1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Housing

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30217911911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 13 — HousingArthur Shadwell

HOUSING. The housing of the poorer classes has become a pressing problem in all populous Western countries, and has engaged, in a varying but constantly increasing measure, the attention of legislative and administrative bodies and of philanthropic individuals and societies. The general interest was signalized by an International Congress held in London in 1907. The recognition of the problem is due in the first instance to the science of public health, the rise of which dates from the second quarter of the 19th century; and in the second instance to the growth of urban populations consequent on the development of manufacturing industries and of trading and transporting agencies, both of which tend to mass increasing numbers of people in convenient centres. To have a clear view of the subject it is necessary to distinguish these factors and their respective influence upon the problem. Urban congestion is quite secondary, and only important because and so far as it has a prejudicial effect upon health and strength. Further, the requirements on the scientific side, made on behalf of public health, are of very much wider application and more expansive than those which arise from the mere growth of urban population. That is obvious at once from the fact that they extend to rural housing, which has indeed become a prominent feature of the question in recent years. To ascribe the housing problem to the “factory system,” as some writers have done, is to put forward an inadequate and misleading view of it. It is, in fact, particularly acute in some places totally devoid of factories and least acute in some purely factory towns. If the factory system were abolished with all its effects the housing question would remain. But there is a more important distinction than extent of application. The requirements of public health are indeterminate and interminable; knowledge increases, or rather changes, and the standard constantly rises. It is the changing standard which gives most trouble; housing at one period thought good enough is presently condemned. Fifty years ago no house existed which would satisfy modern sanitary standards, and the mansions of the great were in some respects inferior to the worst quarters to-day. And to this process there is no end. It is quite conceivable that urban congestion might cease to be a difficulty at all. That actually happens in particular towns where the population is stationary or diminishing. One whole nation (France) has already reached that point, and others are moving towards it at varying rates. But even where the supply of houses exceeds the demand and many stand empty, the housing problem remains; condemnation of existing accommodation continues and the effort to provide superior houses goes on. In other words, there are two main aspects of the housing question, quality and quantity; they touch at various points and interact, but they are essentially distinct. The problem of quantity may be “solved,” that of quality has no finality.

The importance attached to housing is much enhanced by the general tendency to lay stress on the material conditions of life, which characterizes the present age. Among material conditions environment takes a leading place, largely under the influence of the theory of evolution in a popular and probably erroneous form; and among the factors of environment the home assumes a more and more prominent position. There is reason in this, for whatever other provision be made for work or recreation the home is after all the place where people spend most of their time. Life begins there and generally ends there. At the beginning of life the whole time is spent there and home conditions are of paramount importance to the young, whose physical welfare has become the object of increasing care. But the usual tendency to run to extremes has asserted itself. It may be admitted that it is extremely difficult to raise the character and condition of those who live in thoroughly bad home surroundings, and that an indispensable or preliminary step is to improve the dwelling. But if in pursuit of this object other considerations are lost sight of, the result is failure. Bad housing is intimately connected with poverty; it is, indeed, largely a question of poverty now that the difference between good and bad housing is understood and the effects of the latter are recognized. The poorest people live under the worst housing conditions because they are the cheapest; the economic factor governs the situation. Poverty again is associated with bad habits, with dirt, waste, idleness and vice, both as cause and as effect. These factors cannot be separated in real life; they act and react upon each other in such a way that it is impossible to disentangle their respective shares in producing physical and moral evils. To lay all responsibility upon the structural environment is an error constantly exposed by experience.

Defective quality embraces some or all of the following conditions—darkness, bad air, damp, dirt and dilapidation. Particular insanitary conditions independent of the structure are often associated; namely defects of water-supply, drainage, excrement and house refuse removal, back-yards and surrounding ground; they contribute to dirt, damp and bad air. Defective quantity produces high rents and overcrowding, both of which have a prejudicial effect upon health; the one by diminishing expenditure on other necessaries, the other by fouling the atmosphere and promoting the spread of infectious illness. The physical effects of these conditions have been demonstrated by comparative statistics of mortality general and special; among the latter particular stress is laid on the mortality of infants, that from consumption and from “zymotic” diseases. The statistical evidence has been especially directed to the effects of overcrowding, which can be stated with greater precision than other insanitary conditions. It generally takes the form of comparing the death-rates of different areas having widely contrasted densities of population or proportions of persons to a given space. It is not necessary to quote any of these figures, which have been produced in great abundance. They broadly establish a connexion between density and mortality; but the inference that the connexion can be reduced to a precise numerical statement and that the difference of mortality shown is all due to overcrowding or other housing conditions is highly fallacious. Many other factors ought to be taken into account, such as the age-distribution of the population, the birth-rate, the occupations, means, character and habits of the people, the geographical situation, the number of public institutions, hospitals, workhouses, asylums and so forth. The fallacious use of vital statistics for the purpose of proving some particular point has become so common that it is necessary to enter a warning against them; the subject of housing is a popular field for the exercise of that art, though there is no need of it.

The actual state of housing in different countries and localities, the efforts made to deal with it by various agencies, the subsidiary points which arise in connexion with it and the results attained—all these heads embrace such a vast mass of facts that any attempt to treat them fully in detail would run to inordinate length. It must suffice to review the more salient points; and the most convenient way of doing so is to deal first with Great Britain, which has led the way historically in extent of need, in its recognition and in efforts to meet it, adding some notes upon other countries, in which the question is of more recent date and for which less information is available.

The United Kingdom

The importance of housing and the need of improvement had by 1909 received public recognition in England for nearly 70 years, a period coinciding almost exactly with the systematic study of sanitation or public health. The active movement definitely began about 1841 with voluntary effort in which Lord Shaftesbury was the most prominent and active figure. The motive was philanthropic and the object was to improve the condition of the working classes. It took the form of societies; one was the “Metropolitan Association for Improving the Dwellings of the Industrial Classes,” incorporated in 1845 but founded in 1841; another was the “Society for Improving the Condition of the Labouring Classes,” originally the “Labourers’ Friend Society,” of which the Prince Consort became president. That fact and the statement of the Society concerning improved housing that “the moral were almost equal to the physical benefits,” sufficiently prove that public interest in the subject and a grasp of its significance already existed at that date. Legislation followed not long after and has continued at intervals ever since.

