Dáil Éireann - Volume 339 - 27 January, 1983

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - House Grants.

10. Mr. Coughlan asked the Minister for the Environment when the conditions pertaining to house improvement grants will be reviewed.

11. Mr. Coughlan asked the Minister for the Environment if he will establish [588] a committee to re-assess the whole question of house improvement grants with particular reference to clauses which militate against rural areas.

Mr. Quinn: I propose to take Questions Nos. 10 and 11 together.

A review of the house improvement grants scheme is not at present contemplated. The scheme, which was introduced in October 1981 and expanded to include an additional category of works in April 1982, is of general application throughout the country. There are therefore, no clauses which militate against rural areas as suggested by the Deputy.

Mr. Coughlan: A number of applicants for house improvement grants were refused because they had commenced work prior to the date outlined when the scheme commenced and in view of the fact that very few people are involved will the Minister consider incorporating such people under the terms of the scheme? I am sure the Minister is aware that many people in rural areas did not see the advertisements in the national newspapers outlining details of the scheme and this led to some applications being rejected.

Mr. Quinn: I sympathise with the sentiments expressed by the Deputy. My information is that already 2,000 applications have been refused or turned down on grounds such as the Deputy referred to. I understand that initially upwards of 30 per cent of the applications received by the Department for such grants were rejected on the grounds that work had started before the inspector arrived on the site. In those circumstances, and in view of the fact that at least three of my predecessors held the line in regard to relaxation of the terms of the scheme because a change would create a precedent, I am not prepared to accept the Deputy's proposal. I am aware of the difficulties.

Mr. Molloy: Will the Minister say whether in some circumstances his Department would be justified approving payment of grants in emergency cases?

[589] Mr. Quinn: The Deputy has tabled a question in regard to that matter and I will deal with it later.

12. Mr. Coughlan: asked the Minister for the Environment when the level of new house grants will be updated.

Mr. Quinn: I have no proposals at present for an increase in the new house grant of £1,000.

Mr. Coughlan: In view of the fact that the grant in 1972 was £900 is it not reasonable for the Minister, 11 years later, to consider increasing it? The grant is £1,000 but since it was increased to that figure inflation and building costs have increased.

Mr. Quinn: On the surface, what the Deputy says appears to have some validity but if one looks at the effect the grant had on the price of housing one would see that in real terms the benefit did not go to the house purchaser. The whole idea behind the scheme was to give first time purchasers of houses direct financial assistance. I suggest that the £3,000 mortgage subsidy scheme introduced by the Deputy's party is a more effective way of meeting the social requirement the Deputy has identified.

Mr. Coughlan: The Minister should bear in mind that many elderly people cannot be considered for the latter scheme because a prerequisite of it is that they must have negotiated a loan. That clause militates against such people. Obviously there is an imbalance in the system.

Mr. Quinn: Relative to the objectives of the housing grant scheme and the limited finances available to us I cannot agree with the Deputy.

Mr. Coughlan: I take it that people can look forward to having to cope with the grant limit being kept at £1,000 for a long period? That grant is not comparable to the grants available to people in Northern Ireland.

[590] Mr. Quinn: The only thing the Deputy can take from my reply is that we do not have any proposal to increase the £1,000 grant available at present.

Mr. Coughlan: May I take it that at some stage it will be increased?

Mr. Quinn: The Deputy may take it that it will be constantly under review.