have probably talked too much already on that subject. I will not repeat, but anything that can be done, and anything the Minister proposes in this Bill to direct more attention in future to houses for the poorer classes, is going in the right direction to meet the serious complaint I make. Neither he nor the Government have any realisation of the grave nature of the problem. If they had they would not try to fool us and the country with the miserable Bill they are introducing.
Mr. Good: I could not help feeling, as the Deputy who has just sat down was speaking, that it is necessary for us to throw our minds back when dealing with this problem to get some indication as to why its solution at the moment is so difficult. I am sorry that this problem of housing appears to me, from the speeches made, particularly from the last speech, as likely to become a political problem. I think it would be very unfortunate for the whole country if this problem of housing were to become a political problem. If the last Deputy who spoke did not intend that it should become a political problem and that it should be dealt with practically on the lines he suggested, I would like to see him figure out what the burden on the  tenant, the taxpayer and the ratepayer would be as a result of his proposals. Now, if we are to get some indication as to why this problem is a pressing one at the moment, let us throw our minds back to 1914. I would ask the Deputy, who has had some experience in housing, by whom was housing done in pre-war days, to what extent did the Government pledge its credit, and to what extent did local authorities pledge their credit for housing? If he will throw his mind back, he will find that as regards the State practically nothing was done; as regards local authorities, the percentage of houses erected by them was exceedingly small. Still we had sufficient houses. Why? Because housing then was an economic proposal. The tenant could afford to pay the interest and sinking fund on the house he occupied. The position we are faced with to-day, in this State, is that housing is not an economic proposal. Every Government ought to try and ensure that its line of policy will be such as to help to get it back on economic lines. If that be the view which should be taken by a State in this problem and if the Deputy will work that out and compare it with his proposal he will find that his proposal is going to burthen the Government, the local authority and the tenant with a heavy load, because money is exceedingly dear at the moment and he wants to capitalise while money is high, with the result that he is going to put a burden on all these bodies for the next fifty years until these loans are paid back.
That is his solution, as a result of mature consideration. I hope in the solution of this problem we will have a little more common sense—I do not want to be offensive—than was embodied in the speech we have listened to. The suggestion we have listened to is no solution at all. As far as this generation is concerned, it is going to burthen it for all time with a heavy load. The duty of the State if it is to try to get a problem of this character on to economic lines will be to distribute its contribution  equally between the different seetions affected. My objection to this Bill is one which I have expressed on previous Bills in this House. There is practically no difference between this Bill and its predecessors. It is modelled on the lines of the Bills of 1925, '26 and '28. My objection is that these Bills are only helping one section of the community, the section that can afford to pay for three-roomed houses, of which there were very few erected; those who can afford to pay for four-roomed houses, and the still better-to-do, who can afford to pay for five-roomed houses. Those are the classes of the community that all these Bills, one after another, have been helping as if there was no other section in the community to whom it was the duty of the Government to give assistance. What has any of these Bills done to help the unfortunate slumdweller? I asked that question when we were considering the Bill of 1928. I pointed out exactly the same difficulty. You are going to help the well-to-do tradesman who could afford to pay ten shillings, fifteen shillings, or seventeen shillings a week rent, because those are the economic rents of those houses under this proposal. How many of the poor in the slums of our city, or in the other cities of this State, can afford to pay rents of that magnitude? None of them, with the result that they are to-day left in their slums just as they were ten years ago while the more well-to-do are being housed at the expense of the State and at the expense of the taxpayer. That, to my mind, is a mistake. I have urged the case of the poor in the slums on this Government in order that something might be done, and I was hopeful when we got this Bill that we should see in it that something really was being done. I admit it is an exceedingly difficult problem, but it is a duty we owe to that section and we ought to face it. From that point of view, I am disappointed with this Bill because it does nothing for that particular section.
There is one difference and one  important difference between this Bill and its predecessors. As the Minister has pointed out, under the Bill of 1925 a local authority who erected a three-roomed house got £60; a four-roomed house, £80; a five-roomed house, £100. The defect in that Schedule was, as those who have got practical experience of housing know, the larger your house is the cheaper is the cost per room. Consequently, that proposal put a premium in favour of the five-roomed house, also in favour of the four-roomed house, as against the three-roomed house. The result of all those Bills has been that we have had a larger number of five-roomed houses, a lesser number of four-roomed houses, and a still smaller number of three-roomed houses. I am glad to note that in this Bill no distinction is made between the three-roomed house, the four-roomed house, and the five-roomed house. From that point of view this Bill is an improvement on its predecessors. But there is in this Bill still what, to my mind, is an objectionable feature. I have yet to learn from the Minister why a utility society or a local authority should get more by way of grant than the private individual. The Deputies will notice that under sub-section (a) of Section 3 of this Bill a private individual erecting a house will get a grant of £45 from the State, and under sub-section (b) a utility society, or a local authority erecting the same class of house, gets a grant of £60. I would like the Minister to point out why the local authority or the utility society should get more than the private individual who probably is prepared to put his own money into that house. One of the difficulties of housing is, particularly while it is an uneconomic problem, that we are burdening the local authority, on the one hand, with heavy loans for housing, and we are burdening the State, on the other hand, with heavy liabilities for housing, and the man who is prepared to put his own money into his house is burdened.
In other words, the utility society  and the local authority get a grant in excess of what he gets. Why that should be I cannot fathom. In fact, if it were the reverse of that I could see the reason for it, but why we should be anxious to handicap the private individual and encourage the utility society and the State is one of those problems which I would like the Minister to explain. What is the position on the other side to-day? Out of the million houses erected since the Armistice, nearly half have been erected without State assistance of any kind. They have been erected by what we know over here as the speculative builder, the private individual, and where there is no handicap put upon him on the other side he has provided half the houses. I would like to see that individual encouraged instead of discouraged here. A very large number of houses here could, and would, be provided through the speculative builder and through the investing public, investing in the products of the speculative builder, without any State assistance, if that individual were encouraged. Such an individual, however, has been handicapped and shut out in favour of the utility society and the local authority. Perhaps the Minister will tell us why. Let us develop this point a little further. Under this Bill, the local authority gives to whomsoever builds a house a sum equivalent to the amount of the State grant.
Mr. Good: The Minister can explain the difference. The local authority is empowered, under this Bill, to give a grant equivalent to the State grant. As the Minister points out very properly, it need not be up to the amount, but it is empowered to do it. Let us look at the position of the private individual in comparison with the utility society or the local authority under this Bill. First  of all, a private individual gets £40 of a grant from the State. The local authority is at liberty, if it so desires, to give another £45, and then there is another section in the Bill which has been in all the Acts since 1925, whereby the local authority can give a grant by way of loan to the owner or builder of a house equal to double the amount of the State grant. That, in the case of a private individual, would be £90, so that the private individual, from all sources under the Bill, assuming that he gets the maximum benefit from all these parties, gets £180. The public utility society or local authority gets £60 from the State, possibly £60 from the local authority, and can get £120 by way of loan, or a total of £240 as against the £180 for the private individual That represents a grant of 33? per cent. more to the utility society than to the private individual. In other words, the man we want to encourage in order to get houses built without being a burden on the ratepayer, the taxpayer, or the State is handicapped under this proposal to the extent of 33? per cent. That is one of the things which I would like the Minister to explain.
There is one other point with which I would like to deal very briefly. It has been mentioned by you, sir, in your speech and by other Deputies that our object should be to build five-roomed houses. As to what house a man should occupy depends entirely on the amount of rent he is capable of paying. According to the authorities and to your statement, sir, it appears that we are to legislate for people who want these pretty houses, pretty pictures, quite irrespective of their capability to pay for them. I am sure all Deputies here are well housed. I doubt if there is a Deputy in this House who, if he had the ability to pay, would not prefer a better house than the one in which he finds himself. The economic factor settles the size and position of the houses that you and I have to occupy, but that is no consideration when we come to this question of housing out of State grants. The State says: “My dear  man, your family is so-and-so, and you ought to be in a five-roomed house.” That is quite irrespective of the question whether that man can pay for a five-roomed house. That, however, does not bother the Labour Party or the Government. They say:—“That is the house that you ought to be in.” Let us examine that for a moment. We have had that system in force for nearly ten years. We have taken these poor people who are anxious to bring up their families respectably and put them into five-roomed houses because there was nothing else they could get. They were not long in those five-roomed houses when, like all of us, they found that the rent of such a house was more than they could pay without sacrificing the interests of their family. What had they to do? They had to proceed to sub-let. This matter is common knowledge to all who have experience of the housing problem. They proceeded to sub-let the rooms in those large houses and they were getting as much as 10/- a room. I know several cases in which they got in excess of 10/-. When they got 10/- for one room the attraction was so great they proceeded to let other rooms. Not very long ago a man told me that living a few doors from him in a five-roomed house there were three families with 28 children. Is that solving the housing problem? Is that the solution you are going to put forward? Is that helping those who are in limited accommodation at the moment? It is only extending the slum question.
Let us get back to the economic fact and provide houses that a man is able to pay for, and there are a great many who cannot pay for three-roomed houses at the moment. When we have reached agreement on the fact that we are providing houses that people are able to pay for, we will have gone a good way towards clarifying the situation and enabling us to deal with this problem. The Minister has rightly pointed out that a Government can only do a certain amount in the solution of this problem. You, sir, have rightly pointed out from your  experience on local authorities, that local authorities can only do a limited amount towards the solution of this problem. I am anxious that what the State can do and what the local authority can do, should be wisely done. If we are going to proceed along the lines on which we have been proceeding, I am afraid we are not going effectively to deal with this problem. As I said, I would like that what the State and what the local authorities can do should be wisely done. That brings me back to the claim of the slum dweller. The problem of the slum dweller, as I have already stated, is a difficult problem from many points of view, but that is no reason why we should shirk it. I would like some undertaking from the Minister that some effective steps will be taken to probe that problem and that some proposal for the solution of that particular aspect of it, will be put before us within a reasonable time.
There is one thing which I am sorry we have not got in our City in connection with the housing problem. That is what is commonly called a town plan. The reason I mention it is that there are positions suitable for houses and positions which are also unsuitable for houses. I came in touch with a scheme during the last week which to my mind was placed in a most unsuitable position, from the point of view of housing. It was a site that obviously should be retained for industrial purposes. It was within a few hundred feet of a deep water berth, and it adjoined what I expected in a few years would be one of the most important thoroughfares in our City. Another objectionable feature was that it was close up to a large gas works and not, from any point of view, a desirable position for a large housing scheme. Nevertheless, it was proposed to put it there. When one came to inquire into the cause of acquiring that particular site, because it was an important, valuable site from the industrial point of view, one found that it was proposed to pay approximately £4,000 an acre for it.