Legislation.—Twenty-eight Housing and Health Acts, passed between 1851 and 1903, are enumerated by Mr Dewsnup, whose monograph on The Housing Problem in England is the fullest account of the subject published. The first was the Shaftesbury Act of 1851 for the establishment of lodging-houses for the working classes; the last was the Housing of the Working Classes Act of 1903. The Shaftesbury Act had in view the provision by local authorities of good lodging-houses for the better class of artisans, and particularly of single persons, male and female, though families were also contemplated. It was accompanied in the same year by another act, not included in the list of twenty-eight, for the regulation and control of common lodging-houses, from which Mr Dewsnup reasonably infers that the object of Lord Shaftesbury, who inspired both acts, was the separation of the casual and disorderly class frequenting common lodging-houses from the more regularly employed and respectable workers who were sometimes driven to use them for lack of other accommodation. At any rate this early legislation embodied the principle of differential treatment and showed a grasp of the problem not always visible in later procedure. The most important of the subsequent acts were those of 1855 and 1866, both intended to encourage private enterprise in the provision of working-class dwellings; the Torrens Act of 1868 (Artisans’ and Labourers’ Dwellings Act) for the improvement or demolition of existing buildings; the Cross Act of 1875 (Artisans’ and Labourers’ Dwellings Improvement Act), for extending that process to larger areas; the Public Health Act of 1875; the Housing of the Working Classes Act of 1885 following the report of the Royal Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes, of which King Edward, then prince of Wales, was a member; the Housing of the Working Classes Act of 1890; the Public Health (London) Act of 1891. The acts of 1875 (Public Health), of 1890 and of 1891 are still in force. The story of this half-century of legislation (which also includes a number of Scotch and Irish acts, local private acts and others bearing on the question) is one of tentative efforts first in one direction then in another, of laws passed, amended, extended, consolidated, superseded. Many of the enactments, originally of limited application, were subsequently extended, and the principal laws now in force apply to the whole of the United Kingdom. Two main objects can be distinguished—(1) the treatment of existing dwellings by demolition or improvement; (2) the construction of new ones. The second head is further subdivided into (a) municipal action, (b) private action. These objects have been alternately promoted by legislative measures conceived and carried out on no systematic plan, but gradually and continuously developed into an effective body of law, particularly with regard to the means of dealing with existing insanitary dwellings. The advancing requirements of public health are clearly traceable in the series of enactments directed to that end. The Nuisances Removal Act of 1855 took cognizance of premises in such a state as to be “a nuisance or injurious to health,” and made provision for obtaining an order to prohibit the use of such premises for human habitation. In the same act overcrowding obtained statutory recognition as a condition dangerous or prejudicial to health, and provision was made for compelling its abatement. The campaign against bad housing conditions thus inaugurated by the legislature was extended by subsequent acts in 1860, 1866 and 1868, culminating in the Cross Act of 1875 for the demolition (and reconstruction) of large insanitary areas and the extremely important Public Health Act of the same year. The constructive policy, begun still earlier in 1851 by Lord Shaftesbury’s Act, was concurrently pursued, and for some years more actively than the destructive; but after 1866 the latter became more prominent, and though the other was not lost sight of it fell into the background until revived by the Royal Commission of 1885 and the housing legislation which followed, particularly the Housing of the Working Classes Act of 1890, amending and consolidating previous acts.

The laws in operation at the beginning of 1909 were the Public Health Acts of 1875 and 1891 (London), as amended by subsequent minor measures, and the Housing of the Working Classes Act of 1890, amended in 1894, 1900 and 1903. The Public Health Acts place upon the local sanitary authority the obligation of securing, under by-laws, the proper construction, draining and cleaning of streets, removal of house refuse and building of houses, including structural details for the prevention of damp and decay, the provision of sanitary conveniences and an adequate water-supply; also of inquiring into and removing nuisances, which include any premises in such a condition as to be a nuisance or injurious to health and any house so overcrowded as to be dangerous or injurious to health. For the purpose of carrying out these duties the local authority has the power of inspection, of declaring a building unfit for human habitation and of closing it by order. The Housing Acts give more extended power to the local authority to demolish insanitary dwellings and clear whole areas or “slums,” and also to construct dwellings for the working classes with or without such clearance; they also retain the older provisions for encouraging private enterprise in the erection of superior dwellings for the working classes. The procedure for dealing with insanitary property under these Acts is too intricate to be stated in detail; but, briefly, there are two ways of proceeding. In the first the local authority, on receiving formal complaint of an unhealthy area, cause an inspection to be made by their medical officer, and if the report in their opinion justifies action, they may prepare an “improvement scheme,” which is submitted to the Local Government Board. The Board holds an inquiry, and, if satisfied, issues a provisional order, which has to be confirmed by a special act of parliament, under which the local authority can proceed to demolish the houses concerned after paying compensation to the owners. This procedure, which is authorized by part i. of the act of 1890, is obviously both cumbrous and costly. The second way, provided for by part ii. of the act, is much simpler and less ambitious; it only applies to single houses or groups of houses. The medical officer in the course of his duty reports to the local authority any houses which are in his opinion unfit for human habitation; the local authority can then make an order to serve notices on the owners to repair the houses at their own expense. Failing compliance on the part of the owners, an order for closing the houses can be obtained; and if nothing is done at the end of three months an order for demolition can be made. Buildings injurious by reason of their obstructive character (e.g. houses built back to back so as to be without through ventilation and commonly called “back-to-back” houses) can be dealt with in a similar manner. Small areas containing groups of objectionable houses of either kind may be made the subject of an improvement scheme, as above. Where areas are dealt with under improvement schemes there is a certain obligation to re-house the persons displaced. Building schemes are provided for under part iii. of the act. Land may be compulsorily purchased for the purpose and the money required may be raised by loans under certain conditions. The provisions thus summarized were considerably modified by the “Housing, Town Planning, &c., Act,” passed at the end of 1909. It rendered obligatory the adoption (previously permissive) of the housing provisions (part iii.) of the act of 1890 by local authorities, simplified the procedure for the compulsory purchase of land required for the purpose and extended the facilities for obtaining loans. It further gave power to the Local Government Board to compel local authorities to put in force the act of 1890 in regard both to existing insanitary housing and the provision of new housing. Power was also given to county councils to act in default of rural district councils in regard to new housing. The procedure for dealing with insanitary houses by closing and demolition under part ii. (see above) was rendered more stringent. The general intention of the new act was partly to facilitate the administration of the previous one by local authorities and partly to provide means of compelling supine authorities to take action. Its town-planning provisions are noted below.

Effects of Legislation.—The efficacy of laws depends very largely on their administration; and when they are permissive and dependent on the energy and discretion of local bodies their administration varies greatly in different localities. That has been the case with the British housing and health laws, and is one cause of dissatisfaction with them. But in the aggregate they have effected very great improvement. Public action has chiefly taken effect in sanitary reform, which includes the removal of the worst housing, through demolition or alteration, and general sanitary improvements of various kinds. In some large towns the worst parts have been transformed, masses of old, narrow, crowded, dilapidated and filthy streets and courts have been swept away at one blow or by degrees; other parts have been reconstructed or improved. The extent to which this has been accomplished is not generally recognized. It is not easily demonstrated, and to realize it local knowledge, observation and memory are needed. The details of the story are hidden away in local annals and official reports; and writers on the subject are usually more concerned with what has not than with what has been done. Both the Public Health and the Housing Acts have had a share in the improvement effected. The operation of the former is slow and gradual, but it is continuous and far more general than that of the latter. It embraces many details which are not usually taken into account in discussing housing, but which have as much bearing on the healthiness of the home as the structure itself. The Public Health Acts have further had a certain preventive influence in laying down a standard for the erection of new houses by the ordinary commercial agencies. Such houses are not ideal, because the commercial builder studies economy and the question of rent; but the standard has risen, and building plans involving insufficient light and air, such as once were general, have now for several years been forbidden almost everywhere. Supervision of commercial building is, in fact, vastly more important than the erection of dwellings by public or philanthropic agencies, because it affects a vastly larger proportion of the population. The influence of the Public Health Acts in improving the conditions of home life cannot be estimated or summarized, but it is reflected in the general death-rate, which fell steadily in the United Kingdom from 21.1 per 1000 in 1878 to 15.4 per 1000 in 1907.

