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.
Council house building redoubled after the Second World War, following the loss of property through bomb damage. Government subsidies again encouraged the housing effort and by the 1960s over 500,000 new flats had been added to London's stock. Many of these new dwellings were in multi-storey tower blocks, which at the time seemed the ideal solution to London's housing problems. Another new township was added to East London in the form of the massive Thamesmead estate at Woolwich.
From the late 1970s (when London's population was shrinking), some G.L.C. tenants in London had been able to buy the homes they had rented. The 1980 Housing Act gave all tenants the right to buy their homes from their council. 'Right to buy' enabled low-income families to get a foot on the housing ladder. Discounts meant that property could be bought at bargain prices. But what was good for tenants was less good for London's long-term housing provision. The stock of council houses began to shrink. By the 1990s, council housing was in a downward spiral. Stock was ageing, maintenance costs were rising, and cash-strapped councils were saddled with housing debt.
New funds came from central government with a succession of 'regeneration' programmes. But regeneration funds were often conditional on transferring the management of housing estates from councils to housing associations. Many council tenants were suspicious, believing this was 'privatisation by the back door'.
What are these?
Social Bookmarking allows users to save and categorise a personal collection of bookmarks and share them with others. This is different to using your own browser bookmarks which are available using the menus within your web browser. Use the links below to share this article on the social bookmarking site of your choice. Read more about social bookmarking at Wikipedia - Social Bookmarking.