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DEPARTMENT OF WORKS & HOUSING
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- Four Broadcasts -
Talks delivered in November, 1945» over Australian Broadcasting
Commission Stations in the nThe Road Ahead” session;
1 . The Housing Problem -
by Mr, A. W. Weloh, Commonwealth Director of Housing.
2, The Commonwealth Experimental Building Station -by Mr. D. V. Isaacs, Director of the Station.
3» The Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement.
by Mr. L. P. D. 0‘ Connor, Commonwealth Deputy Director of Housing.
4« War Servioe Homes -
by Mr. A. I. Smale, Deputy Commissioner of the War Service Homes Commission,
THE HOUSING PROBLEM -✓
By Mr. A. ¥. Weloh, Commonwealth Direotor of Housing.
I oannot paint a oompletely rosy pioture of the housing situation, but is fair to say that a lot more has been done than some folk would, lead us to believe. There has been'one really important development in Australian housing during the war, and the next few years will bring muoh more progress. The major development is the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement.
The Commonwealth Government regards this agreement as a major social advance. It lays the foundation for a scheme of housing for low income families which is unique in Australian history. The ' Agreement provides for the Commonwealth to lend money to the States, who will build tens of thousands of houses for renting to families not in a position to purchase a home. This will fill a gap previously existing in Australian housing Rolicy. It is an impressive example of Commonwealth-State Co-operation, for the States will actually build the houses and play a major part in this soheme.
Government and semi-Government bodies provide numerous schemes for purchasing houses on easy terms of repayment, but it was not until this agreement came into being that the rental group were provided for. Some people cannot afford to purchase houses; some are young and' haven1 t settled down to a regular job in one plaoe. Railway men, bank clerks and teachers are always on the move. Houses at reasonable rents are needed for all these. On the purchase side, the Commonwealth Government has recently passed an amending Commonwealth Bank Act which will ensure long term loans for housing purposes at low interest rates. The War Service Homes Commission will lend to servicemen money for home purchase on terms and conditions which I do not think can be surpassed anywhere in the world.
In New South Wales and Viotoria, whioh together make up two-thirds of Australia1 s population, co-operative building sohemes are in operation under State Government guarantee. These sohemes allow the small home purchaser who wishes to get his house in an individual way to gain the advantages of combined borrowing and at the samé time protect him as far as possible. Further more; every State has, through its State bank or oredit foncier institution, a means for giving loans at low interest rates and small deposits - sanetimes for the purohase of homes.
So much for that side. On the technical side there are difficulties, but -there is no reason why they shouldn’t be overoome. We hope to take housing from the horse and buggy era into the machine age.
We can beat do this if we avoid fluctuating demand for houses*. Groat savings are to ho made by the building of houses in estates. New technical methods can undoubtedly be developed so that parts at least of houses can be made in the factories, to be assembled on the site.
The conditions of building workers should be improved so that more men will come into the industry. There appears no reason why the industry should not progress steadily towards continuous full employment.
Of course, if you build big new estates', they must be mòre than bricks'and mortar; They must contain shops, meeting places, playing fields, nurseries, schools and facilities of all kinds, to make a complete community life. The Commonwealth will back up the states to make the new suburbs and towns which will spring up worthy environments for our citizens,
Special attention has been given to the needs of the Serviceman. Quite apart from the War Service Homes programme, at least 50$ of all houses built under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement are to be allocated to Servióemen and their families. People in difficult housing conditions, particularly those with large families, will also
be given speoial consideration.
Finally, I should like to say a word of warning. Reoautly house construction has picked up a good deal.' But there are some bad bottle necks in materials. At present bricks, fittings and flooring timber are very short, but the increasing flow of men from the services should
fradunlly improve this position. There is little doubt that eventually hose who want houses will get them, but it is going to take time,'however successful our efforts, I would suggest then, that everyone, while'reserving the right to criticise if things go too slow or go wrong, should not pay too muóh attention to the destructive critic.
In the last war year over 10,000 houses were under construction and well over twice that number will be under construction this year. We are hll out to get houses and you may be assured that all State and Commonwealth and private building bodies are bending their best energies to the task.
THE COMMONWEALTH EXPERIMENTAL 30ILDING STATION -
by Mr. D. V. Isaaos, Director of the Statior.-
:rffhe Ccmmonwealth Experimental Building Station was recently established in Sydney to investigate the problems of building, and is concentrating all its efforts at present on construction that can be useful in housing. The Conrnonwealth Experimental Building Station is not a Department to control people or materials; it is a practical research organisation whose energies will be directed towards finding new methods of construction that will enable the greatest possible concentration of labour and materials to be directed to building.