Insanitary Areas.—The operation of the Housing Acts is more susceptible of being stated in figures, though no fully comprehensive information is available. The original Shaftesbury Act of 1851 for erecting municipal lodging-houses appears to have been practically inoperative and little or nothing was done for a good many years. In 1864, however, Liverpool obtained a private act and entered on the policy of improvement by the demolition of insanitary dwellings on a considerable scale, following it up in 1869 by re-housing. In 1866 Glasgow, also under a private act, created an Improvement Trust, administered by the city council, and embarked on a large scheme of improvement. These seem to have been the earliest examples. The Torrens Act of 1868, which embodied the improvement policy, did not produce much effect. According to a parliamentary return, during the years 1883–1888, proceedings were only taken under this act in respect of about 2000 houses in London and four provincial towns. More advantage was taken of the Cross Act of 1875, which was intended to promote large improvement schemes. Between 1875 and 1885 23 schemes involving a total area of 51 acres and a population of about 30,000 were undertaken, in London; and 11 schemes in provincial towns. By far the most important of these, and the largest single scheme ever undertaken, was one carried out in Birmingham. It affected an area of 93 acres and involved a net cost of £550,000. Altogether between £4,000,000 and £5,000,000 were raised for improvement schemes under those acts. After the Housing Act of 1890 the clearance policy was continued in London and extended in the provinces. During the period 1891–1905 loans to the amount of about £2,300,000 were raised for improvement schemes by 28 provincial towns in England and Wales. The largest of these were Leeds (£923,000), Manchester (£285,000), Liverpool (£178,000), Sheffield (£131,000), Brighton (£112,000). The Leeds scheme affected an area of 75 acres, which was cleared at a cost of £500,000. In London the area cleared was raised to a total of 104 acres; the gross cost, down to March 31, 1908, was £3,417,337, the net cost £2,434,096, and the number of persons displaced 48,525. Glasgow has under its Improvement Trust cleared an area of 88 acres with a population of 51,000. At the same time the policy of dealing with houses unfit for habitation singly or in small groups by compelling owners to improve them has been pursued by a certain number of local authorities. In the six years 1899–1904 action was taken each year on the average in respect of about 5000 houses by some 400 local authorities large and small outside London. Representations were made against 33,746 houses, 17,210 were rendered fit for habitation, closing orders were obtained against 4220 and demolition orders against 748. These figures do not include cases in which action was taken under local acts and Public Health Acts. In Manchester, between 1885 and 1905, nearly 10,000 “back-to-back” houses were closed and about half of them reopened after reconstruction. Hull, an old seaport town with a great deal of extremely bad housing, has made very effective use of the method of gradual improvement and has transformed its worst areas without appearing in any list of improvement schemes. In recent years this procedure has been systematically taken up in Birmingham and other places, and has been strongly advocated by Mr J. S. Nettlefold (Practical Housing) in preference to large improvement schemes on account of the excessive expense involved by the latter in buying up insanitary areas. In the six years 1902–1907 Birmingham dealt with 4111 houses represented as unfit for habitation; 1780 were thoroughly repaired, 1005 were demolished; the rest were under notice or in course of repair at the end of the period. Among other towns which have adopted this policy are Liverpool, Cardiff, York, Warrington and two London boroughs.

Building.—On the constructive side the operation of the Housing Acts has been less extensive and much less general. In London alone has the erection of working-class dwellings by municipal action and organized private enterprise assumed large proportions. Philanthropic societies were first in the field and date from a period anterior to legislation, which however, stimulated their activity for many years by affording facilities. Fourteen organizations were in operation in London prior to 1890 and some of them on a large scale; others have since been formed. The earliest was the Metropolitan Association for Improving the Dwellings of the Industrial Classes, whose operations date from 1847; it has built 1441 tenements containing 5105 rooms. The largest of these enterprises are the Improved Industrial Dwellings Company (1864), which has built 5421 tenements containing 19,945 rooms; the Peabody Fund (1864) with 5469 tenements containing 12,328 rooms; the Artisans’, Labourers’ and General Dwellings Company (1867), with 1467 tenements containing 3495 rooms, and 6195 cottage dwellings; the East-End Dwellings Company (1885) with 2096 tenements containing 4276 rooms; the Guinness Trust (1889) with 2574 tenements containing 5338 rooms. The Artisans’ Dwellings Company alone has housed upwards of 50,000 persons. In addition to these there are the Rowton Houses (1892), which are hotels for working men, six in number, accommodating 5162 persons. So far as can be estimated, private enterprise has housed some 150,000 persons in improved dwellings in London on a commercial basis. The early activity of the building companies was largely due to the policy of the Metropolitan Board of Works, which adopted extensive improvement schemes and sold the cleared sites to the companies, who carried out the re-housing obligations imposed by the law. Since the London County Council, which replaced the Board of Works in 1889, adopted the policy of undertaking its own re-housing, their activity has greatly diminished. The buildings erected by them are nearly all in the form of blocks of tenements; the Artisans’ Dwellings Company, which has built small houses and shops in outlying parts of London, is an exception. The tenement blocks are scattered about London in many quarters. For instance the Peabody Fund has 18 sets of dwellings in different situations, the Metropolitan Association has 14; the Artisans’ Dwellings Company has 10; the Guinness Trust has 8. In 1909 an important addition to the list of philanthropic enterprises in London was put in hand under the will of Mr W. R. Sutton, who left nearly £2,000,000 for the purpose of providing improved working-class dwellings. The erection of tenement blocks containing accommodation for 300 families was begun on a site in the City Road. In only a few provincial towns has private enterprise contributed to improved housing in a similar manner and that not upon a large scale; among them are Newcastle, Leeds, Hull, Salford and Dublin.

Municipal Building has been more generally adopted. The following details are taken from Mr W. Thompson’s Housing up to Date, which gives comprehensive information down to the end of 1906. The number of local authorities which had then availed themselves of part iii. of the Housing Act of 1890, which provides for the erection of working-class dwellings, was 142. They were the London County Council, 12 Metropolitan Boroughs, 69 County Boroughs and Town Councils, 49 Urban District Councils and 12 Rural District Councils. The dwellings erected are classified as lodging-houses, block dwellings, tenement houses, cottage flats and cottages. Lodging-houses have been built by 12 towns, of which 8 are in England, 3 in Scotland (Glasgow, Aberdeen and Leith) and 1 in Ireland (Belfast). The total number of beds provided was 6218, of which Glasgow accounts for 2414, London for 1846, Manchester and Salford together for 648. Four other towns have built or are building municipal lodging-houses for which no details are available. The other municipal dwellings erected are summarized as follows:—

Kind of Dwelling. No. of Dwellings. No. of Rooms.
Blocks 12,165 27,523
Tenement Houses 2,507 6,068
Cottage flats 2,004 5,747
Cottages 3,830 17,611
  Total 20,506 56,949

It appears from these figures that municipal building has provided for a smaller number of persons in the whole of the United Kingdom than private enterprise in London alone. The principal towns which have erected dwellings in blocks are London (7786), Glasgow (2300), Edinburgh (596), Liverpool (501), Dublin (460) and Manchester (420). The great majority of such dwellings contain either two or three rooms. Tenement houses have been built in Liverpool (1424), Manchester (308), Sheffield (192), Aberdeen (128), and in seven other towns on a small scale. Such tenements are generally somewhat larger than those built in blocks; the proportion of three- and four-roomed dwellings is higher and only a small number consist of a single room. Cottage flats have been built in Dublin (528), West Ham (401), Battersea (320), Plymouth (238), East Ham (212), and on a small scale in Liverpool, Birmingham, Newcastle and seven other places. The majority of the cottage flats contain three or more rooms, a considerable proportion have four rooms. Cottages have been built in 67 places, chiefly small towns and suburban districts. Of the large towns which have adopted this class of dwellings Salford stands first with 633 cottages; three London boroughs, all on the south side of the Thames, have built 234; Manchester has 228, Sheffield 173, Huddersfield 157, Birmingham 103. The number of rooms in municipal cottages ranges from three to eight, but the great majority of these dwellings have four or five rooms.

