One hundred years ago, the Addison Act made the UK’s first council housing possible. By the early-1920s, 213,000 new homes had been built.
But building council homes became a really serious business in post-World War II Britain: under the 1945 Labour government, 700,000 new council homes were completed.
In 1952, the world’s largest architectural practice was at the London County Council, which employed 1,577 staff, including 350 professional architects and trainees.
Fast-forward to 2019 and only 6% of architects work in the public sector, and less than half of them work in local government. Meanwhile, Right to Buy continues to decimate council housing stock, but perversely, for so many, home-ownership seems to be more out of reach than ever.
Most frightening of all, the number of people who find themselves homeless and rough sleeping continues to spiral. Amid all of this, government spending on building new homes fell from £11.4bn in 2009 to only £5.3bn in 2015 – from 0.7% to 0.2% of GDP – and, since 2010, the housing minister’s desk has been occupied by no fewer than ten people.
But councils around the country are fighting back, and a group of Labour councillors from London, Manchester and Birmingham have come together to produce a new booklet – Building Genuinely Affordable Homes – a pocket guide for Labour councillors. To ensure that Labour councillors around the country have quick and easy access to it, we’ve decided to put the booklet on our website here.
The new booklet brings together many voices, including contributions on in-house council home building programmes, getting homes built through wholly owned companies, and using the planning system and Section 106 agreements to ensure that private developers build their share of genuinely affordable homes.
There are many different ideas and we recognise that what works in London is not necessarily the right approach in another part of the country. But all of the contributions have the same aim: to tackle the housing crisis by getting the genuinely affordable homes that we need built – because a secure and genuinely affordable home can transform the life chances of a family in desperate need.
We hope that other councils can draw on all of this experience and expertise to help kick-start their own building programme. For more information contact Cllr Diarmaid Ward on firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can readthe councillors’ booklet here.