General Mulcahy: Perhaps I might be allowed to intervene. I think it is quite right that the Deputy should take this particular case as a sample of a thing to be avoided, but if it is a question of examining the details of the proposal which is the subject of inquiry, I do not think it would lead us anywhere, and I think it would be wrong to do so.
General Mulcahy: I think it quite reasonable that a particular case should be taken as an instance in order to point a general moral, but in a debate on housing here, to argue the merits pro and con, of a very definite proposition that is at present the subject of an inquiry——
Mr. Good: It is unfortunate that we have not got in our city a town plan to guide us in positions for housing. I was going to suggest that it would be very desirable in a city where they are going to spend large sums in order that they should be very wisely spent. I only instance this particular case that came before me to illustrate what I had in mind. We want to get sanity in housing. We are not so deficient of open spaces here that we are absolutely forced to put houses in these undesirable positions. I would like to see when we come to consider these proposals in connection with houses, and to spend large sums, that they should be considered in connection with the city's development, not taken casually on individual merits, but taken on with the larger question of city development; in other words, taken in conjunction with the information that a town plan or a city plan would give. I did not throw out this suggestion in any hostile spirit, but as an assistance to those who are anxious to deal with this problem effectively. We are spending large sums through the State, and through the ratepayer, and, as I said, we want to get the best results, and I do not think we can get the best results except we consider this expenditure in connection with the larger question of city development and city planning.
Mr. Corish: It is certainly very discouraging to those of us who have been trying to carry on the building of houses through the medium of the various local authorities to find ourselves confronted with a Bill of this kind in view of all the promises made during the past twelve months. Of course, the President has already told Deputy O'Kelly that the promise to provide £13,000,000 is still open.
Mr. Corish: He says that the only thing they want is a guarantee that it will become an economic proposition. I should like to ask the President if anything in this country, or in any other country, at present is a good economic proposition in view of the inflated value of money and of various other things all over the world.
Mr. Corish: It is all very well for the President to jibe. I remember the time when the argument the President is using now would not go down very well with him when, in the Dublin Corporation, he was advocating the erection of more houses. I think he ought to bring something else to bear on this important subject besides jeering remarks and sneering at people when they speak. This Bill, coupled with the speech of the Minister for Local Government, is to my mind, a confession of impotency on the part of the Government and of inability to solve this question. The Minister has gone out of his way to abuse local authorities. He has told us that local authorities have not given this matter the scrutiny required, that they should use a microscope in so far as the housing problem in their particular area is concerned. As Deputy Morrissey has pointed out, local authorities have been doing all they can in an endeavour to solve the problem. They have been trying to carry on. They are well aware that what they have been doing is just trying to link up, so to speak, just marking time, because of the fact that the Government have repeatedly promised to do more than they have been doing for housing. I do not think any local authority, or any individual, was prepared for this Bill. It certainly will not bring us any further in solving the problem.
It has been stated that a certain number of houses have been built since 1922. Nobody would give the Government more credit for what they have done than I would. There  is no question but that they have stimulated house building and have done a great deal for it. But how many of these houses have come into the possession of people who require houses most? It would be very interesting to know how many of these houses have been built by local authorities, and how many by private individuals? In that connection, I should like to answer the question put by Deputy Good to the Minister? He says he has yet to learn why a local authority should get a larger subsidy than a private individual. I think it is quite easy to answer that question. Local authorities, so far as I know, do not use that grant as a profit to themselves, but they give the benefit of it to the tenant or to the person buying the house. I have yet to learn that any private speculator has done that, or is thinking of doing it. My belief is that the intention of the Government in giving this subsidy was to relieve the tenant or the person buying the house from the person who built it, and I believe the Government are doing something in the right direction when they give a local authority a larger grant than a private individual.
The Minister for Local Government gave us what he considers to be the reason why the Local Loans Fund is not open for house building. He states that it will be necessary for things to come back to normal before that fund is open for that purpose. I do not think anybody here will live sufficiently long to enable that to be done, if that is the state of affairs. The Minister quoted figures to show that the cost of building has gone down for the last three or four years, but it has been going down very slowly, and not to the extent that we should like to see. If the Minister is going to wait until things get back to what they were in 1914 or 1915 before any money is advanced from the Local Loans Fund, then housing will be in a very bad way indeed.
I am going to ask the President, if he cannot see his way to permit of money coming from the Local Loans Fund for the actual building  of houses, that he would at least consent to advance the money to local authorities by way of loan for the clearance of sites and things of that kind. Anybody who has any experience of building knows that it costs anything from £30 to £40 per house, in many cases, for the clearance of a site, and that in itself is a great handicap upon building. There are many cases where people, especially local authorities, acquire large pieces of land on the side of a road. It would not be an economic proposition to build on the side of the road. It is necessary to make avenues down the field, and the President knows, and the Department of Local Government know, that it takes a great deal of money to develop such a site and to lay down sewerage, water mains, and things of that kind. I ask the President at least to recommend the Department of Finance to open the Local Loans Fund to permit of loans to be given for that particular purpose, at any rate.
The Minister for Local Government said that the position as regards house building was becoming normal. I cannot for the life of me see what particular application “normal” could have to this situation. The position as far as the unskilled labourer is concerned is infinitely worse than it was five years ago. It is absolutely necessary, as Deputy O'Kelly said, that the Government should apply themselves, through the medium of a national housing association, to examining the housing problem properly.
The Minister for Local Government complained that some local authorities are not giving this matter the scrutiny that it requires. That may be. But with the amounts that they have at their disposal it may not be possible for them to view it from the particular aspect that the Minister wants them to view it. In view of that, would it not be desirable that the Minister and his Department should get into touch with the local authorities, with a view to conferring with them as to  what is required, and what would be necessary in order to do something in a big way? The Minister criticises the local authorities. The present local authorities are now almost a year in office, and they will go out at the end of another two years, and new ones will come in. Is this going to go on year after year? Is it not time for the Government to make an effort to find out where the local authorities are wrong, if they are wrong; to bring them together in conference with a view to finding out how they can best apply themselves to the provision of houses for the people? The problem is here no matter what the cause, and it is the Government's duty to find out the cause. If the Government consider the local authorities can discover the cause, it is their duty to ask the local authorities to find out the cause. I do not think that any local authority would resent such interference. They are interfered with in things of lesser importance than housing. I do not think it is fair for the Minister for Local Government to hide himself behind such an accusation as that in so far as housing is concerned. If there is anything wrong it is his duty to find it out, and the only way to do it is to bring together representatives of the local authorities in a conference in Dublin and to hear what they recommend in order to solve this housing problem. It has been very discouraging for some of us who have tried to carry on during the last three or four years. In fact, in some cases where these matters were raised we did try to make excuses for the Government, telling people that the Government were bound to do certain big things that had to be done, in our opinion.
The net result of the application of this Bill, which I presume will be passed, on housing in the various areas in the country will be very serious. Take the matter of the building of four-roomed houses. G.1 type, which is known in the Local Government Department, and which are costing to the country an  average price of £300, with £80 grant and ten years loan. The economic value of that house works out up to now at 12/8 per week. Under this Bill with that ten years' loan the rent will be raised to 13/10 per week, so that the economic result of this Bill, if we are to go ahead building houses of that kind, will be an increase in rent of 1/2 per week. Surely it is not going to solve the housing problem for the Government to bring in a Bill the effect of which will be to increase rent instead of reducing it.
I cannot for the life of me see how any local authority is going to take advantage of this Bill. It was certainly as much as they could do to provide money for the past five or six years in order to take advantage of grants given under other Acts. It was a marking-time process. No bank in the country to-day will lend money for a longer period than ten years. In a great many centres, banks will not lend money for any period. If the President or the Minister for Local Government will tell anyone who has to do with local authorities where they can get money to build houses, or what institution, in the country, is prepared to lend money to local authorities to build houses the Bill may be worth something. But there is very little use telling local authorities that the Local Government will give £60 grants towards the building of houses if the local authority cannot find the other £240. The Bill is merely eye-wash. It is absolutely impossible for the local authorities to provide any money to build houses for the people who want them—the unskilled labourers and those who are worse off in the Irish towns to-day.
Mr. Lemass: In discussing this Bill I think it is advisable that we should confine ourselves to whatever principles it contains and not go into the consideration of points which are properly Committee Stage points. The matters which anyone speaking on this Bill should deal with are, I think, the following: The extent of the housing problem,  the difficulties in the way of the solution of that problem, the actual solution itself, and how far this Bill goes towards providing a solution. I notice that the Minister in his introductory speech did not deal with a single one of these four points. He dealt with a number of minor points which really do not seem to be very vital to the discussion. The same applies to the speech of Deputy Good and to the speech of Deputy Morrissey. Deputy Good did, of course, attempt to give some idea of the extent of the housing problem in 1913, but even in that he was hopelessly and outrageously wrong. He said, of course, that in 1913 there was very little State assistance given or very little assistance given by the local governing bodies to private builders; that all the work was done by private builders and, he added, still we had a sufficiency of houses. I would ask him to examine the figures given to the Committee on the relief of unemployment, of which Deputy Rice was chairman, and he will see himself that in 1913, no more than to-day, was there a sufficiency of houses. In 1913 there were 73,973 people living in single rooms in tenement houses. The number in 1926 had gone up to 78,934. There are now in Dublin 4,824 tenement houses, of which 1,744, or 36 per cent. are, in the official phrase, unfit for human habitation and incapable of being rendered fit for human habitation. There are 2,149, or 44.5 per cent., again in the official phrase, so decayed or so badly constructed as to be on the border line of being unfit for human habitation. The number of tenements unfit for human habitation has increased by 14.8 per cent. since 1913. There are now 26,000 people in Dublin living in such places. I think most Deputies will agree that the existence of these conditions constitutes a social menace which would justify drastic measures being taken to end them.
I remember during the discussions upon the Housing Act of 1928 I made some reference to the futility of introducing Bills for the censorship  of publications while, at the same time, we permitted conditions such as do exist in Dublin to continue. The President took advantage of those remarks to make a very rhetorical reference to the morality of the Dublin worker and the Dublin poor, and no doubt he was, to a very large extent, right in what he said. I would like the President, however, to examine paragraph 10 of the Report of the Committee on the relief of unemployment. In that paragraph there are quoted a few sentences from the Report which was published in 1913 and which had reference to the conditions existing then, conditions which, as I have shown you, have become worse since. Not merely have the actual physical conditions become worse, but there has been a general loosening of moral ties in consequence of the Great War and the conditions following it. So long as these conditions exist, the social menace which they create will exist. You cannot expect flowers to grow on dung heaps. In fact, that is what you have in Dublin—dung heaps on which people are living. Perhaps the members of Cumann na nGaedheal who have a particular fondness for a particular phrase would prefer if I say there are sewers in Dublin in which 26,000 people are living. If these sewers breed sewer rats it is only the natural sequence.