Some further details of municipal housing in particular towns are of interest. In London, the work of the London County Council down to March 31, 1908, not including three lodging-homes containing 1845 cubicles, is given in the official volume of London Statistics, published by the Council, as follows:—

Buildings Erected and in Course of Erection.
No. of
No. of
Cost of Land
and Building.
No. of Persons
in Occupation.
8,373 22,939 £2,438,263 26,687

With regard to the cost, it is to be noted that the actual cost of the land purchased for improvement schemes was very much greater than that stated, having been written down to an arbitrary figure called “housing valuation.” The financial accounts of L.C.C. dwellings for the year ending March 31, 1908, are thus summarized:—

London County Council Dwellings, Accounts 1907–1908.
Deductions for
Empties, &c.
Net Receipts. Expenditure
£180,169 £19,455 £160,714 £157,141 £3,573

It appears from this that if the actual commercial cost of the land were taken the housing of the Council would be run at a considerable annual loss. The occupations of the tenants are stated in the following proportions: labourers 789, clerks 312, policemen 251, shop assistants 202, warehousemen 183, printers 182, charwomen 182, tailors 155, cabinetmakers 146, canvassers 122, cigarette makers 118, widows 116, tram drivers 110, postmen 107, packers 97, engineers 87, dressmakers 41, coachmen 31, motormen 26, milliners 19. These proportional figures show that though a considerable number of labourers have been housed, the great majority of the occupants of London municipal dwellings are of a superior class. The mean weekly rent in London County Council dwellings is 2s. 101/2d. per room against 2s. 4d. in dwellings erected by other agencies. The most important feature of the County Council’s policy in recent years has been the acquisition of suburban sites for the erection of cottages. There are four such sites, two on the south, one on the north and one on the west side of London; the total area is 349 acres, and the total accommodation contemplated is for 66,000 persons at an estimated cost of £3,105,840; the present accommodation is for about 8000. In addition to the housing provided by the County Council, fourteen London Borough Councils and the City Corporation had at the beginning of 1909 erected or adapted 3136 dwellings containing 7999 rooms.

In Liverpool, down to 1907, about £920,000 had been spent in clearing insanitary areas and building new dwellings; the demolition of about 8000 houses and purchase of land cost about £500,000; and the erection of 2046 dwellings, containing 4961 rooms, cost about £350,000. The size of the dwellings and the number of each class are: 1 room, 193; 2 rooms, 965; 3 rooms, 719; 4 rooms, 167. The great majority are in tenement houses of three storeys. The mean weekly rent is 1s. 61/2d. per room, but a large number are let at less. The net return on the total outlay is just over 1%, on the building outlay it is 22/3%. The principal classes of persons occupying the dwellings are labourers 675, carters 120, charwomen 103, firemen 93, porters 80, hawkers 64, sailors 45, scavengers 40. These all belong to the poorest classes, living by casual or irregular work. Liverpool has, in fact, succeeded more than any other town in providing municipal dwellings in which the really poor can afford to live.

In Manchester 956 dwellings have been built at a total cost for building and improvement of £451,932; of the whole number 420 are in blocks, 308 in tenement houses and 228 in cottages. The rents are much higher than in Liverpool; in the tenement houses the mean weekly rent is about 6d. per room more than in Liverpool. The gross profit on the block dwellings is 11/3% on the capital outlay, on the tenement houses 3%, on the cottages 22/3%. “The total loss during the last seven to ten years, including loan charges, has amounted to about £54,240” (Thompson).

In Glasgow the corporation has built under improvement schemes 2280 new dwellings containing 4013 rooms and 241 shops. The dwellings, which are all in blocks and centrally situated, are occupied chiefly by artisans; only 28% have been reserved for the poorest class of tenants. The total amount taken from the rates on this account in 30 years is £600,000. Dwellings valued at £400,000 for building and £300,000 for land give a net return of 3.06% on outlay; dwellings valued at £280,000 for land and building return 3.03% on outlay; leaving the sinking fund charges to be defrayed out of rates.

In Edinburgh insanitary areas have been bought for £107,023 and new dwellings containing 1032 rooms have been built for £87,970. Nearly all the dwellings are of one or two rooms only. The rents charged average about 2s. a week per room; actual rents received average 1s. 4d. per room and they have to be subsidized out of the rates to the extent of 2s. 3d. per room to meet the cost of site.

In Dublin provision has been or was in 1909 shortly to be made for housing 5394 families or 19,000 persons; of which 1041 families, or about one-fifth, are housed by the Corporation, the rest by companies and private persons. Altogether it was estimated that £500,000 would be spent under the act of 1890. Fifteen streets, containing 1665 houses, have been declared unhealthy areas by the medical officer, and between 1879 and 1909 more than 3000 houses were closed as unfit for habitation.

Co-operative Building.—Municipal and philanthropic housing by no means exhaust the efforts that have been made to provide working-class dwellings outside the ordinary building market. Their special function has been to substitute better dwellings for pre-existing bad ones, which is the most costly and difficult, as well as the most urgent, part of the problem in old towns. But in the provision of new dwellings alone they have been far surpassed by organized self-help in different forms. Down to 1906 there had been built 46,707 houses by 413 co–operative societies at a cost of nearly £10,000,000. They are most numerous in the manufacturing towns and particularly in the north-western district of England. Of the whole number 8530 were owned by the societies which built them; 5577 had been sold to members, and 32,600 had been built by members on money lent by the societies. These figures do not include the particular form of co-operative building known as co-partnership housing, which will be mentioned later on, or the operations of the so-called building societies, which are really companies lending money to persons on mortgage for the purpose of building. The difference between them and the co-operative societies which do the same thing is that the latter retain the element of co-operation by lending only to their own members, whereas the building societies deal in the open market. Their operations are on an immense scale; at the end of 1908 the invested funds of the registered building societies exceeded £72,000,000. An agency working on this scale, which far exceeds the operations of all the others put together, is obviously an important factor in housing. The number of houses built must help to relieve congestion, and since they are built to suit the owners or tenants they cannot be of the worst class. They also represent a form of thrift, and deserve notice on that account.

The Small Dwellings Acquisition Act of 1899, which has not previously been mentioned, was intended to facilitate the building or purchase of small houses by their tenants by means of loans advanced by local authorities. Down to 1906 about £82,000 had been so advanced by 5 county boroughs, 17 urban councils and 1 rural district council.

