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Vote 27—Local Government (Resumed).

Thursday, 29 September 1966

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 224 No. 3

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Debate resumed on the following motion:

That a sum not exceeding £8,581,450 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1967, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Local Government, including Grants to Local Authorities, Grants and other expenses in connection with Housing, and Miscellaneous Grants including certain Grants-in-Aid. in-Aid.

—(Minister for Local Government.)

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton Zoom on Mark A. Clinton Before progress was reported, I was expressing concern about the future of the building industry in the coming year because of the shortage of capital and credit to keep the industry going. I gave as one of the reasons for that concern the fact that applications for SDA loans have practically ceased to come in in the local authorities where the bulk of this work is normally done. I have already indicated that more than 40 per cent of all private house building in the country takes place in County Dublin. It is no harm, therefore, to give a list of the applications to the local authority in 1965 and 1966. In 1965 in April, the number of applications was 18; in May, 21; June, 19; July, 116; August, 135; September, 105; October, 112; November, 114; December, 42; January, 70; February, 56; and March, 30. In 1966, we begin with April, 48; May, 15; June, 6; July, 9; August, 11. This is an indication that the people have just given up and decided it is useless to apply to Dublin County Council for SDA loans because these are not available and because of the large number of applications that are waiting and cannot be met.

[447] I have also indicated that the building societies have closed down until January and I wonder what is to become of the 75,000 people normally employed in the building industry if there is no proper future planning and no indication of what amounts of money will be forthcoming, and when. Even in the present year much harm has been done by the fact that the money has been coming in fits and starts. Even though housing schemes were approved that, in fact, meant nothing because nobody knew when the local authorities would be permitted to start these schemes and when the contractor would be able to move in.

I want to leave that and move on to the Minister's contribution on housing of the aged. I was glad to see that he recommends very strongly that in any group of houses being built, certain provision should be made for the aged. From the expression of views of Deputies here on various sides of the House, I think that this is what everybody in fact wants. As few old people as possible should be taken from their normal home surroundings and put into county homes and so on. I visit many of these institutions for the aged. whereas the old people there could not be looked after better or be more comfortable, I nevertheless get the feeling that they have no interest in the place and are just waiting to die. Even if they were less comfortable but were back in their own areas, where they know the people and have an interest in what is happening around them, I believe that is the ideal solution and a far less costly one. I am totally opposed to the idea of putting people into institutions and settling the problem in that way.

The Minister expressed his disappointment that more progress is not being made in the provision of camping sites for itinerants. Everybody will agree that that performance has been disappointing but the Minister should examine why that has been so. We all appreciate it would be unChristian to say that these people must not be looked after and housed. Most [448] people would agree that they should have reasonable accommodation. But the fact remains that nobody wants to carry out the suggestions of the Commission on Itinerancy to set up camps of 40 families. Nobody wants 40 families of itinerants in any area. That will be opposed by society everywhere. Until we get away from this large-scale camp, which spells isolation rather than integration for the itinerants, and put in every parish from two to four families maximum, this problem will never be solved.

It is no good saying that we have the evidence of other countries. That may be so, but other countries present a very different set of circumstances and have a different type of itinerant. We have to deal with the problem as we have it and deal with it realistically. Local authorities should be urged to adopt this plan of housing from two to four families in each parish. It is well known that itinerants damage property and everything else wherever they are together in large numbers. They are at their worst in large numbers. But if you had this system of two to four families in each parish, with all the charitable and social welfare agencies providing the services and attention they need until they are rehabilitated, the problem would certainly be reduced and the method of solving it would be acceptable to the settled population.

Another thing which operates against the settlement of the problem, certainly in Dublin, is the fact that so many of the settled population are in such a deplorable housing condition themselves. If you start providing housing accommodation for itinerants and ignore the people there all their lives, who are in a bad way, again there is bound to be serious trouble. Pressure should be brought to bear to solve the problem in a way other than by the establishment of 40-family camps.

I want to refer now to this proposal to increase the rents of local authority tenants. I am totally opposed to it. Over the years these people should have been given an opportunity of purchasing their houses. In the corporation area, this was denied to them [449] and they have been unfairly treated. Even in the county council area, while the local authority were at liberty to set up a house purchase scheme, invariably people were held up because repairs were lagging behind. The vesting rent is related to the current rent of the cottage. If you succeed in putting up the rent now, the purchase rent will go considerably higher. In many cases these houses were built a long time ago at a modest figure. They have been well paid for since.

