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Some thoughts on UK housing a century after Addison

31st July 2019

In 1912, attention turned to housing. The pamphlet Nothing gained by Overcrowding, set out the concept of garden cities. Further evidence of the impact of poor housing was provided by the poor physical state of many recruits at the outbreak of war.

 

In November 1918, with the war coming to an end, the Tudor Walters Committee published its report, which it expected to profoundly influence the general standard of housing in this country and to encourage the building of houses of such quality that they would remain above the acceptable minimum standards for at least sixty years. Sir John Tudor Walters, the chairman of the committee, was a Welsh architect, surveyor and Liberal politician.

 

The political will to turn this into reality came in the form of Lloyd George's Homes Fit for Heroes campaign. In a parallel with the current situtation, but with a very different set of causes, there were shortages of skilled labour and materials. The only way to ensure housing was built was through state subsidy, which was a key component of the Addison Act.

Dr Christopher Addison was a Liberal politician and had been Minister of Munitions after Lloyd George became Minister of War in 1916. After the war, Addison became President of the Local Government Board, which he rapidly tranformed into the first Ministry of Health. He regarded the provision of quality housing as a health issue and the Act enshrined the ideals set out by the Tudor Walters Committee the previous year.

 

Where are we now?

 

A hundred years after the Addison Act, there is a general acceptance that insufficient homes have been built to accomdate the growing UK population. In 1919, the Government set a target of 500,000 new homes over three years. In 2018, the Government set a target of 300,000 new homes a year to 2022 to close the current gap. Each year that 300,000 homes are not delivered, the gap widens. As in 1918, we are facing a skills shortage that requires a radical new approach to delivery. We also need a radical new approach to funding.

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As today is the centenary of the Housing, Town Planning, &c Act 1919 (the "Addison Act"), we thought we would join many others in sharing our thoughts on what we ought to be trying to achieve for UK housing a hundred years later. But first some historical context.

 

Historical context

 

From the general election landslide in 1906 until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the Liberal governments introduced a programme of welfare reforms that sought to alleviate poverty, most notably the introduction of national insurance and old age pensions.