Housing by Employers.—No comprehensive information is available on this head, but it has not been an important factor in towns, being chiefly confined to agricultural, mining and suburban manufacturing districts. The former two belong to the subject of Rural Housing, which is separately discussed below; the third has an interest of its own on account of its connexion with “model settlements.” The building of houses for their workpeople by industrial employers has never been widely adopted in this country, but it has attracted considerable attention at two different periods. Sir Titus Salt was a pioneer in this direction, when he built his woollen mills at Saltaire, on the outskirts of Bradford, and housed his workpeople on the spot. That plan was maintained by his successors, who still own some 900 excellent and cheap cottages, and was adopted by a few other manufacturers in the same neighbourhood. Saltaire was a model settlement with many institutions for the benefit of the mill-hands, and as such it attracted much attention; but the example was not generally followed, and the interest lapsed. Recently it has been revived by the model settlements at Port Sunlight, near Liverpool, started about 1888, Bournville near Birmingham (1895), and Earswick, near York (1904), which are of a much more elaborate character. Elsewhere, employers setting down works in some new locality where no provision existed, have had to build houses for their workmen; but they have done so in a plain way, and this sort of housing has not assumed large proportions.

Conditions in 1909.—It has been said above that great improvements have been effected, and of that there is no doubt at all. Both quantity and quality are more satisfactory than they were, though both are still defective. The conditions vary greatly in different places, and no general indictment can be sustained. The common practice of citing some exceptionally bad cases, and by tacit inference generalizing from them to the whole country, is in nothing more misleading than in the matter of housing. Local differences are due to several causes—age, population, occupations and means of the people, public opinion and municipal energy. The first three chiefly determine the difficulty and extent of the problem, the last two influence its treatment. The difficulty is greatest in towns which are old, have large populations and a high percentage of poor. Such pre-eminently are the large seaports, where much casual labour is employed. London, Liverpool, Glasgow, the Tyne, Hull, Sunderland are examples. Old inland towns having a large trading as well as an industrial element present the same features. Such are Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield and Bradford. In all these, and some others like them, the past has left a heavy legacy of bad housing by malconstruction and dilapidation, which has been increased by growth of population and overcrowding. They have attacked it with varying degrees of energy according to the prevalent local spirit and with varying results.

Overcrowding.—The one condition which permits of precise and comprehensive statement is overcrowding. A standard has been officially adopted in England based on the number of persons to a room in each dwelling; and the facts in relation to this standard are embodied in the census returns. It is a much better criterion than that of “density” or number of persons per acre, which is very deceptive; for an apparently low density may conceal much overcrowding within walls and an apparently high one may be comparatively guiltless. The room-density is the important thing in actual life. Some light is also thrown on this question by the number of rooms contained in each dwelling, and that is also given in the census. The standard of overcrowding is more than two persons to a room. In 1901 there were in England and Wales 2,667,506 persons or 8.2% of the population living in a state of overcrowding according to this definition. Their distribution is extremely irregular and capricious. In rural districts the proportion was only 5.8%, in urban districts 8.9%; but these summary figures give no idea of the actual state of things in different localities. In both rural districts and in towns the proportion of overcrowding varies in different localities from less than 1% to over 30% of the population. The towns are the most important and we shall confine attention chiefly to them. A list of 84 having a population of 50,000 and upwards, exclusive of London, is given by Mr Dewsnup. The overcrowding ranges from 34.54% in Gateshead and 32.42% in South Shields to 0.97% in Northampton and 0.62% in Bournemouth. Of the whole number exactly one-half have less than 5%; 15 have less than 2% and 22 have 10% or more. Neither size nor character has much to do with the variation. Bournemouth, at the bottom of the list with 0.62%, is a residential place and health resort with a population of about 50,000; so is Tynemouth, which is nearly at the top, with 30.71%. The two largest towns, Liverpool and Manchester, are 26th and 32nd on the list, with only 7.94% and 6.28% respectively, or considerably less than the average; and on the other hand none of the first 17 towns with the highest proportion of overcrowding are of the largest size. Again, with regard to character, Leicester and Northampton, which are almost at the bottom of the list, with 1.04% and 0.97% respectively, are both purely industrial towns. The most striking facts are that the six towns, which alone have more than 20% of overcrowding, namely Gateshead (34.5), South Shields (32.4), Tynemouth (30.7), Newcastle (30.4), Sunderland (30.10), Plymouth (20.1) are all old seaports, that four of them at the head of the list are on the Tyne and the fifth on the Wear. This points strongly to special local conditions and it is borne out by the facts with regard to rural districts. Northumberland and Durham show a great excess of overcrowding over other counties; and some of their rural districts even surpass any of the towns. The highest of all is the district of Tynemouth, with 38.18% of overcrowding. The explanation lies in a special combination of large families and small houses prevalent in this area. All the rural districts are seats of coal-mining, and miners are the most prolific section of the population. They also live in small houses of a traditional and antiquated character, often of one storey only or built back to back. Many are built by colliery proprietors. Large families and small houses also prevail in the towns. Some of them contain coal-pits and the rest of their industrial population is engaged chiefly in engineering and shipbuilding works, occupations also usually associated with a high birth-rate. The men live as near their work as possible and the practice of living in flats or occupying part of a house prevails extensively.

In London the number of persons living in overcrowded conditions in 1901 was 726,096 or 16.0% of the population. The proportion varied from 2.6% in Lewisham to 35.2% in Finsbury, but in 23 out of the 29 boroughs into which the county is divided it exceeded the urban mean for the whole country, and in 9 boroughs having an aggregate population of 1,430,000 it was more than double the mean. Conditions in London are evidently untypical of English towns.

In the light of the census figures it is clear that no large proportion of the English industrial population is living under conditions of serious overcrowding, outside the special districts mentioned and that the expression “house famine” cannot be properly applied to England or English towns in general. In the House of Commons, on the 16th of August 1909, the president of the Local Government Board, Mr John Burns, gave a list of the number of unoccupied houses and tenements in each of the London boroughs and in the eight largest provincial towns, including Glasgow; the total was 104,107. By a further analysis of the census returns Mr Dewsnup shows that a great deal of the overcrowding is of a comparatively mild character and that it is due to a relatively small excess of population. Bradford, for instance, is credited with 40,896 overcrowded persons, representing the high percentage of 14.61 of the population; but in the case of nearly 20,000 the excess over the standard is very slight, and the proportion of gross overcrowding comes down to 7.55%. Moreover, this serious overcrowding is produced by no more than 2.79 of the population, so that its cure presents no insuperable difficulty. The argument is confirmed by the very substantial diminution which actually took place between 1891 and 1901. The facts are so striking that they deserve to be presented in tabular form:—

Percentage of Population Overcrowded.
  1891 1901
England and Wales  11.23 8.20
Gateshead 40.78 34.54
Newcastle 35.08 30.47
Sunderland 32.85 30.10
Plymouth 26.27 20.19
Halifax 21.31 14.49
Bradford 20.61 14.61
Huddersfield 19.89 12.88
London 19.70 16.01
Leeds 16.46 10.08
St Helens 15.72 10.86
Birmingham 14.27 10.32
Burnley 12.74 7.14
Sheffield 11.58 9.50
Bolton 11.22 6.50
Liverpool 10.96 7.94
Oldham 10.13 7.42
Salford 9.39 7.54
West Ham 9.34 9.27
Wolverhampton 9.31 4.67
Swansea 9.25 5.57
Stockport 8.50 4.98
Manchester 8.25 6.28
Bristol 8.03 3.55
Hull 7.86 6.12
Blackburn 7.05 3.92
Birkenhead 6.80 5.02
Norwich 4.91 3.34
Brighton 4.56 3.07
Cardiff 4.31 2.92
Preston 4.13 2.64
Nottingham 3.62 3.65
Croydon 2.76 2.74
Derby 2.69 1.18
Leicester 2.22 1.04
Portsmouth 1.74 1.19