I know there are instances where a lot of money has been spent on the repairs. The objection is that repairs are becoming more expensive and the money must come from somewhere. It is true repairs are becoming more expensive but I believe there would be less repairs and they would be borne by the tenants, provided they were enabled to purchase their houses. It is ridiculous to allow the situation to arise that no change in rent takes place for a long number of years and then come along with an enormous increase and expect people to raise no objection. We are bound to have resistance to that sort of proposal which has been very foolishly presented.

I want to say a word on unfinished estates. All over the Dublin suburban area, there is this difficulty about unfinished estates. We have about 34 of them in the county alone. There is a motion on the Order Paper in Private Members' Time in the name of Deputy Seán Dunne and myself asking the Minister to do something to enable this problem to be overcome. Section 35 does not deal with the problem in the way we all expected it would. It does not do so for a variety of reasons which I intend to deal with when time is allowed for the motion. This is causing a lot of unrest and dissatisfaction among people who have been in estates from 15 to 20 years and have not yet get the normal services to which they are entitled. It is a problem the Minister is well aware of. For some reason he holds that the planning legislation in existence is adequate. All the legal advice we can get is that it is entirely inadequate for all the estates sanctioned prior to the new Planning [450] Act. However, we will have another opportunity of dealing with that. There are open spaces like wildernesses in most of these estates. Not only do they destroy the appearance of the estates but they invite rat infestation and everything of that kind.

I have for long advocated a speed limit for the whole country. I know there is no complete answer to the question of road accidents, but it is about time we considered a maximum speed limit of 60 m.p.h. I often go down the dual-carriageway driving at between 55 and 60 m.p.h. and mini-cars pass me out as if I were standing. I do not know what would happen any of these people if they got a burst tyre. The most serious accidents occur where the speed is much too fast.

Pollution is something that has come into the picture in recent times because of fish disease and the loss of fish in various rivers. I do not know how this is to be overcome. But if we are to allow industrial development and housing development to take place, it is something that must be closely watched. I believe it is possible to get a treatment works that is 100 per cent satisfactory, provided it is properly looked after during the period it is in existence. Invariably the anxiety is that in private hands it will be neglected and you may get this serious pollution from time to time. It should be understood that where there is any sizeable development and where a treatment works is permitted, it would then become the responsibility of the local authority so as to keep control over this matter. It is extremely important that the fishing should not be upset, being a valuable asset to the country. The public health is also at stake and, indeed, that is not second in importance. There is a good deal of pollution taking place at the present time and about to start, and it is something that should be watched very closely, at the same time being reasonable about it. There is a lot of development being held up unreasonably because we are aware of the dangers of pollution from treatment works and from sewage disposal of one sort or another.

[451] I spoke about the difficulties many people have in relation to financing house purchase and in finding themselves in a position to get into a house. It is a well known fact that this maximum loan of £2,700 with the 1948 grant of £275 added to it is totally inadequate and unrealistic in the light of present-day costs. In the Dublin area you now need a deposit of something like £1,000. I ask the Minister to consider what weekly income must a man with a family have before he is able to meet that sort of commitment. The repayments of principal and interest are extremely heavy. On £2,700, I am told the repayments are £4.4.8 per week, and that is without any other outgoings.

The cost of housing has increased enormously because we have not a large enough area of land serviced and there is enormous competition for the small amount of land available for building development. It is a serious matter that money is now so short for the provision and extension of existing sanitary services, because these are going to increase even more as time goes on, and every year building costs are increasing rather than decreasing.

I have always felt, too, that local government should play a more active and co-operative part in the establishment of industry. A certain amount of money should be provided by local authorities every year, that is, where demand is likely, for the building of factories to be let to industry. Many more industrialists would come here and find this a more attractive proposition to be able to rent industrial accommodation than have to go through all the difficulties and overcome all the problems associated with setting up a factory in a foreign country. Local authorities should be much more active in this regard than they have been. I do not think they have ever become aware of their responsibilities in regard to this type of thing at all.

