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Conservative and Labour legislation

Under the Conservatives

The Conservative government of 1951 set an immediate target of 500,000 new homes (both public and private) to be constructed, with production rising to 300,000 per year by 1954. The Housing Act of 1952 raised the subsidy to local authorities, encouraging publicly funded building. A 1953 White Paper emphasised the need for private building, owner occupation, rent increases and the renting of private property. These recommendations were written into the 1954 Housing Rent and Repairs Act.

Under the 1956 Housing Subsidies Act, funds were only made available for slum clearance and housing provision for slum dwellers. The rate of public building fell off rapidly. The Housing Act and the Rent Act in 1957 encouraged increases in rent and enabled local authorities to sell stock.

Return to public provision

A White Paper in 1963 argued for the increased provision of public housing. The Cabinet agreed to an annual target of 400,000 new houses a year - both public and private. In 1965, the Labour Party produced a white paper outlining a programme to build half a million new dwellings (both owner-occupied property and council housing) every year until 1970.

In the 1967 Housing Subsidies Act, the Exchequer subsidised local authority borrowing. The government was weighed down by economic crisis in 1967, and responded with deflationary policies. As interest rates rose, the housing loan subsidy became increasingly expensive and was cut back in 1968. A 1968 White Paper recommended that funds were channelled towards the improvement of existing housing instead. It recommended a new policy, the General Improvement Area, for which subsidies would be available. These policies were implemented in the 1969 Housing Act.

Private rehabilitation and Labour

Edward Heath's Conservative government increased the grant for private rehabilitation. The 1972 Housing Finance Act reduced council housing subsidy and replaced controlled rents with 'fair' rents - in effect a rent increase. Clay Cross Council refused to implement them.

The 1973 White Paper proposed ways of reviving the private sector through housing associations, and provided grants to local areas of poor quality housing. Another White Paper in 1974 emphasised owner occupation as the most desirable form of tenure. When Labour returned to power in 1974, they implemented the 1972 Housing Finance Act, however, councils who defaulted were not pursued for arrears. The 1975 Housing Rent and Subsidies Act reversed the policy of 'fair' rents and empowered local authorities to set rent levels.