This pamphlet draws on original research into the Addison Act and the building of Pinehurst estate. It examines the social context at the end of the First World War and reports on little known events such as the GWR workforce downing tools over unbearable cost of living increases.
The centenary of the Addison Act has promoted a debate about the need for a return to large scale council house building to resolve today’s housing crisis. The Act marked a departure from all previous housing legislation. For the first time Councils were obliged to investigate the housing situation in their area and plan to build municipal housing to address the needs of the “working classes”. Although the government abandoned their commitment to build 500,000 homes the Act set a precedent which was picked up later in the large scale council house building which took place up until Thatcher’s assault on it.
There are parallels between the crisis then and now. For all the talk of Swindon’s economic success it is a town in which there is a crisis of housing affordability. ‘Beds in sheds’ and even garages are being rented out for people to live in because house price inflation and private rents have outstripped inflation and increases in earnings.
Will the change in the climate brought about by Grenfell Tower, the impossibility of home ownership for many young people, and “The Council House Scandal”, open the way to building council housing on a large scale again? That depends on whether we campaign like Swindonians and others did prior to 1919 for council housing as a realistic and necessary solution for resolving the crisis. Housing should be a human right not a commodity. Without a decent, secure and affordable home, then life becomes a lottery, in which events beyond our control can throw people into a downward spiral from which it is difficult to escape.
A 32 page pamphlet £2
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