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Wartime planning for post-war housing in Britain: the Whitehall debate, 1941-5

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The starting point for this article is the observation that planning for post-war housing policy has been a neglected area of study, especially in comparison with the attention given to housing during the First World War. Drawing on research in the official files, the article shows that planning for housing after the war began as early as 1941, and that a detailed and ambitious policy was in place well before the end of the war. Commitment to a very large housing programme was underpinned by the intention to use the construction industry as a way of absorbing labour and pursuing full employment. The main questions addressed by officials and ministers concerned the number of houses to be built and the agencies to be employed to build them. It became established policy that the local authorities would play a major role in the transitional period, but that, in the longer run, the majority of new building would be left to the private sector, with the local authorities reverting to their pre-war role concentrating on slum clearance and provision for the least well off. It is concluded that in terms of the quantity and quality of houses to be built the housing policy of the coalition government was more radical and ambitious than is generally recognized. But it was highly conservative in terms of its stance on systemic reform.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Faculty of the Built Environment, University of the West of England, Bristol BS16 1QY, UK (e-mail:

Publication date: 2003-04-01

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