Knowing the possibilities of all building'materials and equipment, it will seek to employ these materials and equipment in ways most suitable to their economical use. In thus seeking to employ than it will have regard not merely to theoretical possibilities but also to practical methods of construction. For this reason the Commonwealth Experimental Building Station combines on the one site the unusual arrangement - possibly unique in the world - of a group of technical specialists, and practical'workshop and site-testing facilities where parts of houses may be built, the practical building operations watched and timed and the finished work tested in various ways.
So much has been written and spoken of late regarding future building possibilities that a few words from one who knows what is scientifically possible and feasible may prove not inopportune.
I expect the future will show that we will build firstly in brick and timber as we have done, but with various improvements introduced from ti-'e to time; secondly in concrete, using methods of construction ranging from comparatively crude ones in which concrete operations are carried out on the site to highly developed factory production methods wherein high quality conorete pieces will be produced under ideal production conditions, transported to the site and quickly erected; and thirdly in metals, timber and special facing materials, where the methods of production must increasingly approach the factory methods used in the motor car and aeroplane industries.
All these three methods of construction will have their places, as none of them alone oan hope to cope with the present housing shortage.
If'the second and third methods I have mentioned prove successful, that is, if the methods employing advanced concrete technique and those employing the factory production methods of engineering are to prove successful, the public must rid its mind of prejudices; it must not expect to be forever' supplied with houses that look like brick houses with red tiled roofs*
Unfortunately, for various reasons, the public of this country has ccme to expect a postwar home which, in its internal set-up, is very different from the pre-war heme, and includes all the modern conveniences of the most up to date and expensive hemes. It would be wise to expect only a gradual introduction of modern internal conveniences, but a complete change in external appearance in keeping with the best uses of available constructional materials.
The Commonwealth Experimental Building Station some months ago made arrangements to import into Australia four modern English prefabricated homes. They are about the best types available from the projected English programme» One of the foUf is the much publicised Airoh or alUmihium house» When these four hoUses are erected ih Australia - and I do not anticipate this will be very far ihto next year - the public will be able to see for itself what modern sciehce can do in the buildirig field* I must warn you, however, that none of these hemes will appear at all like a brick house with a tiled roof although they are fitted up quite well with modern conveniences.
The Station itself has Vefy advanced ideds oh construction which it hopes ultimately to be able to demonstrate. In the not distant iiiturs it hopes to bo able to build as well, through special building authorities and using less unusual designs, houses to serve, as the English houses will, as demonstration models*
Any houses which are built for the Station to the Station’s designs will incorporate novel ideas in which mere strength of construction or other tangible features subject to direct test will be associated with less tangible features on which one important test will be that of public reaction.
I therefore look forward with great interest to what will be the public reaction to the English houses and our own demonstration houses No doubt you and I will both receive somo surprises."
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THE COMMONWEALTH-STATE HOUSTI^JÆKEMENT -by Mr, L,P,D, O’Connor, Commonwealth Deputy Direotor-of'Housing,
'The Director of Housing, Mr, Welch, told you that the Commonweal tfi -State Housing Agreement was the major development in Australian "housing during the war. Let me tell you a little'more about this Agreement and how it is proposed that it should work.
The gunesis of the Agreement can be traced to the fifst interim Report of the Commonwealth Housing Commission, in October, 1945»
The Corrmission recommended that the Cbmmonwealth Government should aotively participate in housing the people, especially those of the low income group. They also recommended full use of all existing State Government housing authorities and other housing institutions. To ensure these objectives they recommended that financial assistance should be made available by the Coimonwealth,
The Curtin Government adopted these recommendations and commenced negotiations which led to the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement now just being finished.
Briefly, the Agreement provides for the Commonwealth Government to make advances to each State Government for the purpose of constructing houses which are to be let primarily to low income families at a rental within their capacity to pay. To ensure this, a new principle in Australian housing has been introduced, whereby rental rebates are to be given to all families who oannot afford'the so-called ’economic rent*. These rebates will oause losses, and the Commonwealth will pay three-fifths of them.
Thus the Agreement is to do two things - it is to bring to the low income group large numbers of houses of a standard not previously enjoyed by them, and it is to make than available at a rental that they oan afford.
The Coimonwealth Government accepted the view of the Coimonwealth Housing Commission that a basic wage family should not pay too hi$i a proportion of its income in rent, and the rental rebate scheme is designed to reduce' the rents of State houses accordingly. At basic wage level the family will pay a fifth of its income in rent. The rebate will gradually diminish as the family1 s income rises above the basic wage, and increase as the family1 s income falls below the basic wage. No house is to be let at a rental of less than eight shillings a week.
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You will see that-thf^ soheme really inoludes .a further element of child•endowment, because a family pays rent not according to the size of the house required, but according to its income. A'large and a small family on the same incane will pay the same rent, notwithstanding that the larger family occupies a larger and, consequently, more expensive home.