Generally speaking, there is great need for reform in local government. We have been carrying on under the [452] present system for far too long and nobody has ever taken a serious look at it. One of the things that occur to me regularly is that there is a lot of local talent, quite an untapped force that we should be using to the advantage of the people, in the local residents' associations and in the local councils. These people are intimate with everything that is happening in the area and know what is needed there. Development would be far better and more acceptable to the people, and there would be a more responsible attitude towards property in the areas generally, if these people were made see they were part of it and had something to do with decision making in relation to the environment in which they live and the development taking place there. Residents' associations should be brought more into the picture and should be recognised by the Department of Local Government and by the local authorities.

Mr. Fahey: Information on John Fahey Zoom on John Fahey I shall not hold the House more than a couple of minutes, but I should like to take this opportunity of congratulating the Minister on the wonderful progress made this year, particularly in regard to the building of local authority houses. I have great sympathy with the Opposition Deputies who have all been trying to create the impression during the year that no houses would be built. Instead of that, we have the fact that more houses than ever before have been completed this year, and Deputies opposite find it very hard to convince the public that what they have been saying all the year is correct. It is not necessary for us to produce the figures relating to the achievements of the past year. The figures are there and the results are there for the ordinary people to see.

Coming up to Dublin on Tuesday last, I gave a lift to a man from Clonmel who was returning to England after spending a holiday in his native town. He had not lived in Clonmel for the past five years. Most of the way up he spoke about the progress that had been made in the town, and particularly of the progress that has been made in regard to housing. He [453] brought to my mind the fact that whole streets of old houses had been cleared and new ones built in their place. We appreciate very fully in Clonmel what the Department of Local Government has done in this respect. I am aware that quite a lot remains to be done, but I have no doubt that with the goodwill of all concerned and if the present Government remain in office for the next couple of years, the backbone of this problem will be broken.

Some time last May I had occasion to put down a question to the Minister for Local Government as to when he hoped to have a scheme of houses started in the Old Bridge area of Clonmel. Before he had the opportunity of giving me his reply, Deputy Dillon said across the floor of the House that this was an embarrassing question and one that should not be asked. The Minister in his reply, indicated that he hoped work would start on that building within the next month or so. I am glad to be able to inform the Minister here today that work on that site is now at an advanced stage and that within the next couple of months people will be going to live in those houses. That goes to show how wrong Deputy Dillon was on that occasion.

As I say, Opposition Deputies felt that no houses would be built this year and no progress would be made. They thought the position would be as it was in 1956 when building came to a standstill. We can say “thank God” that a Fianna Fáil Government were in office on the occasion of these difficulties and can be very thankful for the progress that has been made.

On Tuesday of this week I had occasion to put down another question to the Minister for Local Government as to when he hoped to have a building scheme started in the town of Fethard, Tipperary. In reply the Minister indicated that he hoped work would start in the very near future. I have every reason to believe that it will. The county council have acquired the site and all the preliminaries have been completed.

At present there is a scheme of 52 houses nearing completion in Carrick-on-Suir and when these houses are [454] available for letting the housing problem of that town will have been largely solved. There is a further scheme of houses in the town of Cahir which will be ready for commencement in the near future. Sites have been acquired in the villages of Ardfinnan and Newcastle. There was some delay with regard to the acquisition of sites. No blame could attach to the Department of local Government for that. It was necessary to have a compulsory acquisition order and that caused some delay. Nevertheless, the sites have been acquired and I expect that building will commence in the near future. Therefore, taking all in all, it will be seen that great progress has been made. South Tipperary are also going ahead with many smaller schemes throughout the county which are relieving the housing problem in the rural areas.

Deputy Treacy today referred to the fact that the planning authority require cottages to be built in groups. There are many advantages in that policy. It facilitates the laying of water and sewerage pipes. However, in South Tipperary many isolated cottages have been built where there was particular reason for it. For instance, if a person required to be housed in close proximity to his employment or a person had a small parcel of land or if there were any other special circumstances, a cottage was provided in an isolated area.

So far, I have dealt with the progress that has been made in the South Tipperary part of my constituency. I should like now to refer to the Waterford portion of the constituency. This year we have completed more houses than ever before in County Waterford but I regret to say that I am not satisfied with the amount of new work being got under way. This, again, is not the fault of the Minister for Local Government or his Department. Waterford County Council was given an allocation of £16,000 in the early part of the year and so far has not spent any of that money. I have no doubt that if Waterford County Council had gone ahead and carried out their building programme it would have got a further allocation [455] been the case of other councils. This is a shocking state of affairs, particularly in a county in which there is great need of housing. It is a crying shame and should be rectified.

