Housebuilding programme

Letter from Mr. S. F. Wilkinson at the Ministry of Housing & Local Government to Mr. Gregory, head of a building company, 17th July 1953 (HG 101/812)


17th July, 1953

Dear Mr. Gregory,

Thank you for your letter of 16th July about the housing programme.

In view of your reference to “a perceptible change of policy” and of your deductions about what this might amount to, I think I had better repeat what the Parliamentary Secretary (answering on the Minister’s behalf) said in reply to questions on this subject in the House of Commons on 14th July:-

‘There has been cut in the programme. We are now building houses at the rate of about 300,000 a year. The bricks and cement available for housing will not support a programme at more than rate. We must, of course, allocate building materials including bricks and cement for other essential needs such as factories, schools, etc.

We are, therefore, steadying the programme at its present high level by matching the number of houses starting with the bricks and cement available. Too many starts would mean too few completions, because the bricks and cement would not go round. Individual local authorities who have not been given immediate approval for all the tenders they would like should remember two things: first, the rate of house-building in Britain has increased by half since we took office; second, the action we are taking will help every local authority to finish the houses they are now building by avoiding delays on sites, and ensure their programme will run smoothly on into 1954.

We shall build many more houses to let this year than ever before. Side by side with this, we expect to see more houses built for owner-occupiers. The Government feel that it is only right that people who wish to put their own money into building a house should be able to do so.’

I am glad to see from the fifth paragraph of your letter that you agree that the national housing programme must inevitably be governed by the national resources of various kinds. I have no doubt, therefore, that you will appreciate that the supplies of bricks available make it essential to phase the starting of brick-built houses or flats such as yours. The phasing is arranged by the Principal Regional Officers, on the Minister’s instructions, in the light of the circumstances of each individual local authority and generally in consultation with them.

We are very much alive to the importance of the point you mention about saving land the contribution to this end which is made by building in small blocks of flats, such as yours. This point is one which Principal Regional Officers will naturally take into account in considering individual local authority programmes, so much, however, depends on the other local factors that we could not formulate any rule which would apply universally to all areas on the lines you suggest. Nevertheless, I much appreciate your having written to me about this.

Yours sincerely,


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