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Social Housing Policy In The Uk

2826 words - 12 pages

The need for social housing in the UK

“Housing is not a question of Conservatism or Socialism, it is a question of humanity.” [Harold Macmillan]

To state that there is a housing problem in the UK is to almost repeat an established truth. But, controversially, it is true to state that the UK does not have a housing crisis. It is, more specifically, a shortage of affordable housing that provides the source and mainstay of any problem with housing in the UK. This is a situation that, in contemporary times, has been addressed by means of social housing policies - homes built by local authorities to provide secure tenancies at reasonable rents for those in society with lesser means. ...view middle of the document...

‘The Housing of the Working Classes Act’ (1890) is the modern origin of a social housing policy in the UK; this act encouraged local authorities to take an interest in the improvement of housing provision. ‘Homes fit for heroes’ was the rallying cry of Liberal Prime Minister, Lloyd George’s First World Wartime coalition government, and the planning and implementation of a housing policy was an election promise. The need was identified by the chronic shortage of available housing – Dr Marian Bowley in ‘Housing and the State, 1919-1944’ (1945) calculated that the shortage of houses in England and Wales by 1921 was 805,000. The quality of the present housing stock was poor, and this also affected the population’s health, as highlighted during the period of conscription (1916 – 1918) in the Great War, when over 41% of conscripts were classified as “outside the ranks of those who would be likely to see combat”. Minister for Health, Dr Christopher Addison, headed the 1917 Tudor Walters Committee Report into housing needs, and his committee’s findings gave birth to ‘The Housing and Town Planning Act’ of 1919, which spawned an ambitious programme of state-sponsored house-building across England and Wales.

The UK, in the immediate post Second World War era, was somberly illustrated by housing stock that had largely been bombed-out. “475,000 houses were either destroyed or [had been] made permanently inhabitable, and a much greater number damaged” during the bombing raids of the war. Governments in the following decade were united, at least in terms of their perception of the electorate’s approval, in helping to vanquish what the civil servant and economist, William Beveridge, identified as the ‘Five Giants’ standing in the way of creating a more equal post-war society: ‘Want, Ignorance, Disease, Idleness, Squalor.’ Immediately following the war, the Minister for Health, Aneurin Bevan, oversaw a major house-building programme that he saw as essential to replace and supplement housing in the UK, and his government subsequently embarked on building “a million homes during its first five years in power”. Harold Macmillan’s incoming Conservative government of 1951 committed to an election promise of “300,000 [new] homes a year” with his ‘Great Housing Crusade’. This joint enthusiasm between the two major parties for housing build was, however, marked by major political differences between Bevan and Macmillan’s priorities, in their drive to build housing. While Bevan would “quite happily have housed everybody in council houses if he could”,Macmillan’s rationale was to aim toward a “property owning democracy”. The transposition of government in 1951 saw “a change of perspective from one that saw public housing as providing the nation with a collective legacy, to one that saw it as a brief stop on the path towards acquiring an individual legacy.” Macmillan, with his more pragmatic approach, was able to build more houses quicker and cheaper. Housing...

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