Council Housing

London's local councils began to build houses in the 1890s. For the next 90 years the London County Council (the L.C.C.), its successor the Greater London Council (the G.LC.), and London's local councils saw house building as a top priority.

Council housing entered a period of change around 1980. By the end of the century, council housing was a hot political topic and the number of houses managed by London's councils had shrunk from 840,000 in 1984 to just over 500,000.

In the first half of the century, the L.C.C. followed two strategies for house building. It built blocks of flats in the inner city, often as part of slum clearance schemes. It also built new suburban or 'out county' estates with garden city-style cottage houses. Early inner city developments included the Millbank estate in Westminster, which was completed in 1902. It housed 4,430 people on a site that had previously been the notorious Millbank prison. The estate was designed to increase the quantity of affordable rented flats in central London.

The most ambitious of the L.C.C's out county estates was the massive Becontree estate in Dagenham, conceived in 1919 as virtually a new town, which provided dwellings for over 30,000 families.

Council house building was encouraged by generous government subsidies to build 'homes for heroes' after the First World War. The L.C.C. also raised money through selling London housing bonds, which promised investors a 6% return and raised 4 million during the 1920s.

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