This Bill continues the policy which the 1928 Housing Bill was introduced to wind up. I think I am correct in that. The policy which was followed by the Government in 1924, 1925 and 1926 was, we were told, terminated with the introduction of the 1928 Housing Bill. The main purpose of that Bill was to round off that housing policy. We were promised that a much more comprehensive housing scheme was going to be introduced. We have not seen it. I hope we will hear something about it to-day. The President said something about the offer being still open. What offer, and when or to whom was it made? What are the details of the offer? I hope the President will find time,  during the course of this discussion, to tell us. The policy contained in the previous Acts and which is continued in this Bill, the policy which the Government has been following up to this, is remarkable for the fact that it is obviously incapable of dealing adequately with the problem. Under it a sum of £1,900,000 was expended on grants to private individuals, public utility societies and local government bodies. Some 18,000 houses were built, or are in course of construction, according to the Committee, of which Deputy Rice was Chairman. There are still 30,000 houses remaining to be built. That was the estimate which they arrived at. They based that estimate for Dublin City on 15,000 houses, following the evidence given by the Dublin City Commissioners. They were still less sure of their estimate for the rest of Ireland, but, roughly, they said that 30,000 houses was a reasonable figure in addition to what had been built up to the date at which the Report had been published, that is, February, 1928.
In paragraph 33 of the report they say: “It is apparent that the capital expenditure involved in a very early solution of the housing problem on the basis of the present cost of building is entirely beyond the financial resources of the country,” and they added: “The continuance of these contributions, even on an extended scale, cannot itself bring us within sight of a solution. The policy which the Government had adopted”—the giving of these building grants to private individuals and local bodies —“resulted in but little amelioration of the tenement problem in the City of Dublin.” The policy which the Government has been following merely stimulated building to an extent to enable it to keep pace with the growth of the demand. We have not yet been able to get up on the arrears that were there when this Government came into office. The housing conditions which make Dublin almost unique in the civilised world still exist. In fact, I do not  think there is any other city in Europe in which one-fourth of the entire population are housed under conditions of a similar character, with the people living in single rooms in tenement dwellings, the majority of which are unfit for human habitation or on the border-line of being unfit for human habitation.
The Committee on the Relief of Unemployment gave us their considered view in paragraph 35 of their report. They say: “If the problem is to be solved in the present generation this can only be done by (a) a drastic reduction in building costs, and (b) the provision of housing loans for local authorities on terms which will enable them to build and let houses at rents which will not throw an intolerable burden on the taxpayers or the ratepayers on the one hand, or on the poorest tenants on the other hand.”
What have the Government done to reduce the cost of building? Certain figures were produced to-day, but these figures to us convey nothing. They may prove something to the Minister. We would like to have some more information than he deigned to give. If you take the housing scheme in 1926 and compare the costs per foot with the housing costs in 1928, and show that one was less than another, you prove nothing unless you show that the other conditions were identical, that the one scheme was as efficiently managed and conducted as the other and that the various elements which would go to increase or decrease costs were identical in both cases. The Committee on the Relief of Unemployment recommended that a joint conference of master builders and building operatives should be held for the purpose of considering the best means of reducing building costs and substantially increasing the units of output. That joint conference was set up. Deputy Rice was again Chairman of it, and it has apparently proved abortive. We want to know from the Government is the matter going to be left there? The introduction of this Bill would seem to indicate that the Government are  prepared to leave the matter there, that in consequence of the failure of that conference the housing policy about which they spoke during the by-election last April, when Deputy Rice was elected to this House, was abandoned and that the old policy is to be continued even though the Government have admitted that the old policy was not well suited to deal with the situation and could not bring us within sight of a permanent solution of the whole question.
Perhaps I am not correct in saying that the conference proved abortive. No report has been issued. If Deputy Rice intervenes in this debate, perhaps he will tell us if we are to expect a report and if the conference is still in session. Certain proposals stated to have been submitted to that conference by the building trade unions were published in the “Irishman” on December 8th last. Letters from the Master Builders' Association, in reply, were published in the daily Press some time later over the name of Mr. Ernest Thompson. In the leading articles of the “Irishman” in the same issue in which the proposals were contained, it was stated that these proposals had been in the hands of Deputy Rice for just two months and that no meeting of the conference had been called to consider them. Does that position still continue? Has the conference been called together since for the purpose of considering them, or are we to take it that it has been allowed not to terminate, but merely to dissolve without anything definite having been done? We, however, cannot leave the whole question of the solution of the housing difficulty to stand in mid-air like Mahomet's coffin, just because Deputy Rice's Committee has apparently proved abortive. The members of this House have got to face the question.
Two specific points were raised by the Committee on the Relief of Unemployment—the question of the reduction of building costs and the question of the provision of loans on suitable terms to local authorities. We have got to face these two questions here. What is the reason of  the high cost of building? It has been suggested both inside and outside this House that the high cost of building is due to the fact that the amount which has to be paid in labour for the construction of a house is higher here than in England. Whether that is due to higher wage rates or lower output I cannot say. The suggestion has been made. I note in the “Irishman,” which is, I think, the official or semi-official organ of the Labour Party——
Mr. Lemass: A section of it? As I was saying, I note that in the “Irishman” the building unions retaliate by saying that the experience of their members who go to England is that they have to work less strenuously there than at home.
Mr. Lemass: They state also, if it is true, as alleged, that the labour cost in connection with house-building here is higher than in England, that it is probably attributable to defects in organisation and management, the smaller scale of building operations on this side of the water, and they state also that they will guarantee that labour in this country will give at least as good a return in house-building as is obtained from labour in England if the jobs are organised in a similar manner, and if the general facilities for efficient work are equal.
Mr. Lemass: Then that is an answer to the argument with regard to labour cost. We have to look, therefore, for the high cost of building in other directions. Is it true, as is stated by the editor of “The Irishman,” that unreasonable rates are being demanded for building materials; is it true that there is inefficient organisation in the building trade here, or is it true that the smaller scale operations which are carried on here make the economical purchasing of supplies impossible? If any single one of these possible explanations of the high cost of  building is the true explanation, then I think there is an unanswerable case for Governmental intervention.
In the debate on the Housing Bill of 1928 the President, replying to some point made by Deputy Briscoe, said: “I suppose he never heard of the Housing Facilities Act of 1924. Did he ever hear of Section 9 of that Act? Did he ever hear or make any enquiries as to whether any application had been made to put that section into operation? If he did not, I will tell him no person ever applied to have it put into operation.” Section 9 of the 1924 Act gave the Minister for Local Government power to purchase from those engaged in the manufacture of or trading in building materials, supplies and other appliances required for the construction of a house. Section 8 of the Act gave him the right to order an enquiry into the cost of building materials and, if he found the cost excessive, to fix maximum wholesale and retail prices. It was not necessary to have somebody applying to have the powers given by those sections put into operation. The President appeared to think that he had dismissed the matter by pointing out that no one had, in fact, made such application. We want to know why the Government did not, of its own initiative, put the powers of Section 9 into operation if it is true the high cost of building in this country is due to any one of the three causes mentioned: unreasonable rates for supplies; inefficient organisation of management, or the impossibility of economical buying owing to the small scale of operations carried on. If it is necessary to have an application made, in what form should the application be made? Will it satisfy the President if I make that application here and now across the House?
The President: There were two bodies that might have made an application such as that. There were two building guilds in Dublin and Cork, and they have to do with housing. They have a great opportunity of appreciating the advantage of a section such as that, and of asking to have it put into operation when they have to buy materials and so on.
Mr. Lemass: Is it not an extraordinary thing that the Government did not put it into the Act that such powers as are contained in the seetion shall not come into operation unless one or two building guilds make application? Why was not that done? There was no mention of building guilds in the Act. Certain powers were given to the Minister. He still has them, and he can use them if he cares to.
Mr. Lemass: That is the point we want to get at. The Minister says there were actual reductions in the cost of materials since 1925. Does the Minister intend us to understand that the costs are coming to a point at which he considers they are reasonable? There have been reductions in many things since 1925. There has been even a reduction in  the cost of government, but it does not follow that the cost of government is what it should be. Neither does it follow that the cost of building materials is as it should be. The Minister gave as a reason for the inaction of local bodies that the cost of building materials was still higher than might reasonably be expected.
Mr. Lemass: I am talking of building costs. I am not talking of the costs of the actual equipment which goes into the house at all. I am talking of the cost of building the house. These costs are running up.
Mr. Lemass: And what about organisation? More probably it is 40 per cent. labour and 40 per cent. materials and 20 per cent. organisation—the cost of organisation and the profits of the builder. We have a guarantee in black and white from the building operatives to the effect that they will give at least as good a return in house-building as is obtained from labour in England. Does that satisfy Deputy Good?
Mr. Lemass: It seems to me, in any case, that the housing problem, as a problem, will not be solved by the mere giving of grants to private individuals or local government bodies. We are not going to end the social menace which I say exists in the country. We may be successful in keeping pace with the growth, but we cannot take and wipe out the arrears which have accumulated since 1913.
Mr. Lemass: Certainly he leaves us under that impression when he compares conditions in 1913 with what they are now. He seems to imply that if the local government bodies and the Government got out of the business altogether and left it solely to the speculative builder, the housing problem would disappear owing to the erection of the number of houses required, but now he does not appear to wish to stand over that.
Mr. Lemass: We recommend, as Deputy O'Kelly informed the House, that the problem of erecting the number of houses required should be undertaken by a Housing Board, financed and controlled by the State, with power either to engage directly in the task of building houses or to operate through local government bodies, or even through private individuals as their agents. We think that Board should be empowered to acquire compulsorily such buildings, land, plant, mines or quarries as they think necessary for the efficient carrying out of their work, and their work should be the construction of 30,000 houses within a fixed period of time.
Mr. Lemass: It does not matter one iota whether we are committing an economic solecism or not. The fact remains there are 26,000 people living in Dublin in houses unfit for human habitation, and in houses which are incapable of being made fit for human habitation. Let us keep that in the forefront of our minds. It is a much more serious national menace than the one that President Cosgrave referred to last week, and one which would justify much more drastic action in solving it. The duties of such a Housing Board as we suggested would be the development of the production of building materials within this country. We are interested in finding the solution of the housing problem, not merely to supply a social need, but also because it offers one of the most hopeful avenues of finding a solution of the unemployment question. We import about £1,200,000 worth of building materials every year, practically every single item of which is capable of being produced at home.
