We fully endorse the evidence given by many witnesses that the surroundings of a tenement house, in which there can be no privacy, and in which the children scarcely realise the meaning of the word ‘home’, form the worst possible atmosphere for the upbringing of the younger generation, who, as one of the witnesses stated, acquire a precocious knowledge of evil from early childhood.
While there has been a slight reduction in the death-rate in Dublin from all causes in recent years, still the death-rate for the year 1911, the last year for which complete returns are available for the United Kingdom, was higher than in any of the larger centres of population in England, Wales or Scotland, and we fear that, until the housing problem is adequately dealt with, no substantial reduction in the death-rate may be hoped for.
Speaking generally, the tenement house property in Dublin is owned by a large number of small owners, who, as Mr. Travers told us at an interview subsequent to the inquiry, hold at the most about forty persons each per house.
The principal owners of tenement houses sitting as members of the Corporation are Alderman G. O’Reilly, Alderman Corrigan, and Councillor Crozier, who are returned to us in the evidence as either owning, or being interested in, nine, nineteen, and eighteen tenement houses respectively, and in four, thirteen, and one small houses; while ten other members of the Corporation own or are interested in one to three tenement houses, and Alderman O’Connor owns or is interested in two tenement houses and six small houses.
We regret to have to report that some of the property owned by the three first-named gentlemen, and from which they are deriving rents, is classed as third-class property by the sanitary staff, or, in other words, that it is unfit for human habitation.
A feature which makes this all the more discreditable is that actually, on some of this class of property, both Alderman O’Reilly and Alderman Corrigan are receiving rebates of taxes under Section 75 of the Corporation Act of 1890. Councillor Crozier is also receiving a rebate on property which, though not classed as being unfit for human habitation, is not, however, in our opinion, in such a condition of repair as to warrant a rebate being given, and does not comply with the express conditions required by the Corporation.
In two instances, affecting twelve dwellings belonging to Alderman Corrigan, the property was certified by the sanitary sub-officer as not fit for a rebate, but was subsequently passed as fit on the authority of Sir Charles Cameron. In the first instance, comprising ten dwellings, it was stated that the drains were not properly trapped or ventilated, and that the entire premises were not kept clean or in a good state of repair.
In the other case, comprising two dwellings, it was stated there was not proper and sufficient yard space, and that the tenants had no water-closet accommodation, and were compelled to use the water-closet accommodation attached to another set of cottages.
Mr. Corrigan admits having done nothing to the drains in the former case, after the inspection by the sanitary sub-officer, and the evidence of Mr. Travers would show that the sanitary accommodation provided for the use of the tenants in the latter case, which was, as stated, used in common by the occupants of other cottages, consisted of only three water-closets for eighty-one persons.
Sir Charles Cameron stated in his evidence that he accepted full responsibility in these cases.
The plea of the Corporation, in regard to the insufficiency of their powers, would have considerably more force were it supported by evidence of a rigid administration of existing powers. The facts, however, would go to show that Sir Charles Cameron has taken on himself a dispensing power in regard 259 to the closet accommodation stated to be necessary under the by-laws relating to tenement houses, and we have ascertained that out of 5,322 tenement houses there are 627 with sanitary accommodation at the rate of one closet for 20 to 24 persons, 299 with accommodation at the rate of one closet for 25 to 29 persons, 145 with accommodation at the rate of one closet for 30 to 31 persons, 58 with accommodation at the rate of one closet for 35 to 39 persons, and 32 with accommodation at the rate of one closet for 40 or more persons.
So far we have dealt with the condition of life in tenement houses, but we have still to deal with those obtaining in what are termed by the sanitary staff of the Corporation second and third-class houses, other than tenement houses. Some of these structures scarcely deserve the name of house, and could be more aptly described as shelters. A number of them are erected in narrow areas almost surrounded by high buildings, with alleys or passages, which in some cases are scarcely more than nine or ten feet wide, as a means of approach. These houses have, as a rule, no separate closet accommodation, but one or two, or occasionally more, closets situated somewhere in the vicinity are common to the occupants of the cottages or anyone who likes to use them, while the water tap, situated close by, is also common.
The houses are, therefore, as far as sanitary arrangements are concerned, in much the same category as the tenement houses, and in all cases where we inspected, in which the closets were common, they were exceedingly dirty and badly kept, and unfit for use by persons of cleanly habits.
These rows of cottages may be said to suffer from many of the drawbacks of tenement houses, and they have the added disadvantage referred to, of being in some cases surrounded by high walls and buildings, which shut out light and air.
Last updated on 15.8.2003