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are as much matters of public health as sanitary inspection, hospital isolation, and the provision of wash-houses and so forth, the expenses of which are met by the rates. It is admitted that there is no centre of material deterioration and infection worse than an insanitary house, and even if we lost money by its removal and the loss fell on the rates the community would yet save money in the diminished cost of hospitals, asylums, workhouses and jails, and in the increase of sobriety and capacity for labour of the people and in the actual saving of lives.
The most weighty of all the reasons why of late years the Housing Acts are not fully put into force is the lack of sufficient alternative accommodation. Medical officers of health throughout the country emphasize the fact that if the slums were demolished, there would be no house room for the people displaced. They state that for the same reason overcrowding cannot be abated. When there is a shortage of accommodation, the abatement of overcrowding in one area merely means its increase in another. It should be pointed out that these difficulties do not occur merely where there is no alternative accommodation. They have always occurred where, owing to the poverty of those who inhabit the slums or live in overcrowded dwellings, there is no adequate accommodation at a rent which those displaced can afford to pay. Taking them as a whole, out of the many thousands of people dispossessed by housing schemes I do not think that 10 per cent have been re-housed. They ought to be re-housed at rents which they can afford to pay (even if not economic), and this would yield much benefit not only to the people concerned but to the whole community in which they are situated.
It is for the above reasons that all housing authorities and social reformers must welcome the Housing, Town Planning, etc. Act, 1919, which ranks first in importance among the measures of the past session. The responsibility of meeting the vast accumulation of arrears in housing is conferred upon local authorities, and their duties are therefore very great. A binding obligation is cast upon them by the Act to provide enough new working-class houses to meet the needs of their area, so far as other agencies are not prepared to do so, and in this they are aided by liberal financial assistance from the State.
The Act facilitates the clearing of slum areas upon cheaper
terms, the improvement of unsatisfactory dwellings, and the acquisition of land for housing purposes. It also casts important obligations upon the local authorities as regards town planning.
The first necessity is organization. In the partnership between the local authorities and the State created by the Act, the functions of the Ministry of Health are those of guidance and control, and those of the local authorities are initiative and administrative. In the re-organized Housing Department the Ministry have a central and regional, or local structure of administrative and technical staffs which will enable the Ministry to get into close touch with the local authorities.
The financial principles of the Act limit the liabilities of the local authorities with regard to schemes promptly executed, and set a premium upɔn far-sightedness and completeness. The regulations of the Ministry under which the subsidies will be paid, not only to local authorities, but also to County Councils, public utility societies, and housing trusts, have now been proniulgated. The Act enables local authorities to assist public utility societies.
Harldy less important in its effect upon public health than the provision for new houses is the stimulus afforded by the Act to the clearance of the slums, and the repair and improvement of other property. While the present shortage of accomm. lation continues, policy must prevent the vigorous use of repairing ices and closing and demolition orders, but these weapons can b: put into operation when sufficient houses have been built and alternative accommodation provided.
The town-planning provisions are likely to be of extreme importance. The provisions of the Act of 1909 have been simplified and a time limit set for schemes to be made or adopted by all boroughs and urban areas, with a population exceeding 20,000. At the same time care is being taken that the houses to be provided under the subsidized schemes fit into the probable town-planning development of the area. The further ideal of regional planning can be developed by the liberal use of the powers of local authorities to make joint town-planning schemes.
It is to be hoped that an early opportunity will be taken as is suggested in the following pages, to consolidate the Housing Acts. Previous legislation was already complicated, and the present Act
is drafted as an amending Act It contains much legislation by reference, and considerable time and labour must be taken to master the legislation to which reference is made.
A Housing Code would be of great use as a means of letting every one know what can be done.
It comes as a surprise to most people to know what powers a local authority possesses.
With the appropriate consent every local authority can do all or any of the following matters and things, viz.—
(1), Acquire land and provide new houses to make up for any deficiency.
(2) Remove and pull down insanitary property and re-house the displaced people in new houses either within or outside of their
(3) Demolish obstructive buildings.
(4) Close and later demolish unfit houses.
(5) Compel the landlord of houses below a certain rental to execute such works as will make them reasonably fit for habitation.
(6) Acquire land and sell it or lease it to others for the erection thereon of houses.
(7) Promote the formation of public utility socieites, give them money, lend them money, guarantee the payment of interest on loans, and if necessary acquire land for them.
(8) Purchase houses and convert them into flats.
(9) Agree with a builder to purchase from him when completed houses which he proposes to build.
(10) Lend money to an owner to enable him to reconstruct, enlarge, or improve working-class houses owned by him.
(11) Sell houses bought and erected by them either for cash down or subject to the price being paid by instalments or by part of the price being secured by a mortgage.
(12) Assist a man to buy the house in which he lives or intends to live, if the value of the house does not exceed £800, and provided the loan to him is not more than 85 per cent. of the value. The financial assistance promised is most generous.
It is a
golden opportunity, and every man and woman in the country should make haste to seize it and insist, in season and out of season, on the early removal of the slums and their attendant degradation, and the establishment of new homes for the people with their abundant harvest in health, strength and prosperity.
1st January, 1920.
If any justification be required for adding to the already extensive literature of Housing, it may be found in the urgency of the problem. The subject of universal interest, I trust that its treatment in the following pages may appeal to the student of social questions as well as to many of those upon whom devolves the carrying into effect of the new Housing legislation.
Originally prepared during the spare hours of a busy life, as a thesis for the degree of M.A. at the University of Liverpool, the book is the outcome of studies and research begun upon the suggestion of Professor E. C. K. Gonner, M.A., at a time when the question of Housing had not received the public attention which it now commands. The text has since been entirely revised and amplified, particularly by the addition of the sections dealing with Town Planning, the Housing and Town Planning, etc. Act, 1919, and the Acquisition of Land (Compulsory Powers) Act, 1919, together with the Appendices consisting of these Acts and the Regulations, Circulars and Forms issued by the Ministry of Health. The section of Town Planning has had the advantage of being read by Professor L. P. Abercrombie, M.A., of the School of Civic Design at the University of Liverpool.
Considerable attention has been given to the historical aspect of the question, a knowledge of how the present position has been brought about, and the remedial measures from time to time adopted by the central and local authorities, being essential to a full understanding of the problem of to-day.
The Liverpool movement, which is dealt with in an Appendix in order to avoid breaking the continuity of the history of Housing legislation, deserves special consideration as showing how a great municipality has successfully grappled with an appalling situation. Professor E. W. Hope, M.D., Medical Officer of Health for this City, who has been for many years identified with the movement, has very kindly read this Appendix.
The Report and recommendations of the Royal Commission of 1884 have been long out of print, and are sufficiently important to justify the Chapter and Appendix concerning them.