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Issue 113: January 2019

This issue of WHQ celebrates not just what is effectively the centenary of council housing but also more recent developments that mean we can focus on the future as well the past.

Though local authorities did build homes before the First World War, the passing of Christopher Addison’s Housing Act in July 1919 was a key moment for council housing. For the first time, local authorities were required to assess local housing needs and prepare plans to address them and they were given generous financial assistance to build homes to high standards.

It did not last long. Even though the assistance came in the form of loans repayable from rents, the Treasury cut the programme in 1921 and only 213,000 out of the promised 500,000 council homes were built. Addison resigned in protest.

But the principles for council housing as we know it were established and the ground was laid for its rise in (most of) the 20th century. The story is told in a UK context by John Boughton and Mark Swenarton and in a Welsh one by Stephen Kay while Matt Dicks links the celebrations to the future of the sector.

For all the decline seen since 1980, two recent developments have created renewed optimism. First, the right to buy finally ends in Wales just as this issue of WHQ is published, though it was already suspended in many areas. Second, the borrowing cap that had restricted councils’ ability to build new homes has been scrapped in England and Wales.

We hear from Swansea, Cardiff, Carmarthenshire and Anglesey to assess the state of council housing in 2019. Despite some frustration and barriers to progress that remain, there is not just renewed optimism about the future but also a determination to look beyond numbers to quality, energy efficiency and affordability and to focus on housing as a whole in their areas.

While previous issues of WHQ have celebrated the achievements of stock transfer housing associations, the focus this time is firmly on council housing. We also hear from Rhondda Cynon Taf on the continuing housing role of local authorities after transfer.

Elsewhere in this January issue we have articles on youth homelessness, the campaign to end Sex for Rent and anti-social behaviour. In the wake of the announcement on social rents for this year we look forward to the independent review of affordable housing supply. With all that, plus all our regular features, here’s to 2019.

Jules Birch, editor, WHQ

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