The development of unpopular council housing estates and attempted remedies 1895-1984
The thesis is divided into three parts. Part I traces the history of Council housing from the nineteenth century to the present day, showing the influences in building and management that have produced poor, run-down publicly owned housing estates. Octavia Hill, the ardent reformer, developed a system of intensive, localised management, coupling slow renovation of the worst slum housing with social support for the most disadvantaged households. Local authorities failed to copy her approach while wanting to combat slums. They built for secure, working families and built large, dense blocks of flats, often displacing the very poor. General housing subsidies were introduced in a big building spurt after World War I, and in 1930 these subsidies were targetted at slum clearance, relief of overcrowding and the construction of flats in inner cities. Local authorities were expanding rapidly and private landlords declined. After World War 11 the mass housing era began and about four million homes were built by Councils over 30 years. Half were industrially built or in the form of flats, both unpopular styles. Most were in cities on large estates. Management problems developed apace, with poor staff training and little political will to provide meticulous landlord services. Lettings policies concentrated the poorest families on the least popular estates. Homelessness increased in spite of evidence of a crude housing surplus. The gap between the Council sector and the owner-occupied sector grew in socio-economic terms. Part 11 examines the detailed evidence of the Government and local authorities illustrating the emergence of difficult to let estates as a major housing problen. Councils were already seriously concerned in the late 1960's. Difficult-to-let estates were first recognised officially in 1974 by the Government. The overwhelming evidence provoked the Government into a major new housing initiative in 1979, the Priority Estates Project. Part III present the conditions on 20 unpopular estates around the country, and the efforts of the local authorities concerned to tackle the problems through local estate-based initiatives. Overall; the conclusion is that major advances can be made through an integrated localised approach, although the future role of elected political bodies as major landlords of predominantly poor communities must be questioned. Autonomous local management organisations, better training and more socially mixed estate communitites are found to be ways forward.