Mr. Lemass: I will deal with that in a mínute. At present a very small proportion of our requirements is supplied from within the country. I  noted that at a Local Government inquiry into an application by the Dublin City Commissioners for a loan of £450,000 for the purpose of erecting working class lodging houses in Dublin, held in December last, the City Architect stated that the proportion of the cost of imported materials had been computed to be 83 per cent., leaving only 17 per cent. for native material. The principal items on our import list in respect to building materials are cement, slates, paints and colours, paper hangings, builders' woodwork, glass, sanitary ware, and bricks. Every single item on that list could be produced at home. We have all the mineral deposits.
Mr. Lemass: There is nothing, as Deputy O'Connell says, to prevent these materials being manufactured here. We have, as I said, in respect of the other items, the mineral deposits, not excluding the sanitary ware or the glass. We have the workers standing idle. The President already assured us that money was not the difficulty, that if money was the only difficulty in the way of finding a solution of the housing problem it could easily be provided. We have his words on record for that.
Mr. Lemass: If the President produces £14,000,000 I will promise to remain dumb for the remainder of the session. We have, as I said, the mineral deposits, which are required. I wonder did President Cosgrave, who is always apt to take a good tip, note Mr. Lloyd George's election programme in England.
Mr. Lemass: I will seriously consider it. A certain market is practically all that is required to insure production within this country, and the bulk of our requirements in building materials would be provided immediately such a Housing Board as we recommend proceeds to operate a programme designed to ensure the construction of the number of houses required and working continuously over a fixed number of years. It is not possible, in a discussion of this kind, to go into matters in great detail. The Bill which is before us is a rotten Bill, but despite the fact that it is a rotten Bill the Government knows it will pass through this House unopposed, because the alternative to it is nothing. It is, in fact, emblematical of the Government's bankruptcy in policy. If there were any substance in all the talk they indulged in during the last year with respect to the housing problem they were to carry out we would not have this Bill before us now. Talk undoubtedly is one of the main difficulties in connection with this problem, because it has kept people from applying their minds to it for the purpose of finding a solution in the belief, in consequence of the talk they heard from the Cumann na nGaedheal platforms, that a perfect solution had been already discovered and was filed in the office of the Minister for Local Government.
 Before concluding, I would like to ask the Minister if he will tell us why the recommendations of the Committee on the relief of unemployment, contained in paragraphs 45, 46 and 47 of the Report, were not given legislative effect. They were: “That Local Authorities should be given increased powers in regard to tenement houses (a) to enforce sanitary conditions, (b) to reduce overcrowding, and (c) to insist on premises being kept in proper repair.” The second recommendation was: “That Local Authorities should be given powers to compel owners to clear derelict sites and, on their failure to do so, that the Local Authorities should be empowered, after due notice to the persons concerned, to enter on and clear the sites, the cost of such clearance to be made a first charge on the value of the land.” If that matter be relevant to this debate I would like to know why legislative effect was not given these proposals even if the main proposal was ignored.
Mr. Rice: Deputy Good, in his introductory remarks, suggested that the House might treat this matter as a national and not a political question. I welcome, in a sense, the speech of the last Deputy who spoke—Deputy Lemass—because he seemed on the whole to have treated the matter as a national question. I do not know whether his conversion is so recent as to be the result of Deputy Good's suggestion or not, but certainly he is one of the Deputies who needed conversion on this subject. Deputy O'Kelly talked about the by-election last year in North Dublin. He referred to a speech that I made on that occasion and gave a quotation from a newspaper report which was about from twelve to twenty lines long of a speech which lasted half an hour. On that occasion, as Deputy O'Kelly knows perfectly well, and on every occasion on which the subject was spoken of, the recommendations of the Committee as to a conference in order to solve the housing problem was referred to, and one subject was  never referred to without the other. The intentions of the Government as regards this matter were always mentioned as subject to agreement on the part of the building operatives and the employers.
Mr. O'Kelly: I would not like, at any time, to misrepresent any Deputy, and particularly Deputy Rice, who is a colleague of mine in the representation of North Dublin. I had not the advantage of hearing Deputy Rice speak, and all I could read would be what the Press gave of his speeches. I never saw any contradiction or explanation of that quotation. I would be glad to have Deputy Rice's explanation now.
Mr. Rice: Deputy O'Kelly is perfectly well aware that in the course of an election a speaker who speaks for half an hour, unless he happens to be as prominent as Deputy O'Kelly, will get about twelve lines in the newspapers. The Press has not room for reports of all the speeches made at an election, especially by persons who are not prominent. If Deputy O'Kelly had been making the same speech he probably would get a column. As this matter has been introduced and discussed here to-night, let me refer to the paragraph in the Report of the Unemployment Committee dealing with this particular matter—the recommendation that there should be a continuous programme of house-building:—
“That in order to enable the Government to judge the feasibility of such a continuous programme, an immediate conference, to be presided over by a neutral chairman, should first be called together between the Master Builders and the representative of the different sections of the Builders Operatives to consider and report on the best means of reducing building costs and substantially increasing units of output.”
I have said that Deputy Lemass was an offender in treating this as a political matter and not as a national  question, and, as I said, I welcome his conversion, if his speech means that he is converted from his former attitude of mind, because no person was more active in representing to the public that the by-election of 1928 was won by misrepresentation than Deputy Lemass. Let me inform Deputy Lemass that before that conference was ever summoned and since this Report was issued, and it was known that the conference was to be summoned, Deputy Lemass's Party issued leaflets in the by-election poisoning the minds of the operatives with regard to this conference and suggesting to them that it was all a fake, and that there was no intention that anything should come of it. That is, I suggest, treating this national problem as a political problem. The Deputies made use of this as an election cry, but the public do not seem to have paid a great deal of attention to it, because with their combined forces in the last election——
Mr. Rice: Deputy Lemass is very anxious to know what happened as regards this conference. I think Deputy Lemass has a very fair idea as to what happened. Let me say this about it, that neither side to that conference has put forward a contribution that would justify the Government in undertaking a huge programme of building. Deputy Lemass quoted paragraphs from the Unemployment Committee's Report  on this matter. There is one paragraph he did not quote, and I would like to draw his attention, and the attention of the House, to it. It is paragraph 36 of the report:
“We have already adverted to recognition of the moral duty of the taxpayer and the ratepayer of bearing their share of the burden. There is an equal moral duty and an equal responsibility to the nation on the part of those engaged in the building trade to make their contribution to the provision of houses for the poor.”
Is it seriously suggested by the Deputies opposite, in the first place, that the Government should undertake a programme of building 30,000 houses at present building cost when no contribution such as is outlined there has been made up to the present time by those engaged in the building trade?
Mr. Cassidy: May I ask Deputy Rice, seeing that he has mentioned about this conference between the Dublin Master Builders and the Operatives, whether, if they fail to come to a definite conclusion in Dublin, building is to be held up in the provinces—in Donegal and elsewhere. As far as I understand, it is only in Dublin City that they hope to come to an understanding.
Mr. Rice: I am not attempting to throw blame on either party to this conference. I know the difficulties on both sides. Neither am I attempting to apportion blame between them. I only say that they have not produced that contribution we hoped for, and I invite Deputies opposite to explain to us where the money is  to be got to carry out this programme. If you want to borrow a huge sum of money for a building programme, the people who have money to lend will want to know how you are going to spend it. Does any Deputy believe that anyone with money will lend it for expenditure on a scheme of building where two-thirds of the rents would be regarded as uneconomic and where people are paying, in fact, twice the economic value, and the ratepayer and the taxpayer have to make good the difference? Is it suggested that the country or any corporation lending large sums of money to finance schemes of this kind would not take that into consideration and turn it down no matter what the credit of the country may be? It has been suggested by Deputy Lemass that a contribution was made by the workers and that I held them up for two months. So far as I am concerned, so far as bringing that before that conference between the master builders and the operatives is concerned, not in the next two years would I bring it forward.
Mr. Rice: I will tell that later, if Deputy Anthony will have a little patience. The success of a conference of this kind must depend on the good-will of both sides and on their avoiding subjects of recrimination, because no conference of the kind, having regard to the unfortunate former relations of the builders and the employees, would last half an hour if matters of recrimination are to be introduced. We saw, even in the House to-day, between such good-tempered representatives of the two sides as Deputy Anthony and Deputy Good, that they were inclined to get into a controversy if the Chair had not stopped them.
Mr. Rice: I have here a document which I did not bring before the Conference. It was sent to me a considerable time after the Conference had met, and it was suggested  to me that if I thought a further meeting was desirable the trades group would be prepared to assemble again. Here is one paragraph in this document, and I invite the House to consider what the effect of it would be on that Conference when it re-assembled:—
“Of the men engaged in the building industry not more than twenty-five to thirty per cent. at any time in recent years have been employed in building houses for the working classes. This is an important consideration in view of the demands made by the employers for concessions from the Building Trades Unions. It would appear that under cover for the urgent need for houses for the workers and the lowering of their cost they aim at lower wages and longer hours on building works in general.”
Mr. Rice: I do not propose to inflict on this House the entirety of this document. It certainly appeared in the public Press not long ago, and, if desirable, I think it could be arranged that it could be circulated to Deputies by the organisation which issued it, at very small cost. It is a document proposing that a national housing trust should be established by the State. In other words, that you nationalise this problem of housing.
Mr. Rice: And deal with it in that way. I would ask Deputies to consider a proposal of this kind in connection with the recommendation of the Unemployment Committee that the building operatives  should make their contribution towards reducing the costs. They make their contribution towards reducing the cost by putting forward what can be described merely as a proposal that the State should nationalise housing.
Mr. Rice: Now that Deputy Good has made a statement that proposals were put forward by the builders in conference, I think it is only fair to the other side to say that, in my opinion at all events, it was not a contribution within the terms of the recommendation. I say that the operatives did not make a contribution within the terms of the recommendation. I do not intend to inflict the document on the House, but that is the substance of the proposals in it. It is also suggested that by buying material in large quantities you will reduce the cost. That is a selfevident proposition, that if you buy in large quantities for a great scheme you will necessarily reduce the cost. But is that a contribution from either the builders or the building operatives towards a reduction in the cost of building? I say it is not. It is one of the results of the ordinary laws of supply and demand. If you buy in large quantities you will buy cheaper than if you buy in small quantities. A proposal of that kind is not a contribution by the people who put it forward towards a solution of the problem. I would ask Deputies who have spoken on this matter, and Deputies generally, to regard this problem in the way that Deputy Good suggested, namely, as a national problem.
