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Wartime housing

Between the wars

The provision of housing became a central issue at the end of the First World War. The 1919 Addison Housing and Town Planning Act required local authorities to survey housing needs and draw up plans. The 1923 Chamberlain Housing Act reduced the housing subsidy to local authorities. In 1924, John Wheatley, the Minister of Health, introduced the Financial Provisions Housing Act. The Wheatley Act survived the Baldwin government during the 1920s and 500,000 houses were built.

Under Labour, the Greenwood Housing Act of 1930 addressed slum clearance by providing subsidy and obliging local authorities to re-house tenants. Policy was reversed under the Conservative-strong coalition government, and the 1933 Financial Provisions Housing Act abolished the Wheatley subsidy. The emphasis was now on the construction of cheaper blocks of flats to house former slum dwellers.

Council housing after the Second World War

In 1946, the post-war Labour government tried to meet the housing shortage through the construction of prefabs and repairs to existing structures. Longer-term measures depended on the development of housing by local authorities. The 1946 Housing Act greatly increased the subsidy available to local authorities, and they were allowed to borrow from the Public Works Loan Board. A further Housing Act in 1949 enabled local authorities to build houses for the population generally, rather than only for the needy. Some 1.5 million public homes were constructed by 1951.