I would appeal to the Minister to take whatever steps are necessary to make the acquisition of sites easier. Compulsory acquisition is at the moment a rather slow process and takes a lot of time. It has come to my notice recently that owners of large estates are inclined to fight acquisition to the bitter end. I deplore this attitude by large landowners. In South Tipperary, there is an estate of over 200 acres of which the county council desired to acquire a site for eight cottages. The matter went through the slow process of compulsory acquisition. An appeal went to the High Court. Notice of appeal was given only on the last day on which it was possible to appeal. The county council was not successful. The convenience of the landowner was put before that of the applicants for houses even though one applicant had been on the approved list for a period of 11 years. The estate to which I have referred is only one of a number of estates run by a group of people. They have two other estates of more than 1,000 acres each. Therefore, I would ask the Minister to pay particular attention to this problem. It will be very difficult to get alternative sites in that locality. If the applicants concerned are to accept a house elsewhere it will mean their giving up their employment and moving out of the locality.

I should like now to refer to the system of differential rents. Deputy Treacy referred in particular to the town of Clonmel. In my opinion differential rents are a “must” at the present time. If there were no system of differential rents the stage would be reached where poor persons in receipt of social welfare and others would not be able to accept new houses because of the high rents that would be payable. It is only under a differential rents system that such persons can be facilitated. It is only right and proper that persons should not be denied rehousing because of inability to pay a [456] high rent. That principle has been accepted by the municipal authorities. At their recent conference they accepted the system of differential rents. In Clonmel, the system of differential rents meant that 22 per cent of tenants got rent reductions. In a number of cases the reduction may not have been very great. Nevertheless, 22 per cent benefited by the differential rents scheme. I should also like to say that I consider some of the increases in rent altogether too steep and I agree with Deputy Treacy and join with him in an appeal to the Minister to have another look at the differential rents scale as applicable to tenants of Clonmel Corporation. That is very essential. We found some of the increases altogether out of proportion to the ability of the tenant to pay.

I do not agree with the system whereby a son or daughter, as the case may be, is regarded as the breadwinner of the family for purposes of assessment of rent. The father or mother has the responsibility of meeting the rent and the son or daughter may be giving up only a very small portion of their wages.

Deputy Flanagan made great play with a statement made by Senator Lenehan at the meeting of the County Councils' General Council on the occasion of the election of the chairman, to the effect that there was a possibility that county councils would in future be on a regional rather than a county boundary basis. Deputy Flanagan seemed to want to make the point that Senator Lenehan had some information of developments in that direction. I want to point out that I have no information of any such development but the idea strikes me as being rather a good one. If county councils were on a regional basis, they would be able to give better services to the people and their administration costs would be lower.

I am thinking particularly of my constituency where Waterford comes right up to the borough boundary of Clonmel, a distance of 35 miles from Dungarvan which is the administrative centre of Waterford County Council. It means that people who want to take [457] out driving licences or to tax their cars have to deal with the Dungarvan office. This causes them great inconvenience. It would be a much better arrangement if they could do their business with the South Tipperary County Council in Clonmel. It would reduce administrative costs also because engineers from Dungarvan have to supervise road works on the boundary of Clonmel when it could be done by South Tipperary engineers. The suggestion has a lot to recommend it and is worthy of the Minister's attention. I again appeal to the Minister to take whatever steps he thinks are necessary to make it easier for county councils to acquire sites for cottages. This is urgent in the light of experience we have had in South Tipperary.

Mr. O'Leary: The last speaker is a good example of the cannon fodder Fianna Fáil produce between elections. As a serious contribution to a debate on local government, I hope his speech will be published in the local paper. I can imagine what the readers' page of that paper will look like the following week. Putting it mildly, I do not think the Deputy was on very firm ground when he quoted the views of people who get lifts to Dublin as a basis for saying the housing situation is all right.