I must say that the attitude of Deputies opposite towards this problem for the last year has not been  helpful towards its solution. The representatives of the Labour Party here gave me all the assistance they could. They tried in the most earnest way to get something done and to get agreement to try and provide a reduction in costs. They have not succeeded up to the present. I have not succeeded. Perhaps Deputies opposite, instead of making election speeches on the housing problem, would apply themselves to convincing the operatives and the builders to do something that would put us on the way towards a great programme for reducing the housing shortage. Deputy O'Kelly spoke of building 30,000 houses in five years. If he had gone into the matter with any particularity he would know that it is out of the question, unless you import labour, as you have not a sufficient amount of skilled labour in this country to build anything like that number of houses in that period. Deputy O'Kelly also referred to the building of houses in Dublin, and spoke of 450 for a period of years.
Mr. Rice: That is not putting it quite fairly from the point of view of the Government and the City Commissioners. If you take the last four years you will find that the figure, instead of being 420, is at least fifty per cent. more than that. I would remind Deputies that at present the sites are ready and the ground has been prepared for over 1,200 new houses in the city of Dublin. I appeal to Deputies, instead of making election speeches to try and do something which would assist in a cut-and-dried scheme being put forward. There is no use in talking about giving the same output as in England. We want a substantial reduction in costs, which will enable this poor State to solve the problem. I would earnestly ask Deputies to do that, and to try and get something from the two sides by way of contribution. Then they could present to the Government their proposal that these 1,200 houses should be completed this year.
As to the Bill itself, I would be inclined  to agree with the criticism of Deputy Morrissey on the grounds that the Bill encourages the building of small houses if that were put forward as a permanent policy, but it is, as a matter of fact, purely temporary. In Dublin the citizens could do with a much larger number of small houses. There are a great many families who cannot afford to pay the rent of five or four-roomed houses. There are a great number of small families who can be suited with three-roomed houses. Therefore, instead of condemning the Bill from that point of view, I would be inclined to commend it, because it will provide houses for those who cannot pay rent for the bigger houses which have been built in recent years. There is another criticism which I would like to make in regard to the Bill, and that is that it makes no distinction and gives no advantage to active local authorities who are carrying on the work of building. It puts them in the same position as the inactive ones who are doing little or nothing in that respect. I suggest to the Government that a distinction should be made in that direction, and that, if a local authority puts on a special housing rate applicable only to that particular subject of house-building, the Government should give an increase in the subsidy in order to encourage local bodies to put on a rate. If, for instance, in the case of Dublin, the Commissioners put on a special housing rate of 1/6 I say that they, or anybody doing it, should get an increase in the amount of the subsidy under the Bill.
Mr. Anthony: I rise to support this Bill not because, it is a good Bill, but because in the absence of something better I find that I have to support it. I agree that a building programme of any magnitude will require money. The money must come from somewhere and, in the final analysis, the taxpayer will have to foot the bill. It is partly in that spirit that I approach the whole question under discussion. In the first place, I find myself in disagreement with Section 1, the definitions, under  which nothing is allowed for reconstruction. I have in mind many parts of Cork Borough where there are disused military barracks which, with very little expenditure, could be made into decent dwellings for working class people and others. That is, in my view at any rate, a very grievous fault in the Bill. I would pass to another phase of the question touched upon by two Deputies to-night, namely Deputy O'Kelly and Deputy Lemass. I was really glad to hear them re-echo some of the things which I said on a former occasion in connection with housing and unemployment, in regard to environment and the moral effect of environment. These are not the words they used. We have been here for the principal portion of the Session, and for many days previous to it, discussing a Censorship of Publications Bill. In my view, though I know it will not find many supporters in the House, I think that the housing conditions and the tenement system—herding together dozens of people in tenement buildings—are more conducive to immorality, and everything like it than the tons of immoral literature imported into this country week after week. That is my own view and I am glad to see it is partially shared by other members of the House, influential members of the official Opposition.
I also think that much more encouragement ought to be given by way of grants to local authorities to build houses for the working class. So far as a three-roomed house is concerned, I would much prefer to see larger houses because of the reasons I have mentioned. We know that in this country the average family goes well beyond five or six, and that a three-roomed house is not at all adequate for the proper accommodation of a man, his wife and three or four children, particularly if some of these children are grown up. However, as somebody said in the course of the discussion, a three-roomed house is far better than one room in a tenement and I subscribe to that idea. I do not want to start  off at this juncture by making any political capital out of what Deputy Rice said at one election or another. I do realise this at any rate, that Deputy Rice acted as Chairman of this Committee. If I were in the same position I would find myself in the same difficulty as that in which Deputy Rice finds himself now. I will say this to those who were inclined to be critical of Deputy Rice and his attitude, that Deputy Rice had a most difficult position. He occupied a most difficult position right through the proceedings. He had to try to find accommodation as between the building operatives and the building employers. In that connection I want to say that so far as the building operatives are concerned there appears to be in this House, as indeed all over the city, an idea that there is only one part of Ireland that matters, and that is Dublin. I want to let this House know, and to let Dublin know also, that there are other parts of the Free State besides Dublin and if you have such terrific difficulties in Dublin, let them be discussed in some Dublin Chamber, but not in the Dáil.
Mr. Anthony: We are well able to discuss our difficulties in Cork. We do not want any nonentities to tell us what we will do in Cork. It has become more apparent to me every day that you have your difficulties in Dublin just as we have in Cork, but these Dublin difficulties obtrude themselves too frequently in this House. My conception of this House is possibly a higher conception than that of some Dublin Deputies. I look upon it as the national legislative assembly. Dublin Deputies are liable to look upon it as the Dublin City Council. With that view I disagree. I would like to refer to a matter with which Deputy Good is more conversant and in which he is more interested than many people, namely, the contribution made by building operatives of the Free State, described some time ago as the Dublin building operatives. I want to say that the proposals made by the Dublin  building operatives were acquiesced in and subscribed to by the building operatives throughout the Free State. These proposals were submitted to the Unemployment Committee of which Deputy Rice was Chairman. They were at least a contribution. It was news to me to-night when I heard for the first time from Deputy Good that the master builders—a term that I dislike to use because I do not like the word “masters”; my experience is that many of those who call themselves “masters” are not masters of their profession or craft—had made a contribution and that that contribution was not accepted by Deputy Rice as any kind of decent contribution at all.
So far as the contribution made by the building operatives is concerned, I think perhaps it is time that a little light was thrown on the matter. These proposals have got a certain amount of publicity, but in my view they have not got sufficient publicity. It would be just as well to remind Deputies in the House, when we have heard such a lot about Dublin and the position so far as tenement buildings are concerned, that in the County Borough of Cork there were in April, 1926, 5,537 persons in families occupying oneroomed dwellings, and 14,738 persons in families occupying two-roomed dwellings. That will show that, relatively, the position in Cork is something like what it is in Dublin so far as housing accommodation is concerned. I would direct the particular attention of Deputy Good to one paragraph in the proposals submitted by the building operatives. One paragraph suggests that economies would accrue by the ability to purchase materials in large quantities, of standard sizes, designs, and qualities. We all know that in standardised houses one design, one set of builders' quantities, and so on will obtain, and in the view of many people interested in this problem, great difficulty is found, and a great expense is incurred, in buying from the builders' providers, not to talk at all of the builders' profits. I ask  any Deputy, what is his experience? I shall relate in a few words my own experience in Cork. I have known many people who started in the building industry. They began as carpenters, masons, or something of that kind. Though they continually protested that there were no profits in building, after a few years what did we find? Ninety-nine per cent. of these people blossomed out into what one might call country squires with houses in the country.
Mr. Anthony: Deputy Good is a fairly wealthy man and cannot be losing money. I could point to builders in Dublin and Cork who made so much money that they should be able to retire after ten or twelve years. As I have suggested, the building operatives have at least made their contribution by way of a number of suggestions to reduce the cost of building.
Mr. Anthony: They suggest buying on a large scale and cutting out such people as the builders' providers, very largely at any rate. They suggest that bricks should be ordered by the million, and that by so doing the price could probably be brought down to compete successfully with concrete. They also suggest that slates from Irish quarries might be utilised if large contracts were given for them. Then we come to another proposal, that the building of working-class houses throughout the Saorstát should be entrusted to a national housing trust. Of course, we are up against vested interests there. It is a case of private enterprise versus State enterprise. Naturally, that is a thing that Deputy Good would not subscribe to, even though by doing that we would be able to house some thousands of families in decency.
Mr. Anthony: The genesis of these proposals is that a trust should be formed, that it should have national backing, that building should be taken up on a national scale, and that by adopting these proposals you would be able to cut out many middlemen's profits. Of course, it is not in the nature of things that this should be acceptable to the master builders of Dublin or Cork. If Deputy Good, and those associated with him, will put their proposals in black and white, just as the building operatives did, then we will have something to discuss, and Deputy Rice will not be in the peculiarly bankrupt position that he found himself in so far as this Bill is concerned. It was news to me and to many others when Deputy Good said that the builders had already sent in some suggestions. We have not seen them. I do not even know that the building operatives have seen them.
Mr. Anthony: The proposals that were submitted to Deputy Rice were not in any way secret. I am quite sure Deputy Good must have seen them. The surprise to me is that any Deputy representing the building industry can stand up and say that he will endeavour to solve this problem, that he knows that an evil exists which is not conducive to morals in the city and country, and that he will not even make a decent contribution to it. Are the master builders prepared to do with less profits in the same way as the operatives are prepared to give an even better output under decent conditions—properly organised conditions? It is all contained in one paragraph which has been already read: “Comparisons have been made as to quality of work and output between the building trade workers in Ireland and those in Great Britain, to the disparagement of the Irish workers. On that subject the trade unions can point to the fact that when their members go to  work in England they find they are required to work less strenuously than in Ireland, and when they return to Ireland to take up work here the energy strain is decidedly greater. If it is true, as is alleged, that the labour cost of house building is higher here than in England, it is probably attributable to defects in organisation and management.”
Mr. Anthony: Deputy Good speaks about wages being 8/- per week higher than in England. How is it that an English contractor can come to Cork and pay the highest rate of wages—a higher rate of wages in some trades and crafts than Deputy Good pays in Dublin—and that that English contractor can take a contract at £10,000 less than Deputy Good could do it? It shows that the English contractor is willing to do with less profit and is content to get rich less quickly than most of the Irish master-builders. That is the solution.