To what is this remarkable movement due? It is far too general to be attributed to the operation of the Housing Acts; for, though they have helped in some cases, a great diminution has occurred in many places in which no use has been made of them. Towns of all kinds and in all parts of the country exhibit the same movement in some degree; those which had little and those which had much overcrowding, the worst and the best. In London the percentage fell by 3.7, and the number of persons overcrowded was reduced by 103,669 in spite of an increase of population of 324,798. In Gateshead a fall of 6.2%, in Newcastle one of 4.6% took place; while at the other end of the scale Leicester and Derby reduced their already very low proportions by more than one-half. Nottingham is the only exception in the whole list. And in 28 out of the 35 towns the decrease of overcrowding was absolute as well as relative in spite of a large increase of population. London has been cited. The other large towns may be tabulated with it, thus:—

Town. Increase of
Decrease of
London 324,898 103,669
Liverpool 166,978 2,381
Manchester 38,504 7,545
Birmingham  44,091 14,290
Leeds 61,463 17,252
Sheffield 56,550 1,388
Bristol 107,367 6,105
Bradford 63,406 3,696

The very divergencies make the uniform diminution of overcrowding the more remarkable. The large increase of population in Liverpool and Bristol no doubt means extension of boundaries, which might have the effect of reducing the proportions of overcrowding, but it cannot account for the actual decrease of overcrowded persons. The change seems to be due to three factors all of which have been in general operation though in varying degrees. They are (1) the centrifugal movement promoted by improved locomotive facilities, (2) the declining birth-rate, (3) public health administration. (1) The first is the most important and the chief element has been tramways, of which a great extension accompanied by electrification took place in the decade. Thus the process of urbanization has been modified by one of suburbanization. Bristol is a prominent case; its overcrowding has been reduced by more than one-half without any large and costly municipal interference, mainly through the operation of ordinary economic forces. Tramways have made the outskirts accessible and builders have utilized the opportunity. They have built good houses, too, under supervision, and Bristol, though an old seaport and industrial town with much poverty, has the lowest general death-rate and the lowest infantile death-rate of all the great towns. (2) The birth-rate and the size of families are conditions which affect overcrowding in a very marked degree, though no attention is paid to them in that connexion. The case of the mining districts and the towns on the Tyne has been mentioned above; the same thing is seen in London, where all the most overcrowded districts (Finsbury, Stepney, Shoreditch and Bethnal Green) have high birth-rates, ranging from 31.3 to 36.4 per 1000 in 1902–1906. The necessity imposed on poor parents of putting several children into a cheap and therefore small dwelling accounts for a large proportion of overcrowding, which automatically diminishes with a falling birth-rate. The ultimate advantage of this method of reducing overcrowding is a question on which opinions may differ, but there is no doubt about the fact. (3) Public health administration is the third general cause; it attracts no notice and works very gradually, but it does work. The last annual report (for 1907) of the medical officer to the London County Council says of overcrowding: “There is reason for thinking that in recent years greater attention has been paid by sanitary authorities to the abatement of the nuisance, and Dr Newman states that in Finsbury there has been an enormous reduction in overcrowding, the reduction having been effected mainly in the years 1901–1905.” The medical officers of the metropolitan boroughs reported in 1907 2613 dwellings overcrowded in 23 boroughs and 3216 such dwellings remedied in 27 boroughs. It should not be forgotten that a good deal of overcrowding is voluntary. Families which have not enough room for their own members nevertheless take in lodgers; and in some places, of which London is the most conspicuous but not the only example, foreigners herd together thickly in a very small space.

The improvement shown by the statistics of overcrowding is confirmed by those relating to the size of dwellings. Between 1891 and 1901 the percentage of the population living in very small dwellings appreciably diminished thus—in 1-roomed dwellings, from 2.2 to 1.6%; in 2-roomed dwellings, from 8.3 to 6.6%; in 3-roomed dwellings, from 11.1 to 9.8%; while the proportion living in dwellings of 5 rooms and upwards increased from 54.9 to 60.1%. This again is referable to the suburban movement and a higher standard of requirements. Six-roomed houses with a bathroom tend to replace the old four-roomed type. The general report accompanying the census says: “However the tenement figures for England and Wales are compared it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the comparison affords satisfactory evidence of distinct improvement in the housing of the people during the ten years 1891–1901.” In short, the problem of quantity is only acute in a few places and steadily becoming less so.

The foregoing facts apply only to England and Wales. In Scotland the state of things is much less satisfactory. No statistics of overcrowding are available, but the following comparative table shows how different the housing conditions are in the two countries:—

Size of Dwellings, England and Scotland, 1901.
Dwelling. Percentage of Population.
England. Scotland.
1 room 1.6 11.1
2 rooms 6.6 39.5
3 rooms 9.8 19.9
4 rooms 21.9 9.1
5 rooms and over  60.1 20.4

Over 50% of the population of Scotland live in tenements of one or two rooms; only 8.2% in England. A comparison of the largest towns in the two countries gives the following result:—

Percentage of Population.
Scotland. England.
Town. 1 Room. 2 Rooms. Town. 1 Room. 2 Rooms.
Glasgow 16.2 38.9 London 6.7 15.5
Edinburgh 8.9 32.4 Liverpool 2.7 5.9
Dundee 11.3 51.7 Manchester 0.8 4.01
Aberdeen 6.1 33.2 Birmingham  0.3 2.4
Greenock 11.3 47.6 Sheffield 0.4 4.0
Kilmarnock  18.9 43.3 Bristol 1.6 5.7
Mean 12.7 42.4 Mean 1.8 6.7

The conditions in Scottish towns where very tall tenement houses are common, resemble those in other countries, in which overcrowding is far greater than in England. All these matters are comparative, and the superiority of conditions in England ought to be recognized. Yet, in Scotland, too, great improvements have been effected. In 1861 there were 25,959 houses without windows; in 1901 only 130. These facts throw light on the long standing of the housing question, the change of standard and the improvement effected.

In Ireland there is more overcrowding than in England, though probably less than in Scotland, with the possible exception of Dublin, which has a larger proportion of one-roomed dwellings than any Scottish town, namely, 24.7%. The percentage of population living in overcrowded conditions in the principal towns is—Dublin 40.6, Limerick 31.7, Cork 23.4, Waterford 20.6, Londonderry 16.7, Belfast 8.2.