This Estimate can be regarded as our criterion for deciding whether the Minister is doing a good job in Local Government and we have concentrated mostly on housing. We have concentrated especially on the position in Dublin which I can say, for the information of certain Deputies from Clonmel, is very bad. They can contrast that with the advantages they say they enjoy in Clonmel in this respect. We have the figures to prove that there are 15,000 families badly in need of houses. They include people living in overcrowded rooms, six in one room, five in one room—people living in substandard accommodation, young married couples who do not have a family of the size that would gain them admittance to the corporation lists. Fifteen thousand families looking for accommodation in this city is not a situation we can consider to be a [458] happy one or a good one. It is certainly one in respect of which the Minister for Local Government cannot claim much credit in his supposed responsibility to house our people. We have figures to prove also that even if the Ballymun scheme goes full steam ahead as scheduled and even if every house is delivered as promised, it will not get rid of the extra people coming on the waiting lists and it will not get rid of the strain on the housing lists in the city in the years ahead.

On the corporation approved list at the moment—the list of families who are recognised as, being in need of housing accommodation according to corporation standards—we have 5,000, with 5,000 more on the unapproved list and 3,000 newly-weds. All are living in substandard accommodation. There are people living in Benburb Street. Foley Street, Corporation Place and elsewhere in the city in substandard accommodation but because of the charitable method by which the corporation compile their lists, these people cannot find their way into accommodation. They are living in conditions which would be regarded as unfit according to the standards of 60 years ago. The Minister should acquaint himself with the conditions in these areas. He should let some of his civil servants cut the tape down in Benburb Street on their way to Ballymun.

Deputy Booth from Dún Laoghaire spoke about the unflattering vista of the city's approaches from the west. I presume some of it would be the Benburb Street Flats. As I have said, they might have been regarded as suitable accommodation according to the standards of 60 years ago but could not by any stretch of the imagination be regarded as suitable according to the standards we expect for all our citizens today. We do not see in any of the proposals coming up any prospect of solving this serious housing situation in Dublin—this tragedy for the people involved. Deputies who have spoken have drawn attention to the hardship for the families who are faced with this accommodation problem, the problem facing young married couples [459] with one or two children whose only hope—let us be factual about it—of getting on the corporation approved list is to have another child, one which their economic position should not allow them to have, one which perhaps they would not have if they were allowed to make their own decision. The only method by which the corporation can get such people on their housing lists is to tell them they must have one more child in overcrowded conditions.

How many young married couples living with in-laws are in difficulties? Personal relations are strained between the in-laws and the older people and the young couple. These cases are legion in Dublin but at the moment there is very little any Deputy can do about it other than to repeat the hard facts of the situation: there is no accommodation. I represent a constituency in which 90 per cent of my time is spent listening to housing problems. How, therefore, could I be honest if, speaking on the Local Government Estimate, I complimented the Minister on a situation which is so bad?

On the question of SDA loans involving people who have been good enough to put savings aside to provide themselves with homes, a huge backlog exists and the local authority and the Minister are involved in the elaborate game of telling such people that they will be approved for accommodation and that their applications will be met when in fact the situation as we can see it is that apparently there is no money to meet the requests of these people. This is an elaborate game of hoodwinking ordinary people whose plans are being frustrated up and down the country.

It is time the Minister came clean on the housing situation. It is time he stopped sheltering himself behind surveys and reports. He no longer should offer the excuse that the local authorities are not preparing proper plans. Instead, he should come out honestly and tell us how many houses can be built this year and how many can be built next year so that Deputies [460] from all Parties in the House can tell their constituents honestly what the situation is. If the Minister and the Department are involved in a genuine mess, as they appear to me to be, let us have the facts behind this mess. Let us not hide any longer behind surveys, reports and the division of responsibility between the local authorities and the Department.

The Minister referred to the necessity for maintaining our stock of houses. I come from a constituency where, day by day, some landlords escape their obligations to keep the houses in good repair. When such landlords are brought by their tenants before the court for failing to maintain the houses in accordance with their obligations, they can get off with a fine of £1, which is laughable in the circumstances.

Is the Minister seriously concerned that the stock of houses should be maintained properly? If so, he will have to consider making far more extreme than at present the penalties on landlords who allow their property to fall into disrepair, sometimes for very obvious reasons. I know that the Minister and his Party are at all times in favour of turning over to commercial interests anything which is under community care. That is a great danger, especially in this area of housing. I am aware that legislation is contemplated which would deprive even the existing tenant of the protection he has in law against the landlord. I understand that legislation is contemplated to make the landlord even more dominant than he is at the moment.