Mr. Corry: I wish that Deputy Good and Deputy Anthony would go and fight their quarrels out elsewhere. I was very much disappointed in this Housing Bill. It is a Bill which has been carefully and ingeniously framed for one purpose, and that is, to prevent those who have to find the money getting any benefit whatever out of it. They are to get no benefit out of the £1,000,000 that is to be spent. I, as a member of the Cork County Council, found that we had to deal with hundreds of disappointed applicants who came in looking for grants for  reconstruction purposes in the last few years. There is no reconstruction section whatever in this Bill. We find that the unfortunate farmers who have to live, practically, in hovels and who expected some assistance, at least, in the shape of some portion of a grant for the purpose of reconstructing their houses and making them habitable, will get no benefit whatever from the Bill. The same proposal was very ingeniously framed under the previous Housing Acts, whereby the reconstruction sections would only apply to houses reconstructed within a mile of a town of so many inhabitants. Unless this Bill is amended in such a manner that the Minister will not know it, it will be of no use whatsoever. I come down to the question of labourers' cottages. We have in Cork some incomplete schemes under the Labourers Act, and we have a very large number of acre plots on which we hoped, under the new housing scheme, to be able to build labourers' cottages and let at something like a fair rent. Now we find, under paragraph (d) of Section 3 it is stated: “Any local authority erecting one or more houses in pursuance of the Labourers (Ireland) Act, 1883 to 1919, in accordance with the scheme approved by the Minister, a grant not exceeding £50 in respect of each such house.” Then we turn to sub-section (4) of Section 5, and we find that the Board of Health, which would be the body that would have to deal with that matter, are specifically prevented, because it states that the local authority must not include the council of their own district in the County of Dublin, or a board of health and public assistance or a board of public health. The board of health can only get from the county council a sum of £100 as a loan towards each house. Paragraph (b), Section 5, states that a local authority may “make to any person or public utility society to whom a grant is payable by the Minister under the Act in respect of a house situate within the council area of the local authority a loan not exceeding twice the amount of such grant.” The total amount of the  loan from the county council would be £100, and the total amount of the grant would be £50. I do not think there is any Deputy in this House who would state that you could build a labourer's cottage at present for £150. I do not believe you could, so that this Bill is going to be absolutely worthless for the rural population; it is going to be worthless to the people who are to find the money.
It is generally admitted that 23 per cent. of taxation comes from the farming population. Seventy-three per cent. of this £1,050,000 which is to be devoted to housing has to be found by the farming population, who are going to derive no benefit whatever under the Act. I do not think that any member of the Executive Council is going to allege that you could build a labourer's cottage for £150, considering that it is estimated that it takes £1,500 or £1,700 for a Civic Guard barrack.
Then we had an attack by the Minister for Local Government and Public Health on the local authorities. He made a rather amazing allegation, namely, that local authorities were prepared to pay a higher wage out of grants than they were prepared to pay out of rates. That is a very amazing allegation, considering that we have stacks of correspondence in the County Council office in Cork in connection with these grants from the Minister's Department stating that such and such a grant is given under the usual conditions, namely, that preference in all such work is to be given to members of the National Army, and that the maximum rate of wages paid under this grant must not exceed 29/- per week. We have stacks of correspondence of that description. The wages paid by the County Council of Cork at present to its road workers is 35/- per week, but the maximum rate under the grant is 29/-.
General Mulcahy: I think if the Deputy wants to be exactly accurate he would have to develop that a bit. The wages are of a particular type. They are fixed in respect of work done under grants given before a  particular date. In relation to the grant given now in respect to road work, there is no condition in regard to wages.
Mr. Corry: Not since we came here to keep you straight. Previous to our entry here that condition was laid down, and I think the Minister has said that the cost of living has decreased since he insisted that under the grant the wages should be 29/- per week.
This Housing Bill is absolutely useless to the agricultural community, which has to provide 73 per cent. of the money. The reconstruction scheme under which farmers could reconstruct their houses and put them into a decent condition is cut out, and, as I pointed out, reconstruction in the previous Acts was specifically confined to houses within a mile of certain towns and villages and with 700 population. If the farmer who has to find the money is to be specifically deprived of any benefit under the Bill it is no wonder that we see representatives of the cities coming in here fighting for the spoil. I would ask the Minister to consider very carefully the amount which is available in respect of labourers' cottages, especially having regard to the estimate laid down by the Board of Works of £1,500 and £1,700 for Civic Guard barracks.
 Bad housing is one of the principal causes of many diseases such as tuberculosis and other diseases like that, which are only too prevalent at the present time. The conditions under which a very large number of people have to exist in this country are certainly nothing short of deplorable. This is not, and it ought not to be, a party matter. It ought to be a matter which the combined parties in this House ought to endeavour to solve, because it will never be solved when parties endeavour to score off each other, and when one party blames the other for conditions which undoubtedly exist. I believe that a grant of £45 for a three-roomed house will undoubtedly cause a large number of houses to be built. I would like to mention that it is extraordinary how the public fail to grasp the fact that this grant is a free grant and not money that has to be paid back. The public seem to think, when they are applying for this, that it is money that they will have to pay back.
With regard to the building of houses by public bodies, the Minister for Local Government and Public Health has prescribed plans for a certain class of house. The design I intend to allude to is C.L.17 and C.L.21. The Westmeath Board of Health recently had plans prepared in connection with an endeavour to build some labourers' cottages in Westmeath. The engineer's estimate for these houses was £330 plus £10 for fencing. In other words, these houses will cost £340. Even with the Government grant of £60 the cost of these houses would be in or about £300. There is no prospect whatever of building houses that would cost about £300 because the rent of these houses would be 5/- or 6/- a week, whereas the present labourers' cottages are rented at only 1/- a week. In agricultural and, possibly, in town areas where these houses would be built there is no hope whatever of getting any such rent as 5/- or 6/- a week. I would like the Minister for Local Government and Public Health to tell us whether that particular  estimate given to the Westmeath Board of Health is excessive or whether houses can be built at a very much smaller amount than £340.
I am sorry that there is nothing in the Bill in connection with the reconstruction of houses in rural areas because that is one of the greatest necessities at the moment. Any person who goes through the country can see these houses—if you like to call them houses—propped up in order to prevent them being blown down by the wind. The people living in these houses are not in a position to do anything with them. I know the amount of money that would be required in order to make any kind of a grant towards the reconstruction of these houses would be enormous because, unfortunately, there is such a large number of them. It is really a matter in which I hope the Minister will endeavour to do something in the future. If another Housing Bill is brought in I hope that something will be done in that direction. There is no doubt at all about it that even £10 would, in many cases, go a long way to prevent a house from falling in.
I welcome this Bill, even though I am disappointed that there is not a larger amount of money put up. I believe it is one of the prime necessities of the country at present. No matter what problems we have to face, the housing problem in the country and the problem of endeavouring to do away with the slums in our cities and towns is one of the most pressing. I believe the solving of that problem will go a long way to save the country the enormous amount of money that is at present spent in an endeavour to stem tuberculosis and other diseases which are mainly caused because of the fact that people have to endeavour to exist in houses that are not really fit for human habitation. I believe that if improved conditions could be brought about in connection with housing we would have fewer deaths from influenza, tuberculosis, and many other diseases which are at present playing so  much havoc amongst the people of the country.
Mr. Maguire: There is one deficiency in this Bill, inasmuch as those who had applied for grants under previous Housing Acts and had not been able to secure them, by reason of the fact that the sum available had been already allotted before their cases had been reached, are overlooked in the Bill. There is no provision to deal with these cases.
General Mulcahy: Under the provisions of this Bill the houses that are begun on or before the 1st April will be entitled to grants at the old rate. Houses begun after the 1st April are the houses that will come under the small rate.
Mr. Maguire: There is one particular matter that I feel should have been included in some specific way. I refer to houses in the poorer parts of the country that are in need of reconstruction. Some years ago the Congested Districts Board tackled this problem in a very practical and capable way. They allowed small sums, sums that at least induced the people to improve not the dwelling-houses alone, but out-offices and farm buildings. They improved these houses when they got a small sum of money and improved them very much. As far as I can see, no provision has been made in this Bill, nor in previous housing schemes, to encourage such improvement in the poorer districts.
While the present scheme will help considerably to solve the problem of improved housing conditions, it is only capable of touching it in a very small way considering the immensity of the problem. Deputy Shaw referred to what he regarded as a regrettable factor— that the community did not realise that a certain sum of £45 was available  as a free grant. I do not think that it is really fair for a member of this House to speak of any sum of money granted in this way by the Dáil for a national housing problem as a free grant. The Minister has again and again been trying to explain here that there is no such thing as a free grant. The money voted here is money that must be collected from the people, and the people who really contribute the most of it—the farming community —have a specific grievance, inasmuch as they are likely to derive the least benefit from it, as they derived the least benefit from the previous Housing Acts.
What to my mind is of primary importance in an undertaking of this kind—and I realise how important it is—is that the solution of these housing difficulties should be dealt with in a big way. I always like to stress that the primary factor in any undertaking of the kind is that the economic conditions of the country should keep pace with any improvement in the matter of a housing scheme. There is no use in trying to drive a coach before the horses. In the same way, endeavouring to drive forward a progressive scheme of housing, unless side by side with it you have economic improvement in the country, is an impossibility. Building houses for labourers down the country at the rate of £300, and charging a weekly rent entirely out of proportion to their wage-earning capacity, is not an economic proposition, nor does it go to improve the condition of the workers. You may build houses for them, you may point out you have built so many houses in each county, you may tell the labourers you have erected so many houses for them, but it is not the labourer who will be found to occupy them but the more well-to-do person, whatever trade or department of business he may be in. You will find in the country at the moment very few labourers in the cottages built for labourers. You will find living in them people  for whom they were never intended. Similarly, you have houses built under the ex-service men's housing scheme and they are not occupied by ex-soldiers. In Leitrim they are not occupied by these people. They are built in localities where there are not many labourers and they are occupied by retired business men or retired officers of one army or another.
There is no use in saying that you are tackling this problem in a serious way or that you are giving this money as a free gift. It is merely additional taxation on the people. There is no use in saying you are using that taxation for the practical purpose of improving the conditions of the people you have in mind, the labourers, unless side by side with that you put forward some scheme to provide work for the labourers and so enable them to pay the rent which, necessarily, because of the cost of building, will be fairly high. You are leaving the responsibility on the local authorities to take advantage of this scheme. You might as well whistle jigs to a milestone as to ask a local authority in the country to undertake the responsibility of a housing, or any other, scheme, that will involve at the present moment one fraction of a penny on the rates. The reason for that is that the economic situation in the country is gauged by the local authorities much better than by the Ministers here, and they realise how impracticable it is to tax the ratepayers further to the extent of even a fraction of a penny for a housing scheme unless there is side by side with that an improvement in the economic condition that will make the scheme possible.
