Housing Specification Blog

Prefabs were perfect post-war, but how can we solve today’s housing crisis?

March 20, 2013 Alexandra Blakeman Planning & Legislation

In 1945 the new Labour government passed the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Act to relieve the property shortage after the war.

Around 150,000 prefabricated homes were built between 1944 – 1970. Initially expected to last between five and ten years, residents were still living in their ‘temporary’ accommodation 70 years later.

Prefab estate in Moredun, Edinburgh

Residents of one of the biggest prefab communities, the Excalibur estate in SE London, spent years fighting to preserve their post-war homes. Some houses have been listed by the English Heritage but plans were accepted in 2012 to demolish and completely regenerate the estate.

Known as ‘Palaces for the People’, prefabs were a successful political venture which answered the needs of a nation.

The Conservative government which came into power in 1951 limited Labour’s practical council house programme and continued to endorse private sector building.

Under the Labour government, local authorities borrowed money from the public works loan board (PWLB) which meant that rates of interest never exceeded 3% immediately after the war. The Tories stopped this lending in 1955, and forced local authorities to borrow from the money market. As a consequence, interest rates and rents soared, while accommodation standards plummeted.

It goes without saying, history is in danger of repeating itself

Back to 2013 – what do you think of the Today’s budget?

To kick start housebuilding and buying, the Treasury are going to give a 20% equity loan to cover the deposit for anyone buying a new home.  Osborne also reiterated the government’s commitment to building zero-carbon homes from 2016.

To increase the number of houses being built it’s perhaps important to increase the Local Authorities’ ability to respond to our housing shortage by amending/relaxing borrowing rules. Restrictions currently mean that our rents and interest rates remain consistently high.

Over to you. Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below or on Twitter @HousingSpec.

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