Council Housing and Culture - The History of a Social by Alison Ravetz

By Alison Ravetz

Born of idealism, and as soon as an icon of the Labour flow and pillar of the Welfare country, council housing is now nearing its finish. yet do its many failings outweigh its optimistic contributions to public future health and wellbeing?
Alison Ravetz right here offers the 1st accomplished and apolitical historical past from which to reach at a balanced judgement. Drawing at the widest attainable proof, from tenant and executive documents to the equipped atmosphere 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 exhibits the customarily strange patience of 'utopian' attitudes (whether in architectural layout or administration styles); its upward push to a monopoly place in working-class kin housing; the numerous compromises consequent on its nation finance and native authority keep watch over; and the influence on working-class lives as an intellectuals' 'utopian dream' was once switched over right into a social coverage for the hundreds.

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At this distance of time, however, it may be both possible and legitimate to recapture some of the early idealism that inspired council housing, with the spirit of enquiry of those studies executed when it was still a brave social experiment. The story of its daily operation and eventual crises is not, perhaps, a comfortable one for those who prefer to see the past in terms of rights and wrongs; who adhere to the simple polarities of ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ in politics and prefer a simple vision of a unitary working class; or who look for purity in utopian agendas and programmes of reform.

Many towns had developed their own sets of bye-laws earlier in the century and continued to use these, while London observed its own Metropolitan Code, derived from the great London Building Act of 1774, which caused it to lag behind the rest of the country until special measures were taken in the 1890s. But to meet the requirements of the Public Health Act of 1875, a national code was issued by the Local Government Board and circulated to all urban sanitary authorities - a useful reminder that this particular domestic ‘revolution’ was rooted in public health rather than housing, and that it had an in-built bias to urban rather than rural affairs.

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