Friday, 14 August 2015

Social housing.

When I was a small girl we lived in a slum. It was row of two up and two down houses which had been so neglected by our landlord that they were almost falling apart. The loo was up a long tunnel next to the house and shared by five other families. To say I dreaded the late visit in the dark is definitely an understatement.
My dad came home from the war and couldn't find work. We had no choice but to live there even after he got a job breaking up pig iron in the local foundry.
We lived in hope of a council house.....for us it was a dream, a way out of the mice infected dark cold place we called home! There was a points system in place. We were a long way down it!
When we finally got to the top we were overjoyed! We could move house!
Our council house was on a massive estate thrown up after the war to house as many people as possible in decent conditions. We had a bathroom with a bath and a toilet! This was a luxury and we never kept coal in it!
That we might have done was one of the myths spread by people who should have known better . Those who opposed social housing thought so little of those who were poor that they sneered at our need for a bath.
I've never forgotten this and when Thatcher decreed that people should be able to buy their council houses I feared the outcome we have today.
The picture of a home owning democracy was a good one...it was indeed natural that people would want to buy their homes and improve them...but now we are left with a housing crisis of enormous proportions. New homes need to be built and fast...
I wish we had a government who had a will to do it!

2 comments:

  1. I agree TOTALLY with this. I was raised in an old cottage in Cornwall without indoor facilities. When my mother and I moved into a Council house in '54, it was the lap of luxury having a flush toilet, a propper bath and running hot water.

    The concept of 'right to buy' helped many people become home owners, unfortunately, the block on building replacement Council housing has resulted in the crisis we have today.

    Many of the ex Council houses are now owned by private landlords who can charge whatever the market will bear. Developers generally prefer profit to building 'affordable housing' (typically priced around 80% of the other properties).

    We have a housing crisis because governments of all parties have failed to address the issue, and I don't see this government doing anything to tackle the problem. In fact, extending 'right to buy' to properties managed buy housing associations will exacerbate the problem.

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  2. I was raised in very poor, post war, damaged housing stock. 5 of us in one bedroom a shared kitchen and an outside toilet. Eventually went into care for five years. Came home again to a 3 bedroom, council flat, with hot water, a separate bathroom and toilet. I had my own bedroom, and my sisters had to share. But, at least we were reunited as a family.

    There were hard time, poverty and the National Assistance as dad was unemployed with an industrial injury for three years. He couldn't keep up with the rent and we got evicted. Back to poor, rented accommodation with gas lighting, no heating apart from open fires, in the longest, coldest winter in living memory. I can remember collecting old newspapers and making logs to burn to try to keep warm, sleeping fully dressed. Eventually, when the accommodation was condemned as unfit for habitation, we were rehoused into another council flat. By this time, dad was back in work, so we kept the rent paid.

    I feel that having lived hand to mouth as a child, that it prepared me for life in ways that I might not have had in a middle class family. When I joined the army, I was the only one among the recruits who could sew and darn and even cook. Demonstrating that needs must, rather than those who had to learn those skills the hard way.

    If formed me, never to want to be in that position again - and thankfully, I haven't been.

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