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Thursday, 3 April 1941

Senator DEIN (New South Wales) . - I believe that the bill will make a useful contribution to the problem of housing the Australian people. Admittedly mistakes were made after the last war in the administration of the war service homes scheme, but I do not think that they will be repeated, because the commission has since gained a great deal of experience. In the early stages of the scheme many mistakes were made because houses were badly designed and their construction was faulty. I have first-hand knowledge of war service homes estates near Sydney and I claim to possess some knowledge of valuations. Some of the cottages are worth about 75 per cent, of the valuation placed on them by the commission. They should be revalued and sold at the highest price that can be obtained. The homes constructed in the later stages of the scheme were of a much better type. The designs are better, and generally they are a good class of property. The number of homes erected under this scheme is 37,385, but more than 400,000 soldiers enlisted in the last war. Many of the returned soldiers preferred to buy homes without the assistance of the commission. If, say, 10 per cent, of the soldiers returning from the present war apply for homes to be provided by the War Service Homes Commission they will receive special concessions. I should like to learn whether concessions are to be made to soldiers who already own homes or who prefer to buy them without the assistance of the commission. That opens up a wide problem which must bc considered on very broad principles.

Senator Amourreferred to the fact that repayments are made over a period of about 37 years, but 37 years is little in the life of a well-constructed cottage. Payments have to be spread over that time because weekly repayments of principal and interest are smaller than the rent that would be charged for similar houses in different circumstances. Many occupants of war service homes in Sydney are purchasing their homes on weekly payments which are from 25 to 50 per cent, less than they would have to pay on a rental basis. I have always found that the War Service Homes Commission has administered the department most sympathetically. The fact cannot be disguised that frequently through their own fault many returned soldiers have forfeited their homes. Every representation that I have made to the commission on behalf of these men has been treated fairly and sympathetically. Nevertheless the proposed new scheme will be better than the old one because the commission has profited by the mistakes made in the first scheme.

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