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From Homes for Heroes to today...

Policy area: Housing

Date of publication: 12 March 2013

File type: PDF Opens in a new window PDF, 2,525kb

...a brief history of housing in London

“Home for Heroes” is among the most famous promises ever made by a British Prime Minister and one that had a profound impact on the nation’s housing, nowhere more so than in London. Nearly one hundred years on though and the capital still faces an uphill battle to provide decent housing for its growing population.

It is unlikely that the assassin Gavrilo Princip had UK housing policy much in mind when he stepped towards the car carrying Archduke Ferdinand of Austria; but the bullet he fired on 28 June 1914 was to have a profound impact on our nation’s housing that is still felt to this day.

East End slums in London in the 1920sAs a prime cause of the First World War, the assas­sination of the Archduke was responsible for the mass mobilisation of recruits. And it was British army chiefs’ alarm at the poor health of those recruits led directly to the creation of what we now know as council housing in the UK.

The queues of young men signing up to join the war had provided the government with a startling insight into the impact of poor housing on the nation’s workers and, once the war was won, Prime Minister Lloyd George famously promised to pro­vide them with ‘Homes fit for Heroes’.

The Housing Act of 1919, known as the Addison Act after its author, the Minster for Health Dr Chris­topher Addison, pledged substantial government subsidies to build half a million new homes within three years. In fact, as the economy weakened during the 1920s, the originally ambitious fund­ing was successively cut and only around 200,000 ‘homes for heroes’ were actually built.

Nevertheless, the passing of the Addison Act was a hugely significant step that made housing a na­tional priority - and made local authorities re­sponsible for delivering decent housing as a social necessity.
Further legislation during the 1920s extended the housing duties of local authorities and a fresh act in 1930 obliged them to clear all remaining slum housing. The 1930 Act led to the clearance of more slums that at any time in history and the building of 700,000 council homes to re-house their former inhabitants.

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