Sanitary Conditions.—With regard to the quality of existing housing reference has already been made to the effect of the Public Health Acts and the general improvement in sanitation. The only numerical measure is afforded by the death-rates, which have fallen in England from 20.9 per 1000 in 1871–1875 to 15.4 per 1000 in 1903–1907 and in the United Kingdom from 21.3 to 15.7 per 1000 in the same period. The condition of the dwelling must be credited with a considerable share in this fall. There have, in fact, been great changes and all in the direction of improvement. The rise and development of sanitation, of house and main drainage and sewage disposal, the purification of water and provision of a constant service in the house, the removal of refuse, the segregation of infectious illness, sanitary inspection—all these, apart from the demolition of the worst housing and the provision of better, have raised the general healthiness of the dwellings of the people. In face of these facts and of the vital statistics, to say that the people are physically deteriorating through the influence of bad housing is to talk obvious nonsense, for all conditions have been improving for more than a generation. If physical deterioration is going on, of which there is no proof, either it is not caused by bad housing or there is less than there was. Deterioration may be caused by the continued process of urbanization and the congregating of an ever larger proportion of the population in towns; but that is a different question. If the town has any injurious influence it is not due to the sanitary condition of the houses, which is in general superior to that of houses in the country, but to the habits and occupations of the people or to the atmosphere and the mere aggregation. But much misapprehension prevails with regard to towns. The most distinctive and the most valuable feature of English housing is the general predominance of the small house or cottage occupied by a single family. Only in London and a few other towns do blocks of large tenement houses of the continental type exist, and even there they are comparatively few. In England and Wales 84% of the population live in dwellings of 4 rooms and upwards, which means broadly separate houses. Now the prevalence of small houses involves spreading out and the covering of much ground with many little streets, which produce a monotonous effect; a smoky atmosphere makes them grimy and dull skies contribute to the general dinginess. The whole presents to the eye a vast area of dreary meanness and monotony. Thus the best feature of English national housing turns to its apparent disadvantage and the impression is gained by superficial observers that the bulk of our working-class populations lives in “slums.” The word “slum” has no precise meaning, but if it implies serious sanitary defects it is not applicable to most of our town housing. There are real slums still, but the bulk of the working class population do not live in them; they live in small houses, often of a mean and dingy exterior but in essential respects more sanitary than the large and often handsome blocks to be seen in foreign towns, which are not put down as slums because they do not look dirty. A smoky atmosphere is injurious to health, but it must be distinguished from defects of housing. Ideal houses in a smoky place soon look bad; inferior ones in a clean air look brighter and deceive the eye. The worst of the old housing has disappeared; the filthy, dilapidated, airless and sunless rookeries—the real slums—and the underground dwellings have been swept away in most cases, and what remains of them is not so bad as what has gone. But reform has been very regularly applied. Some towns have done much, others little. The large towns, in which the evil was most intense and most conspicuous in bulk, have as a class done far more than smaller ones in which the need perhaps was less great, but in which also a less healthy public spirit prevailed. The worst housing conditions to-day are probably to be found in old towns of small and medium size, in which the ratepayers have a great disinclination to spend money on anything, and the control of local affairs is apt to be in the hands of the owners of the most insanitary property. Nor is this state of things altogether confined to old places. Some of recent growth have been allowed, for the same reason, to spring up and develop without any regard to sanitary principles or the requirements of public health. There is therefore abundant scope for further reform and in not a few cases urgent need of it. On the other hand, we have a number of towns, particularly manufacturing towns, both large and small in the midlands and the north of England, which have already reached a good general standard of housing in all essential requirements, and only need the regular and steady exercise of vigilance by the public health service to remove such defects as still remain or may reveal themselves with the lapse of time.

Rents.—Rent is a matter of great importance from every point of view, and that is now being realized. A quantity of official information on the subject has been collected and made available by an elaborate inquiry ordered by the Board of Trade in 1905 and published in 1908 (Cd. 3864). It relates to working class dwellings in the principal industrial towns in the United Kingdom, 94 in all: namely, 77 in England and Wales, 11 in Scotland and 6 in Ireland. The following tables give in a condensed form the chief statistical results obtained in October 1905:—

Predominant Range of Weekly Rents.

  England and Wales. Scotland. Ireland.
London. Provincial
One room .. .. 2/- to 2/6 1/6 to 2/6
Two rooms 4/6 to 7/6 3/- to 3/6 3/10 to 4/3 2/6 to 3/6
Three rooms  6/- to 9/- 3/9 to 4/6 5/2 to 6/5 4/- to 5/-
Four rooms 7/6 to 10/6 4/6 to 5/6 .. 5/6 to 6/9
Five rooms 9/- to 13/– 5/6 to 6/6 .. ..
Six rooms 10/6 to 15/6 6/6 to 7/9 .. ..

Rents are lowest in Ireland and next lowest in English provincial towns, considerably higher in Scotland and highest of all in London, for which further special details are given. It is divided into three zones (1) central, (2) middle, (3) outer, which have the following mean weekly rents:—

London Mean Weekly Rents.
Central. Middle. Outer.
One room 4/6 3/9 ..
Two rooms 7/- 6/- ..
Three rooms 8/9 7/6 6/6
Four rooms .. 9/- 7/9
Five rooms .. 11/- 9/6
Six rooms .. 13/- 11/-

In central London—which extends to Stepney in the East, Lambeth m the South, Islington in the North, and includes Westminster, Holborn, Finsbury, Marylebone, Shoreditch, most of Bethnal Green, Southwark and Bermondsey—the rent of a single room may be as high as 6s. or even 6s. 6d. (Holborn) a week. It is here that overcrowding is greatest, and block-tenements, philanthropic and municipal, most numerous. The rentals of the block dwellings have not been taken into account in the foregoing official statistics; they range as follows: 1 room, 2s. 6d. to 5s.; 2 rooms, 5s. to 8s.; three rooms, 6s. 6d. to 11s. The lowest rent for which a single room can be obtained in this area is 2s. 6d. a week. In no English town are rents nearly so high as in London. If 100 is taken as the index number for rent in London the nearest towns to it (Croydon and Plymouth) only reach 81, and one town on the list (Macclesfield) is as low as 32. The index number of twenty-one towns out of the whole is 50 or under, and these include a number of important industrial centres—Hull, Leicester, Blackburn, Northampton, Warrington, Coventry, Crewe and others. The index numbers of the great towns are: Liverpool 65, Manchester and Salford 62, Birmingham 59, Leeds 56, Sheffield 55, Bristol 53, Bradford 59, Hull 48; that is to say the level of rents in these towns is little more than half that in London. This is one more proof of the untypical character of London, and of the fallacy of generalizing from it to the rest of the country. Even in the overcrowded towns on Tyneside rents do not run to three-fourths of the London level. When the towns are divided into geographical groups the index numbers run thus: London 100, Northern Counties 62, Yorkshire 56, Lancashire and Cheshire 54, Midlands 51, Eastern Counties 50, Southern Counties 61, Wales and Monmouth 60. Rents are always highest in capitals, and Edinburgh complies with the rule; but it is very slightly in advance of Glasgow, and in Scotland generally the range is much smaller than in England. Dublin, on the other hand, is differentiated from the other Irish towns as widely as London from English ones.

A general and progressive rise in rents has been taking place for many years. The following index numbers for the great towns are given in the second series of memoranda published by the Board of Trade in 1904 (Cd. 1761):—

Relative Working-Class Rents.
1880 86.6 1895 96.3
1885 90.1 1900 100.0
1890 89.9

The tendency to rise is attributable to increased cost of labour, due to higher wages and less work, increased cost of materials and higher rates. Weekly working-class rents generally include rates which are paid by the landlord. Housing reform has contributed to the rise, both directly and through the rates, on which it has thrown a heavy burden in various ways. When slums are cleared away and replaced by superior dwellings the new rents are generally higher than the old and this fact has proved a great difficulty. Most of the improved housing is beyond the means of those who need it most, and they seek other quarters resembling the old ones as nearly as possible. The example of Liverpool, which has the largest proportion of casual and ill-paid labour of all the great towns, and has been the most successful in providing new dwellings of a fair quality, centrally situated and not in blocks, at really low rates, shows that the problem is not insoluble; but as a rule too little attention is paid to the question of rent in housing reform, especially in building undertaken by municipalities. It is not ignored, but the importance attached to it by the poor is not realized. To them it is the first consideration after four walls, a roof and a fire-place; and 6d. a week makes a vast difference in their calculations. Reform which aims at raising the lowest classes of tenants by improving their dwellings defeats itself when it drives them away.