Since the Minister represents a Party which is sympathetic to this trend, I want to make this point about proposed rent changes. There is the suggestion that tenants should be in a position to purchase their houses— that houses should, where possible, be taken out of the care of the local authority. It is well that citizens should own their own property and that we should nurture a sense of independence in each of our citizens but, unless we are very careful, we run a grave risk that houses built by the community, by the corporation, for example, will pass eventually into the hands of private [461] landlords and that, in fact, Dublin corporation and other local bodies will contribute towards extending the Rachmanism which exists at present in Dublin and in other parts of the country.

The weight of human misery in this area of housing needs is too great to be passed off as an achievement of the Minister or his period in this Ministry of Local Government as an achievement. If anything, we have been too charitable with the record. The Minister may plead that, due to bad weather and other factors, progress has not been greater. Surely it is disgraceful that situations such as exist in my constituency in the capital city of Ireland should be tolerated? I refer to the area I am most acquainted with in regard to housing. Consider the substandard accommodation in Keogh Square, and so on. It still flourishes and there is no pressure on officialdom that it should be abolished or that any move should be made to eliminate it. One could select countless stories in one's experience in dealing with constituents of the apparent lack of care and consideration for the problems of individual people who are caught up in this dreadful housing mess that exists at the moment.

I recall that a lady came to me recently who lived in a house in my constituency which the corporation considered to be in a dangerous condition. Technically speaking, there was a slight bulge in the wall of this small cottage but, inside, it was in pretty good repair. The woman had three children. The house had stood for the past 20 years and, in the present housin situation, it could have been allowed to stand for some time ahead. However, the corporation decided that this woman could no longer remain in the dwelling and they transferred her to Hollywood Buildings. She and her children were given an upper floor flat and they were only a week there when two of the children fell through the upper window and one was killed in the courtyard below. I am not suggesting that the officials of the corporation did this in any way deliberately. It is merely one of the mistakes that will occur in any bureaucracy. Too many of [462] us and indeed, many of the Government speakers in this debate have been willing to compliment the Minister on his non-achievements in this field.

The Minister may come from Donegal but he sits in the hot seat as far as the situation troubling Dublin at the moment is concerned, the housing situation. The present bad housing record of Dublin Corporation, the present lack of achievement of this Administration in housing in Dublin city, will be a No. 1 consideration for my Party in the local elections. Week after week and day after day and night after night, I and other representatives meet constituents and must explain the situation to them. We must say whose is the responsibility and put an end to this kind of duet in which the Minister protects his inactivity by hiding behind the local authority and pretending he is not responsible. The present Minister for Local Government is the man responsible for housing in this country and his record in Dublin city is shameful.

With regard to the general scheme of planning in Dublin, the situation now is that we have to make almost a choice between motor cars or people in the centre of the city. If we want to be realistic about the problem of traffic in the centre of the city, then we must face the fact that the motor car must be outlawed from the centre of Dublin. I was interested during this debate to hear people talk about road problems. Indeed, one could divide the speakers in this debate into those Deputies who were concerned about road manners and road traffic and those Deputies who were concerned about what is to my mind the No. 1 priority, namely, housing. If we are to be able to live in the centre of the city as a normal community we shall have to outlaw the motor car from the centre of Dublin and depend on public transport in that area. In many districts where houses are being cleared, we appear to be clearing them only to make way for car parks. This appears to me to be a mistaken policy.

Furthermore, the present trend of schemes of flats, and so on, some miles from the centre of the city is wrong. We are open to the criticism [463] of being extremely careless about the maintenance of community life in the older or historic parts of the city. I suppose one can have some sympathy for my own position since I represent a constituency which is being bulldozed day after day. There are however, other considerations involved and to my sorrow, some of the older parts of Dublin disappear and the fact is that community life and good neighbour relationship between people living in an area is not something that can be built up overnight. The delinquency we all deplore, a feature in both urban and rural areas, can be attributed to this lack of community spirit. It all boils down to the fact that we are too cavalier in our treatment of the older community centres. To expect a community centre to evolve merely because, by a wave of a wand, the Minister decides a scheme will arise on virgin land somewhere on the perimeter of Dublin is an extremely shortsighted and superficial policy.

