Housing has always been a need that has arisen in UK society. Historically housing for the poor and working classes was provided by employers, the church and parish workhouses.
The very first council housing was built in Farringdon in London in 1865 and this was by accident rather than by design. The first council housing to be built as part of a policy to develop housing for the working class was the Liverpool Corporation whose first housing project took place 1869.
Successive governments have progressed from the sixties and seventies building public housing and developing large council estates to modern funding projects that mix housing schemes where developers receive funding to integrate social homes within private housing estates supposedly to enable social mobility.
The labour government of the late 1990’s and Early 2000s introduced help for first time buyers so that those that were able to become socially mobile and move from council rental schemes into privately owned homes of their own could.
As housing needs have developed and changed over the years so has the approach. On the whole approaches have been reactive rather than proactive as changes in demographic dictated policy development.
Before the two World Wars
Prior to this housing had been provided by employers and private owners. The only alternatives for the truly destitute were the workhouses. In 1885 the state took an interest in public housing for the first time and following the Royal Commission the Housing of the Working classes act of 1890 was eventually passed. This act gave the London Corporation the power to acquire land to build tenements and cottages. The amended act in 1900 gave this power to all councils countrywide.
With the onset of the First World War, recruitment to the military uncovered the poor health of those coming from the poor housing in urban areas, affecting both the poor and working class neighbourhoods. This set of the events that led to the homes fit for heroes’ campaign and the Addison act in 1919 led to minimum standards for housing being prescribed.
After World War Two
After the Second World War, the country started a major rebuilding and rejuvenation process and council estates sprung up on the outskirts of cities and towns all over the country.
The right to buy, a concept that was introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s conservative government turned out to be a double edged sword. On the one hand, it increased social mobility for those that could afford buying their council homes at the massive discounts that were available. These people were then able to sell their homes to investors after three years and continue moving up the property ladder. In fact, some of these homes have become very desirable.
Councils could not match replacing the homes that were being sold with new homes. Council stocks became depleted and the demand for homes for the needy increased. The UK has gone from a surplus in social housing in the 1960s to a serious deficit in the 21st century.
Building and buying incentives
There have been so many different points of view surrounding council housing and extremes that believe it simply perpetuates learned helplessness to those that believe where need is correctly addressed those that really need the housing should access it and those who eventually can rent on the open market should leave to enable waiting lists to reduce. Social tenants have secure tenure if they pay their rent and behave themselves. While this policy is admirable this means that families where the children have grown up and flown the nest, end up with two older adults living in a large house suitable for a family, while a needy family may wait for years for a home.
Consequently efforts such as the help to buy scheme have arisen. This not only encourages those that become socially mobile to do so but also frees up social housing. These schemes help with deposit guarantees with minimum deposit amounts and government guarantees if the mortgage holder defaults.
There are also shared ownership schemes which enable a tenant to part buy and part rent their home. As the home increases in value over the years, they will be able to sell their share and use the equity gained to buy a property privately.
The government scheme to Help with new homes has been exceptionally generous and services such as the New Home Builder Review can help buyers access House Builder reviews that will enable new home buyers