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HOUSES FOR THE PEOPLE.
A SUMMARY OF THE POWERS OF LOCAL AUTHORITIES UNDER THE Housing Of The Working Classes Acts, 1890 to 1903, AND
THE USE WHICH HAS BEEN AND CAN BE MADE OF THEM.
(Fourth EditioN, REVISED AND ENLARGED).
PUBLISHED AND SOLD BY
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The provision of housing accommodation for the industrial classes has hitherto been left almost entirely in the hands of private enterprise, with the inevitable result that high rents are exacted for the privilege of occupying squalid dwellings whose very existence is a grave social danger. In the poorest districts of our large towns and cities the artizan in search of a house must make his choice between grim and gloomy model dwellings, erected by thrifty philanthropists of the five per cent. school, and dilapidated insanitary tenements which yield fat revenues to the rack-renting proprietor and constant work for the doctor and undertaker. Experience has abundantly shown that the “models" with their necessary restrictions and often comfortless arrangements are ill adapted to certain classes such as costermongers, and distasteful to many other people ; whilst the worst class of tenement houses are a social nuisance which successive Public Health Acts have striven ineffectually to abolish.
In recent years, since the first edition of this Tract was issued, the urgency of the housing problem has been recognized, and housing reform now figures as an item in election addresses, and serves as a popular subject for speeches at congresses and papers by statisticians. The need for energetic action is admitted, and the means is pro
The Housing Acts of 1890 to 1903. The London County Council, and all the borough and district councils throughout England, as well as the equivalent authorities in Scotland and Ireland, have full power to supply dwellings for the people under the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1890, which has been extended in the case of England and Wales by the amending Acts of 1900 and 1903; but the procedure is still somewhat complicated, and for various reasons the law has not yet been fully made use of. The principal Act consists of three distinct divisions, viz., Parts I., II., III. Part IV. contains sundry administrative details; Parts V. and VI. explain the application of the Act to Scotland and Ireland.
Part I.-UNHEALTHY AREAS. This empowers the London County Council, and elsewhere the urban sanitary authority, to buy compulsorily and clear of buildings any insanitary area. The local authority in London must always, and elsewhere may be compelled by the Local Government Board to, provide house-room on the spot or elsewhere for at least half the persons of the working class who are displaced by the demolition. Land acquired under Part III. may be used for this purpose. This part of the Act does not apply to the rural districts, and it deals only
with large improvement schemes. Under it whole districts can be purchased and cleared, new streets laid out, and the character of an area entirely changed. The machinery of this Part can be set in motion by the report of a medical officer of health, and he is compelled to make a report on a representation by two justices of the peace or by twelve ratepayers.
But as these improvement schemes are very large and costly affairs, any person intending to propose them should obtain far fuller information than can be given in this Tract, and it is not therefore necessary to explain the machinery here.
Part II.-UNHEALTHY HOUSES. This Part gives power to the local sanitary authorities throughout the kingdom to order the closing and, if necessary, the demolition of any house which is unfit for habitation. It is the duty of the medical officer of health to report on any such house, and he is compelled to make a report on the demand of four householders residing near the house in question. In case of neglect by the local authority, the householders who complained may appeal to the Local Government Board or, if in London or rural districts, to the county council. The local sanitary authority is also bound to have its district inspected from time to time, in order to ascertain whether it contains any insanitary houses.
An'area cleared under Section 39 of this Part may be dedicated as an open space, and the Local Government Board may require that dwelling accommodation for persons displaced by the demolition shall be provided by the local authority. Land may be purchased under Part III. for this purpose.
Finances.—Money may be borrowed on the security of the rates, with the consent of the Local Government Board, from the Public Works Loan Commissioners at the following rates: 35 per cent. up to 30 years ; 34 per cent. from 30 to 40 years ; 34 per cent. for 30 years; and at other rates up to 80 years. A local enquiry may be held by the Local Government Board before the loan is granted.
Part III.—New BUILDINGS. This is the most important Part of the Act for our present purpose, because it enables local authorities to build houses for the working classes whenever they think fit to do so. Except in rural districts, there is no provision whatever limiting the power of the local authority ; no formal proof of deficient house accommodation is requisite. The local authority can decide to build at any time and for any reason which may seem good to them.
The clauses of this part were originally designed to provide for the erection of lodging houses, but Section 53 reads as follows:
(1) The expression lodging-houses for the working classes," when used in this part of this Act, shall include separate houses or cottages for the working classes, whether containing one or several tenements, and the purposes of this part of this Act shall include the provision of such houses and cottages.