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Public utility societies and the Housing and Town Planning Act, 1919: a re-examination of the introduction of state-subsidized housing in Britain

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The failure of housing associations to develop after 1918 is one of the historical puzzles of housing policy, and is the subject of this article. Drawing on new research on Public Record Office files it is shown that, although the public utility societies were never expected to provide a very large number of dwellings, they were expected to build many more houses than they did. Many societies soon fell into severe financial difficulties and disposed of all their houses. It is argued that not only was the 1919 Act a disaster for societies undertaking building schemes in the early 1920s but that it had long-term consequences for the development of voluntary housing as a whole.

Document Type: Regular Paper


Publication date: October 1, 2000

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