If some section were introduced into the Bill making provision so that the people in the rural, and particularly the congested areas would have facilities for improving farmers' houses and out-offices, such as was carried out under the scheme in operation some years ago when the Congested Districts Boards were functioning, there is no doubt that the scheme would be really beneficial.  It would supply a want that exists to even a greater degree than in the slum areas in the city. The conditions in some congested areas in regard to housing and in regard to the out-offices attached to farms are as deplorable as you can find in any city in the Free State. I think the Government do not realise how important is that factor; otherwise I believe that in their endeavour to secure better housing accommodation they would have made some provision to deal with such conditions as I have referred to. I desire to emphasise the very serious position in the country in regard to housing.
The President: The discussion that has taken place on this measure impresses me as if it were designed not to give any aid or assistance towards solving the housing problem as a difficult proposition. When I was in America last year I had an interview in the Ministry of Labour with quite a number of leaders of Labour in America. Practically all the principal Labour leaders attended at the office and, if I might put it in a single sentence, their summing up of the situation in America, as far as they were concerned, and as far as business generally was concerned, was: “You cannot get out of an industry more than the industry can afford.” Now, examining that particular statement in the light of the problem we have here, the question is: What can this industry of building afford? It affords at the moment employment to the operatives and to the master builders, and the problem, if there be a problem at all, is very much a problem for those two parties to that particular industry. Those who are most concerned in it are the masters and the operatives, and upon them, to a very large extent, depends whether or not the housing problem, as it has been described, or the housing difficulty, as certain people put it, is ever going to be solved.
It is the merest nonsense to say that money can solve the housing problem, and those who persist in saying that money can solve the  problem know they are talking nonsense. It cannot and will not solve the problem, and if it be tried to solve the problem in that particular way it will present other serious difficulties, difficulties which it will take a much longer time to surmount than the time limit of the most pessimistic prognostications in regard to the solution of the problem in accordance with the policy that we have adopted. Eight or nine years ago the house which could be built at the moment for £500 cost £1,000. If one were to cash in at their face value the statements made here this evening the solution of the housing problem should have been started at that time. It was a pressing problem, a very much more pressing problem then than it is now. If it were then started, what a nice prospect we would have before us with the cost of money at a high rate of interest, and building costs at a rate at which they were never known before, and probably will never be known again, saddled on the people?
We are charged with certain things, principally by the Opposition, who seem to regard—in fact, most people seem to regard—this question as a stick with which to beat the Government. During the last seven years one can observe in the cost of building a regular and a marked reduction. I have mentioned 50 per cent. as between 1920 and to-day. From 1924 down there has been a marked reduction in cost, and it was just as important and as imperative on us to have begun in 1924 the five year programme mentioned this evening by Deputy O'Kelly as it is to-day. Would it have been good business? Would the people whom Deputy Maguire has spoken about feel anything easier if they had saddled on their backs twice the present National Loan with one-half or one-quarter the value to show for it? When Deputy O'Kelly mentioned this evening that this question was so important as to warrant the expenditure in the City of Dublin of £2,600,000 per annum for five years, with a State contribution of 25 per cent. towards it, what was the problem  he was putting before us? He was going to build 30,000 houses at a cost of £540 a house and the State contribution was to be approximately £135. Somebody would have to find £405, either the man coming into the house or the municipality. Supposing we took him at his word and saddled the municipality with the same cost as he is prepared so lightly to saddle the taxpayer in the country, what would the position be?
£3,250,000 for five years would amount to £650,000 per annum. What is the rate to be struck in the City of Dublin to meet that liability? Over 11/- in the £1. Having done that, having saddled the taxpayer in this country with £3,250,000, having saddled the ratepayer in the City of Dublin with the same amount for the same period, what is the position with regard to the letting of the houses? Taking him at his own figure, there is £270 to be paid. They are paying for it over a period of 35 years, and taking the anuity at £6 13s. 4d., it will be found to be a pretty considerable amount, going up very close to £20 per annum. Add to that the rates, the cost of collection, the insurance and repairs, and you have not got a sum very far away from 10/- a week. This is a great national solution for housing, having got 50 per cent. of it from the taxpayer and the ratepayer. Now you know that is all moonshine, and the next solution is, in the same breath, fix up a housing board, hand over the baby to someone else whom we can blame for it. If it should ever happen through any accident that we should come into power, they are the people we are going to saddle with the responsibility for solving the housing question. During the last seven years, with the Bill which I should say this time twelve months would practically absorb the £200,000, we will be able to show 20,000 houses, at a cost to the State of £2,050,000, and those who are particularly interested in the taxpayer can ask themselves has there been value got for that  £2,050,000. I believe there has. I am not at all satisfied whether we could have got better value, but not by any of the so-called ready-made solutions we have heard here this evening. That has been the contribution we are asking the taxpayer to pay. What are the ratepayers to pay in respect to the big contribution from the Government? Are those who are prepared to criticise us in connection with our solution of the housing problem for the last seven years prepared to go to the local authorities and say the Government is doing its bit? It is up to the local authority to do the same. The only Deputy whom I heard this evening put forward that solution was Deputy Rice, and he has made a study of this problem. He is not interested in the mere political side of it. He is not interested in scoring off political opponents. This particular problem will not be solved on public platforms or by endeavouring to solve it by the getting of a national housing board.
The President: I will certify that if other Deputies had done as much to find accommodation as Deputy Rice we probably would have it settled. There is a burden to be borne in this particular problem. Who is to bear it? There are only the two persons in the community, the taxpayer and the ratepayer. They are very often the same individual. Having solved the housing problem, taking the most elaborate estimates of the number of houses required, assuming it is double what was estimated at the time the convention sat here in Dublin in 1918 or whatever time they sat, my recollection is that they required 27,000 houses at that time. We will double the number and make it 60,000 houses. Assume there are seven persons in each one of the families to be provided with houses. You have 400,000 people concerned. Let it not be lost sight of that there are 2,900,000 people to be taxed to provide for the 400,000 people and those  who will not get the houses are at least entitled to ask that value should be got in respect of this service.
That has been one of the main planks in our policy during the last seven years and no one can deny but that considerable improvement has been effected during these years. In the same way Deputies are disappointed that the local loans are not open in respect of this service. Now anybody who has examined the financial situation for the last month or six weeks will know that this certainly is not a good time to borrow. Money is tight and dear. That is certainly not the time to borrow, and the cost, if one borrows at present, must fall on the man who is going to get possession of the house. When we say we can borrow money to solve this problem we can only borrow it if it can be shown that real value can be got for the money. That is the problem to be solved, and political speeches will not solve it.
Deputies have found fault with this particular measure because it did not go far enough, because the same sums of money were not provided that were provided formerly. The first housing effort was £1,000,000 of a free grant in the proportion of £2 to £1. I have already told this House on many occasions that of the 94 local authorities in this country at that time, only something like 74 of them accepted that offer. The other 20 did not consider that they were getting value in getting £2 for £1 and putting 1/- on the rates. Some of them are, I suppose, in the same frame of mind still. Later in the 1924 Act the sum which was laid down was £100 for a five-roomed house, £80 for a four-roomed house, and £60 for a three-roomed house. The Bill which followed that reduced the sum by £5 per room. This Bill is on much the same lines, following the reduction in the cost of the provision of the houses and easing the burden on the taxpayer. I wish that those who are so concerned in connection with the housing situation in Dublin had examined their consciences before they took certain steps, some seven or eight  years ago, because their activities at that time shook the foundations of quite a number of premises in Dublin, and made the problem much more difficult of solution.
The President: Any complaint made was that there were no reconstruction proposals in this Bill. Deputies seem not quite to understand what is meant by reconstruction. Reconstruction does not simply mean the repair of a house. It means, in respect of a pretty considerably sized house, that it would be capable of being adapted to house a larger number of families than it formerly held. For example, one of those houses in one of the Squares, with a little readaptation, might be let out into flats and so house three or four families where formerly it held one. In the same way it was hoped, at that time, to reconstruct certain military barracks, and to make them available for accommodation. The total number of cases in which reconstruction took place during the four years was 837, and of these, 300 dwellings were in reconstructed military barracks. If there had been reconstruction proposals in this measure it would not follow that a farmer's house needing repairs or anything of that sort would come in under the scheme. If one deducted the 300 dwellings which were reconstructed in the case of military barracks, the other 500 cases were just as expensive on the State as the housing scheme in Cork, where there would be a 100-house or a 150-house scheme; or in Waterford, where there would be a 20 or a 30-house scheme, and so on through the country. It was an expensive service and one which in the present circumstances we are not justified in continuing.
Deputy Lemass read out a portion of this report in which there was an extract given from the report of the  Local Government Departmental Housing Committee of 1913. I remember the time when the Committee held this inquiry and when it reported. I am speaking from memory. The recommendation of that Committee was that 14,000 houses were required. As far as the reference to morality is concerned I would recommend the Deputy to pursue his inquiries in this direction and to go back to a still more distant period, the period in which the Corporation of the time sought to have the Plunkett Street and the Coombe area dealt with as an insanitary area, look up the evidence of the parish priest of that district, which was probably the most intense slum area in the city of Dublin, and see the tribute he paid to the morality of the people. The conditions there were much worse than anything that now exists in the city of Dublin. There is nothing in that statement which discloses immorality. But the point with regard to that is, if there be the dangers that are involved there, there ought to be an effort on the part of everybody to have them remedied. The question is: Where are those efforts to come from? The Government can bring parties together. They can bring them into a room and get a chairman to preside over them; they can exhort them to find accommodation, but they cannot make them do it. There must be a sense of citizenship there, and there must be an appreciation of the magnitude of the problem. There must be a real sense of citizenship. We cannot do more than make an exhortation and point out the need for it. If I was a cranky individual on either side, listening to the speeches made here this evening, I would say as long as you have people whose simple solution of the housing problem is more money from the taxpayer there is no necessity for us to come to an accommodation. The money in respect of housing would be much more easily got by local authorities if there was not such a gap between the actual value of the house when constructed and the cost  of making it. Deputies know, when complaining that banks will not lend money, that the banks are simply doing what individuals would do if they were asked to lend money in the same circumstances. There is no great difficulty, if there is a sound proposition, in getting the ratepayers of a town to take portion of a loan if it is going to help in a difficult period.