It is family life which is at stake at the moment in this matter of housing in Dublin. We do not give people much chance of having a normal family life because of the present situation in regard to housing. Dublin Corporation are culpable in this respect in that in the selection of tenants, they do not sufficiently publicise their particular priorities and the criteria upon which they decide a tenant's need. The corporation are doing nothing to dispel the confusion that exists publicly as to those who are entitled to houses and those who are not.

At a time when most of us are anxious that there should be no more money spent on useless posts, I would suggest that a post, an important post, upon which the corporation might usefully spend money would be that of public information officer in order to ensure that the public would have correct, up-to-date information with regard to the housing situation. What one has at the moment is overworked officials in the corporation housing department, besieged once a week by [464] tenants who do not know where they stand in the housing queue. Until the corporation give this information in clear terms to the public, they cannot blame the public for thinking unkindly of Dublin Corporation.

Who are the beneficiaries of this kind of confusion? Councillors who, for their own reasons, set themselves up to be experts in regard to the housing of our people. They batten on the confusion and on the misery of the people. They set themselves up as the authority. It is time Dublin Corporation came out publicly as the housing authority and gave the facts to the public, either through weekly bulletins, or in some other way. I and other Deputies have had constituents coming to us over the past few months giving us this, that and the other press reports, unauthorised reports, about the housing situation. These people travel long journeys to the corporation on useless errands because their position is such that it does not warrant them getting housing priority. The corporation do nothing about informing the public what the situation is.

We do not see much hope in the programme outlined by the Minister of the housing situation being cleared up in the years ahead. That is a great tragedy. I can assure the Minister we could find many more faults in the administration of Government Departments and many more points of policy on which to disagree, but, where housing is concerned, we are all agreed as to housing need. A few years ago there was a scarcity of employment. Today there is a scarcity of housing and that may be a factor in the emigration that is undoubtedly occurring. People in well-paid employment have been unable to obtain decent family accommodation and have, as a result, emigrated to Britain or elsewhere.

An honest declaration of the urgency of the present problem should be made at the earliest opportunity. I would be for lifting housing out of the arena of Party politics, provided the Minister comes clean on the actual situation. Because the Minister will not come clean and because it is impossible to avoid making this matter one [465] of public controversy, we are compelled to deal with it in a political way, as the present Administration do not appear to be concerned about the great hardship imposed on so many innocent people: 15,000 people are looking for houses in Dublin and we see no hope of the Minister's programme catering for their need. Remembering the numbers who will be added to that 15,000 in the years ahead, we see less hope for them too.

The extraordinary thing is that there is no shortage of office blocks and no shortage of investment for that kind of building. There does not appear to be any shortage of credit or any cutting down of building activity in certain private sectors for certain income groups. As an earnest of his good intentions, the Minister should consult with the building industry and concentrate all the efforts of that industry on meeting the needs of these 15,000 families in the city of Dublin at the moment. We should put a moratorium on luxury building and concentrate on the provision of family accommodation. That at least would be an indication to the people who are now impatient and who do not agree that anything is being done about providing houses for them. It would also be an earnest of the good intentions of the Minister.

Mr. Reynolds: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds Speaking last Tuesday, the Minister said:

Costs of local authority housing continue to rise and present us with [466] a very serious challenge. Unless it is possible to find ways and means. of reducing, or at least holding these costs, further increases will inevitably result...

From that statement, one might conclude that the Minister had no responsibility for the increased costs. One might conclude that the Government had no responsibility for the increased costs in the building industry. Only a short time back we had the introduction of the 2½ per cent turnover tax. That substantially increased the price of building material. Not alone that but it also increased the cost of wages of those engaged in the industry. That was bad enough but, on 1st October, we shall have the wholesale or selective tax coming into operation. We have had a kind of stopgo policy on the part of the Minister for Finance for some weeks back. One day one reads that timber is exempt, another day something else is exempt, and another day one reads that whatever it is is not exempt at all. It is very difficult to know at the moment what the situation will be or to know what will or will not be exempt. But, even though some materials may be exempted, the result will be a substantial increase in the cost of housing.

Progress reported: Committee to sit again.

The Dáil adjourned at 5 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 4th October, 1966.


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