The Agreement provides, moreover, that the States may give a tenant of a State house an opportunity to purchase it should he desire to do so. Arrangements may be made to credit the tenant with that portion of the rent which represents capital repayment.
The States will act as principals» They will design the houses, construct them and own them.
Furthermore, this Agreement is intended to raise the standard of housing throughout Australia. To that end, all States hâve agreed to pass adequate legislation, if they do not already have it, to enable the development of slum clearance and town planning. The standard of housing at present being erected under the Agreement is quite good, and despite the shortage'of materials compares more than favourably with that in New Zealand, England, and America. One important feature of the scheme is the allocation of these houses. During the period when housing is so short, and there is active competition for each ’ ' house, spécial care must be taken to ensure jûstice, Dwellings are, therefore, to be allocated on a basis of need, which will be worked out from time to time between the Commonwealth and the States, Family ' size and present living conditions, including over-crowding or eviction, are to be considered. But a substantial proportion of dwellings - at present it is not leés than - is to be allocated to service and ex-service personnel, members of the Merchant Navy and their widows and dependants,,
Progress under the Commonwealth-State Housing Scheme is improving. Almost 6.000 houses have been commenced, and almost 2,200 houses have been completed under the programme. As skilled artisans are released from thé Services, we can look for rapidly expanded production in the factory, which is necessary to raise production on the site.
The scheme is a distinct advance in housing in Australia, as it provided a good standard of housing fof those people who had not previously been satisfactorily catered for, and it will rank well in the fore-front of housing schemes throughout the world,,'
nm SERVICE HOMES -
By Mr. A.I. Smale, Deputy Commissioner of the War Servioe Homes Commission.
The purpose of the Wat1 Servioe Homes Aot is to assist certain classes of eligible persons, including those who were enlisted or appointed for or employed on active service outside Australia or on a ship of war and who have received a certificate of discharge from their'service with the Defence Forces of the Commonwealth, to obtain a home.
In order to be eligible for assistance under the Act an applicant must be married, about to marry or have dependants for whan it is necessary to maintain a hone. He must be able also to satisfy the Commission that he is in a position reasonably to meet the terms and conditions of the security to be entered into for repayment of the loan.
'The maximum amount which may be approved at the present time is £350, but the question of increasing this statutory limitation is receiving consideration and it is possible that a greater sum may be made available at a later date. A term not exceeding if5 years may be granted for repayment of a loan by monthly instalments covering principal and interest at the rate of per annum. To meet the wishes of an applicant the period of repayment a$n be arranged over a lesser term in any case.
Each applicant is required to lodge a deposit and to meet certain legal fees and charges in connection with the application. The amount of deposit varies in proportion to the risk involved in the particular proposal. In a building case this may take the form of cash or the land upon which the building, is to be erected, or both.
An application may be lodged for the erection of a home'either on land owned by the applicant or on land to be selected by him, and a purchaser or borrower is allowed full freedom of choice of locality and design of the home dcsirc-d. Construction may be'carried out in brick, timber or other materials of approved standard, and where desired the Commission ill prepare plans and specifications embodying the applicant« s requirements. It also will call tenders and supervise the erection of the home. Fees to cover the cost of these services are capitalised by the Commission and form pdrt of the final cost of the land and dwel ling-house. Alternatively, an applicant may employ his own architect and builder if desired. However, as the Act requires all homes to be substantial and durable, plans and specifications are subject to the approval of the Commission and must be submitted for examination before any constructional work is commenced.
Whilst the Commission is of the opinion, in view of the acute ' housing shortage, that it is preferable to build rather than to buy, it will accept applications for the purchase of an already erected dwelling-house or for the discharge of a mortgage existing upon an applicant* s property. Any such proposal will receive consideration having regard to the provisions of the Act, the deposit or equity to be provided, the suitability of the property fran a point of view of risk and the general conditions of purchase.
The ¿rt requires that all proposals approved by the Commission must represent a satisfactory risk, and intending applicants are strongly advised not to commit themselves to the purchase of any land or land and dwelling house, or to enter into any contract involving financial obligations, until they have first consulted the Commission as to thejr position,,
Although eligibility cannot be determined until after discharge has been effected, the Commission has decided to receive applications from persons still serving in the Forces where such service brings them within the provisions of the War Servioe Homos Aot. This is being done solely for the purpose of enabling such persons to establish a position on the priority list, so that the case may bo proceeded with as expeditiously as possible after the applicant has obtained his discharge and the Commission is able to deal with the proposal.
Forms of application and any other details connected with the provision of war service homes may be obtained at any State branoh of the Commission either by personal or written inquiry, and intending applicants who may require further information are advised to consult the Deputy Cormissioner in the State in which they desire to obtain assistance,. In Western Australia the authority to be consulted is the Workers* Homes Board, Perth, which ■institution acts for the Commission in that State»-
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