My general opinion of the discussion that has taken place here this evening is that every person has selected some difficulty in this matter. One says there is no return from the operatives; another says there is not enough money from the Government; a third says there is mismanagement on the part of the builder; a fourth says the money is not cheap enough; a fifth says the only way of solving it is by salting the taxpayers of this country. It certainly is not creditable to this Dáil, and it is not going to solve the housing problem. No housing board is going to solve it. If we mean business in connection with this matter, there ought to be more pressure put upon both the principal parties to this industry. The industry cannot afford more than is in it, and the people of the country expect, when they put in such a huge sum of money as £2,000,000 in seven years, that there ought to be better results even than what we have got.
Mr. T.J. O'Connell: There are a few matters in connection with this question, not, perhaps, dealing directly with the Bill, but mainly with what the President has just said, that I would like to comment upon. He has ridiculed the suggestions that have been put up by every Party in this House, both here and elsewhere, for a solution of the housing problem. We all admit there is a problem. There is no question about that. I was waiting anxiously to hear from the President his solution of the housing problem. He, more than anyone else, being charged with responsibility, ought to be in a position to make a contribution towards the solution of the problem.
 We have heard no solution from him. If the solutions which have been suggested are to be criticised or ridiculed, the least we ought to expect from the President, who ridicules and criticises them, is his own solution of the problem. We have not heard it. He started off his speech by making a statement which I, in any case, do not agree with. He talked of the two parties involved in the question of housing, the builders and the builders' operatives, and stated these were the two bodies principally concerned. I totally disagree.
It is the people in this country who want houses who are most concerned in the problem and not the builders or the building operatives —neither one nor the other. If the President is taking up the position that it is possible for these two parties to hold up the building of houses, I for one do not agree. Like Deputy Rice, I do not know where the blame should be placed in this matter. I do not agree with the President that one or other of these bodies, or both of them together, should be allowed to stand in the way of a national solution of a national problem. With regard to what has happened in connection with this Conference, we have heard statements made by one side and the other. We have heard to-night for the first time that the builders as well as the operatives at, what Deputy Cassidy, I think, called, this purely Dublin Conference, put up proposals. We do not know what they are. Perhaps Deputy Good could tell us whether they were put up after or before the suggestions were put forward by the other side. I do not wish to discuss the proposals put up by one side or the other, but we have had it from Deputy Rice that the contribution made by either one side or the other was not, in his opinion, a contribution within the recommendations of the Unemployment Committee's Report.
I have very great respect for Deputy Rice, and have a high opinion of his judgment, but, with all respect to him, I do not think  that it is, or ought to be, the case that he and he alone in his own judgment, ought to be in a position of saying that these proposals were not contributions that ought to be considered towards the solution of this great question. It all comes back to this, that Deputy Rice is the pivot of the whole building problem in this country. That is what it really comes to. The builders put up proposals which, in their judgment or wisdom, they thought were contributions to the solution of the problem. The workers, on the other hand, put up proposals which they thought were contributions. Deputy Rice has stated in this House that in his judgment—and it has not gone beyond his judgment—neither of the proposals was such as would be of any use towards solving the problem. I suggest to the Government that it is not right that the matter should be left at that stage. I will not say any more than that. I think that the responsibility is with them. I put it that it is up to them to find a solution and, if one side or the other to this conference is not in a position to put up what they, as responsible people, consider to be a solution, it is for the Government to find a solution and put it before the House, irrespective of what the workers or builders think to be right or fair.
You will always have this negotiating and manoeuvring for position which goes on at conferences of this kind. I do not think that it was fair of Deputy Rice to read out the statement with regard to portion of the proposals put up from the workers' side unless he was in a position to give us the general atmosphere—for instance, what caused them to think that what the master builders were after was an actual worsening of their working conditions and a reduction in their wages. The President told us what he discovered in America. There are others of us who happen to have been in America, and one thing we did not find anywhere in America as leading to a solution of the problem was a reduction of wages or a worsening of the conditions of service in regard  to operatives. If the President made inquiries he would have found that there was such a thing as rationalisation, or something like it, not alone in the building but in other industries in the States that led to more and better work being done without any reduction as regards workers' wages and conditions. Quite the contrary. The President talks about the difficulty of entrusting the solution to anything in the nature of a national board or a national building trust, and he objects to handing over the baby to any such body. When, however, it was a question of the provision of another commodity, such as electricity, there was no such objection on the part of the Government. When electricity had to be produced on a national basis we handed over that baby to a board, or trust, and we do not think that the country is going to lose by it.
Mr. T.J. O'Connell: I am as sure of it as I can be of anything. I suppose Deputy Good would have the same objections to a national housing trust as he has to the Electricity Board and that his reasons for those objections would be the same. I cannot understand the attitude of the President in regard to this matter. With one voice he tells us that the mythical fifteen millions about which we have been hearing for the last three or four years can still be got, and in another voice he tells us that it is not a good time for borrowing. Which is it? Will he tell us what he and the Government understand by an economic basis for borrowing these fifteen millions? When do they hope to get down to it? The President says that the cost of building has been going down at a pretty rapid rate for seven years. When does he hope to reach the point at which it will be down sufficiently far for him to announce his comprehensive policy, if he has one? I took it that there was something like that in his mind, especially from what the Minister for Local Government  said when he gave it as one of his reasons—I think it was rather an extraordinary reason—for not opening the Local Loans Fund and giving money to local authorities to encourage them to build more rapidly. He gave me the impression that if that were done it would keep up the cost of building, as there would be so much building going on. Am I to infer that the policy of the Government is that the less building there is the more likely is the cost of building to come down? That seems to be extraordinary reasoning, but that is what I gathered.
I quite agree with those who say that this ought not to be made a Party question. Deputy Good and another Deputy fell into the common mistake of saying that it should not be a political question. That is a misunderstanding, in my opinion, of the highest meaning of the word “political.” These are the people who apparently think that politics mean only one thing in this country. It should not, however, be made a Party question. We should all do what we can to try and find a solution. We ought to have from the Government, that is charged for the time being with responsibility to the people of the country as a whole, a better contribution than we have heard up to the present as to what their solution of the problem is. We have here a Bill which is, admittedly, merely a temporary measure. We seem to be getting further and further away from that comprehensive building scheme about which we heard so much during the past year or two. If they have not a solution let them say so, but if they have such solution, I hope that before the debate closes we will hear from the Minister, on behalf of the Government, what their solution is. They object to handing over the baby to a board, but they are really handing it over to an unauthorised body.
They are putting the blame on the conference of builders and workers. It seems to me that that is the position that is taken up by the President. I do not know whether I understood him properly, but he said  that it was a problem for those two bodies who were the most concerned with it. It seems to me that he is handing over the problem to them and is waiting for their solution. If that is not so, let us hear from the Minister, on behalf of the Government, what their solution is for dealing with this national problem, which is of very great importance. If their solution is better than anything that has been suggested from these benches, I will be prepared to support it.
Dr. Tubridy: When Deputy Morrissey opened the debate to-day he spoke of the Minister as not looking upon this question from a national or broad outlook. Most of the speakers who followed him welcomed his statement that this problem should be looked upon from a national or a non-Party standpoint. Nevertheless, I notice that practically all the speakers who spoke to-day of the housing problem have confined themselves practically to the housing problem as it exists in the urban areas. I take it that this Bill is brought in for the purpose of relieving congestion and improving housing conditions generally, but it refers, or it practically comes to that, to the housing conditions of dwellers in the towns, especially Dublin and the bigger towns. The rural population, to which this Act and every Housing Act should apply, are the rural slum population in the West, along the coast—fishermen and those who live by the sea in the western counties of Galway, Donegal, Cork, Kerry and along the seaboard. There is nothing in this Act which can be of any value to them, or nothing in it which follows up the promises made by the Government in the Gaeltacht debate and since, in the various replies made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Lands and Fisheries and by the Minister for Local Government.
The housing conditions at present in the Gaeltacht are worse, I believe, than in the towns. I have heard Deputies refer to the number of people they have seen in two and  three-roomed houses. Some Deputies have said that a three-roomed cottage is not a fit house for a family in town. I know that in my area, along the western coast, and the Minister knows it, too, there are houses where there are from 10 to 17 persons living in one room. This Bill will in no way facilitate a solution of the housing question in these areas to which I refer. Some time ago questions were asked here as to the policy the Government were adopting in the improvement of housing conditions in the West. One answer was that houses were already being built in the congested areas by the Land Commission. Since that reply was given here I have travelled through the West of Ireland and I have not seen, except in the case of the wild cat scheme in the Cloosh Valley, any houses built by the Land Commission or any other Government Department. The Minister for Fisheries, replying to a question of mine here, stated that the heads of the different Departments were conferring with a view to reporting on the conditions and on the steps to be taken as regards housing. That reply was given to me before Christmas. I believe that Conference of the heads of the Departments was held, but whether any report was drawn up or whether the Government acceded to their demands, I do not yet know. What I do know is that conditions as regards housing in the West are as bad as, if not worse than when the Government came into office.
The Minister for Local Government, who is responsible for the Bill, travelled through Connemara and he knows the conditions as well as I do. He knows that the C.D. Board, which built houses, roofed houses, and built stables and out-houses for the congested people, was done away with and that nothing has been done to set up in its place some body to deal with the urgent and pressing problems that the Gaeltacht Commission undertook to relieve. It may be said that this grant of £45 will be of some value in roofing a house. I do not know that it can be  used for roofing; I do not think it can; but it might be said that it would be of use in rebuilding in the West. This grant of £45 will be of no value to the people in the West, who cannot afford to purchase materials and erect houses on the off-chance that the £45 will come along later. What the people are anxiously looking for is some scheme whereby a loan or a grant could be given, even if the grant were not so big, or even if a loan could be given by the Land Commission on the same conditions as loans were given by the C.D. Board. That would satisfy the people so far as the housing question is concerned. The materials will not be given to these people by the importers in the towns until they produce cash for them. For that reason these grants have not been availed of, so far, by the people in the West. Other Acts brought in here, on the same principle as this, were not utilised by the people in the poorer districts in the West except perhaps by shopkeepers and rather well-to-do people. None of the congested people, who dwell along the shore and who have families of seven, eight or nine living in one room, availed themselves of these grants so far, and will not avail themselves of this Bill. I hope the Minister, in his reply, will let us know whether any further steps are to be taken to improve housing conditions in the West and whether the Report of the heads of Departments has been printed or whether it will be acted upon.
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