By Alison Ravetz
Born of idealism, and as soon as an icon of the Labour stream and pillar of the Welfare country, council housing is now nearing its finish. yet do its many failings outweigh its confident contributions to public health and wellbeing and wellbeing?
Alison Ravetz right here offers the 1st complete and apolitical historical past from which to reach at a balanced judgement. Drawing at the widest attainable facts, from tenant and executive files to the equipped surroundings itself, she tells the tale of British council housing, from its seeds in Victorian reactions to 'the Poor', in philanthropy and version villages, Christian and different sorts of socialism. Her depiction of council housing in its mature years indicates the usually strange endurance of 'utopian' attitudes (whether in architectural layout or administration styles); its upward thrust to a monopoly place in working-class kin housing; the numerous compromises consequent on its country finance and native authority keep an eye on; and the impression on working-class lives as an intellectuals' 'utopian dream' used to be switched over right into a social coverage for the loads.
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Extra info for Council Housing and Culture - The History of a Social Experiment
British council housing, therefore, was a social experiment whose story affords an opportunity to anatomize a major policy failure, or alleged failure. While smaller-scale policies costing correspondingly less may be held publicly to account when they are deemed to fail, much more ambitious ones operating over large timescales are not accorded an inquest on wasted resources, or calling to account of the persons or bodies responsible. The original and daring goals of council housing were quickly lost to sight after its two most ‘utopian’ phases, in the 1920s and following 1945, so that it moved forward with a mounting public sense of failure, but without any counter-balancing indices of success.
And during all this time there was, for some, an alternative, individualistic way of housing themselves, through home ownership - often of houses not unlike those being condemned as slums, or newer houses that could quite often be inferior to those being built by councils. The whole operation was a culture transfer amounting to a cultural colonization: a vision forged by one section of society for application to another, to whom it might be more, or less, acceptable and appropriate. The tenure and design, together, were instruments of social reform; but this did not carry any new social programme over and above that implicit in the original inspiration.
They applied to any grade of new housing for which there was a market. Typically, in England, this meant terraced housing, which was built in huge quantities from around 1870 to 1914 - so much so that it still comprises roughly a quarter of the total housing stock. What are usually referred to as bye-law houses, however, are the smaller and lower-class varieties which, for all their benefits to health, came under general attack for their grimly utilitarian nature, their endless dreary streets, and their alleged (although in fact seldom total) lack of architectural refinements.
Council Housing and Culture - The History of a Social Experiment by Alison Ravetz