Social Exclusion in Inter-War Council Housing

A number of left-wing bloggers, including the indefatigable Johnny Void, have called attention to the social cleansing in the government’s housing policy. Apart from there being a general shortage of housing, those homes that are built are mainly luxury properties aimed at the very middle and upper class. The ‘affordable homes’ that some builders put up may not actually be very affordable. What the government defines as affordable is a price set at 80 per cent of the market value. That can still put a home well out of the pockets of most working people, depending on the area. As a result, areas are being gentrified and the traditional, working and lower-middle class occupants of those areas pushed further out of their homes as these areas go upmarket. London is the most notorious example, where house prices are going far beyond the ability of any but the very rich to pay.

Yet this was also a feature of some of the council housing development put up between the two World Wars. Eric Hopkins in his book, The Rise and Decline of the English Working Classes 1918-1990: A Social History (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1991) says on page 23:

Undoubtedly council estates were an enormous improvement in simple physical terms on slum property, but they were by no means the complete answer to problems of working class housing. The most widespread complaint was that the rents were too high for the poorest class of tenant; and indeed it was a deliberate policy on the part of some councils to keep rents at a level which only the skilled or semi-skilled could affor4d, so that the first generation of council tenants should set a good tone. The result was that the poorest, living in the worst slums, who needed rehousing most were left where they were. Only later on would councils rehouse the unemployed and provide rent subsidies when required.

Cameron and his predecessors in New Labour have done everything they could to bring back the worst aspects of pre-War Britain.

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3 Responses to “Social Exclusion in Inter-War Council Housing”

  1. sdbast Says:

    Reblogged this on sdbast.

  2. Social Exclusion in Inter-War Council Housing | disabledsingleparent Says:

    […] Source: Social Exclusion in Inter-War Council Housing […]

  3. Florence Says:

    Social cleansing has been big business since before the Industrial revolution. Whole villages were razed to the ground to “improve the view” for the aristocracy. The areas popularized by Dickens where the really poor lived were cleared for profit, famously in South London, and around King Cross.

    In my own life, I lived in a slum of tightly packed terraced housing, door window, door window, eighty houses in a row, street upon street, were demolished in the 70’s and 80s. They were replaced by Council Housing that was too expensive for the displaced, as in your pre-War example. Worse, the houses had no fireplaces or chimneys, so the poor could not even steal pallets to burn, or chop up their furniture, or scavenge coal from railway cuts, or follow coal merchants to pick up dropped pieces. No fire meant no hot food too, or hot water, it was all electric.

    The same forces are now in play again, but it is even more openly hostile to poverty. This time there will be families living in squatted slums like those refugee camps abroad, because to be poor in the UK now is to be a unwanted, unwelcome, stranger in your own land.

    I honestly think that social cleansing and abandonment of the really poor never went away, but many could pretend it didn’t happen because of the rise in social housing provision.

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