100 Years of Council Housing

Count down with us to celebrating the centenary of what is commonly thought of as the birth of council housing - the 1919 Housing Act. We will be releasing snippets of information over the next 100 days from the last 100 years of housing history - culminating in an event planned for the 31 July.

9 May Post

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The tenure of the homes we live in has changed dramatically over the last 100 years. Around the time of the First World War the majority of people in England (about 9 out of 10 families) lived in private rented accommodation. Nowadays most families live in owner occupied homes (about 65-70%). In terms of social housing - a hundred years ago only 1 out of a hundred homes were rented from a local authority in England and while numbers rose to around 3 out of ten households in the 1970's and 80's the figure has since reduced to about 8%. Housing Associations were created in the 1960's and by the 1980's accounted for around 2 out of 100 homes. Now around 9 out of a 100 homes are owned by housing associations. The proprtion of homes owned by local authorities and housing associations together now accounts for around 17% of all homes in England.

In this week in history… in 1998 one of the main magazines for housing professionals 'Inside Housing' was musing on how social landlords should approach the next big thing…. 'The internet'. 

On this day in History…. in 1979 Margaret Thatcher becomes Prime Minister. She was the longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th century and the first woman to hold that office. Described as the ‘Sale of the Century’ the 1980 Housing Act introduces the Right to Buy policy which gave five million council house tenants in England and Wales the Right to Buy their house from their local authority. The Act came into force on 3 October 1980 and is seen as a defining policy of Thatcherism. More than 10,400 Council owned homes have been sold in Cornwall since the ‘right to buy’ was introduced.

This year the Council is reminding people who have bought properties under the Right to Buy scheme that there are legal restrictions on what they can do with their properties once they have bought them. Houses bought under the government’s  Right to Buy scheme  usually have a legal restriction on them which means that the owner should not be renting them out as holiday lets, letting them out to students or making significant alterations to their property.

Just two years into the Addison Act the Government started to worry about rising national debt leading to ‘Geddes Axe’ which cut public spending by £90m. The government under Lloyd George had promised a 'land fit for heroes' and then began to cut back on those promises. Addison resigns in protest after just 213,000 of the 500,000 homes planned to be built over 3 years were built. The aim of the new Housing Act (the ‘Chamberlain Act’) of April 1923 was to incentive the private sector to supply housing. A local authority could only receive a subsidy to build, once they had proven that private developers were not meeting demand.

'Homes fit for heroes': The 1919 Act - often known as the ‘Addison Act’ after its author Dr Christopher Addison, the Minister of Health - was a highly significant step forward in providing homes built through the public purse. It made housing a national responsibility - and local authorities were given the task of developing new housing and rented accommodation where it was needed by working people. Cornwall Council still owns and rents to tenants homes built following the 1919 Act in Falmouth, Newlyn East, Perranwell Station, Perranporth, Liskeard, Looe, Tresillian, Saltash and Mylor Bridge.