Rural Housing.—Little has hitherto been said about rural housing. It is of less importance than urban housing because it concerns a much smaller proportion of the population, and because in rural life the influence of inferior housing on health is offset by other conditions; but it has recently attracted much attention and was made the subject of inquiry by a Select Committee of the House of Commons in 1906. The report laid stress chiefly on the inaction of local rural authorities under the Public Health and Housing Acts, and on various obstacles in the way of improving existing houses and of providing more and better ones at rents which agricultural labourers can afford to pay. The available facts with regard to rural housing are scrappy and unsatisfactory. The word “rural” has no precise meaning and it includes several very different sections of the population; for instance, the inhabitants of suburbs, mining villages and mill villages as well as the real agricultural population. Complaint is made of both the quantity and the quality of rural housing. With regard to quantity it is said that in spite of migration to the towns there is a dearth of cottages through dilapidation and demolition without rebuilding. That may happen in particular localities, but there is no evidence to support a general allegation. Inquiries issued by the Board of Trade to agricultural correspondents brought the following replies: insufficient 56, sufficient 111, more than sufficient 32. Similar inquiries of land agents and owners resulted thus: insufficient 9, sufficient 11, more than sufficient 4, variable 6. From which it appears that insufficiency exists but is not general. The official evidence with regard to overcrowding is that it is much less acute than in the towns. The proportion of the rural population in England living in overcrowded conditions in 1901 was 5.8%; if the rural mining districts, the exceptional overcrowding of which has been noted above, be eliminated, the rest cannot be very bad. Moreover, the percentage has appreciably diminished; in 1891 it was 8.46. The complaint of bad quality is better founded. Some landowners take great pride in the state of their property, and excellent cottages may be found in model villages and elsewhere in many parts of the country; but much rural housing is of an extremely insanitary character. A good deal of evidence on this head has of late years been published in the reports of medical inspectors to the Local Government Board. And local authorities are very reluctant to set the law in motion against insanitary dwellings. On the other hand, they have in some cases hindered and prevented building by too rigid insistence on by-laws, framed with a view to urban housing and quite unsuited to rural conditions. A few rural authorities have taken action with regard to building schemes under Part III. of the Housing Act. A list of 31 in 17 counties is given in “Housing up to Date”; 13 applications were refused and 13 granted by the respective county councils and others were dropped. Details are given by the same authority of 54 houses built by 17 rural district councils. Public action may thus be said to amount to nothing at all. Landowners, however, have borrowed under the Improvements of Lands Acts upwards of £1,250,000 for building labourers’ cottages; and this is probably only a fraction of the amount spent privately.

In Ireland a special condition of affairs exists. A series of about a dozen acts, dating from 1881 and culminating in the Labourers (Ireland) Act of 1906, have been passed for promoting the provision of labourers’ cottages; and under them 20,634 cottages had been built and some thousands more authorized previous to the act of 1906, which extended the pre-existing facilities. The principle is that of the English Housing Acts applied to rural districts, but the procedure is simpler and quicker. The law provides that a representation may be made to the local authority by three ratepayers or resident labourers that “the existing house accommodation for agricultural labourers and their families is deficient having regard to the ordinary requirements of the district, or is unfit for human habitation owing to dilapidation, want of air, light, ventilation or other convenience or to any other sanitary defects,” whereupon the local authority shall make an improvement scheme. It may also initiate a scheme without representation, or the Local Government Board may do so in default of the local authority. The scheme is published, an inquiry held, notice given and an order made with very much less delay and expense than under the English law. Land is purchased by agreement, or compulsorily and the money for land and building raised by loan. Loans amounting to about 31/2 millions sterling had been raised down to 1906. The great majority of the cottages built are in Münster and Leinster. They must have at least 2 bedrooms and a kitchen, and the habitable rooms must be 8 ft. high. One of the most remarkable features is the low cost—about £150—at which these cottages have been built, including land and the expenses of procedure.

Recent Developments.—It is clear from a general review of the subject that the problem of housing the working classes in a satisfactory manner has proved more complex than was at one time realized. Experience has falsified hopes and led to a change of attitude. It is seen that there are limits to drastic interference with the normal play of economic forces and to municipal action on a large and ambitious scale. A reaction has set in against it. At the same time the problem is being attacked on other sides and from new points of departure. The tendency now is towards the more effectual application of gradual methods of improvement, the utilization of other means and the exercise of prevention in preference to cure. Under each of these heads certain movements may be noted.

The most troublesome problem is the treatment of existing bad housing. In regard to this the policy of large improvement schemes under which extensive areas are bought up and demolished has had its day, and is not likely to be revived to any considerable extent. That is not only because it is extremely costly but also because it has in the main done its work. It has done what could not have been done otherwise, and has swept away the worst of the old housing en masse. To call it a failure because it is costly and of limited application would be as great a mistake as to regard it as a panacea. The procedure which seems to be coming into favour in place of it is that adopted in Birmingham and advocated by Mr J. S. Nettlefold (Practical Housing) coupled with a more general and effective use of the Public Health Acts. The principle is improvement in detail effected by pressure brought to bear on owners by public authority. The embodiment of this principle forms an important part of the Housing and Town Planning Bill introduced by the Local Government Board in 1908, which contained clauses empowering the central authority to compel apathetic local authorities to do their duty in regard to the closing of unfit houses, and authorizing local authorities both to issue closing orders and to serve notices on landlords requiring them “to execute such works as the local authority may specify as being necessary to make the house in all respects reasonably fit for human habitation.”

Among the other and less direct means to which attention is being turned is the policy of getting people away from the towns. The effect of improved travelling facilities in reducing urban overcrowding has been noted above. That object was not specifically contemplated in the building and electrification of tramways, and in the development of other means of cheap local travel, but the beneficial effect has caused them to be recognized as an important factor in relation to housing and to be more systematically applied in that connexion. A newer departure, however, is to encourage migration not to the outskirts of towns but altogether into the country by facilitating the acquisition of small holdings of land. This has been done by private landowners in an experimental way for some years, and in 1907 the policy was embodied in the Small Holdings Act, which gives county and borough councils power to purchase or hire land compulsorily and let it in holdings of not more than 50 acres or £50 annual value. Failing action on their part the Board of Agriculture may frame schemes. Power is also conferred on the Board and on County Councils to establish co-operative agricultural societies and credit banks. These measures have been adopted from foreign countries, and particularly from Denmark and Germany. A very large number of applications for holdings have been made under this act, but it is too early to state the effects. They will depend on the success of tenants in earning a livelihood by agricultural produce.

Another new and quite different departure is the attempt to establish a novel kind of town, called a “Garden City,” which shall combine the advantages of the town and the country. The principal points are the choice of a site, which must be sufficiently convenient to enable industries to be carried on, yet with rural surroundings, the laying out of the ground in such a way as to ensure plenty of open space and variety, the insistence on building of a certain standard and the limitation of size. One has been established at Letchworth in Hertfordshire, 34 m. from London, and so far seems to be prospering. It consists of an area of 3800 acres, bought from the previous owners by a company registered in 1903 and entitled First Garden City Ltd., with a capital of £300,000 in £5 shares. The interest is limited to a dividend of 5%, all further profits to be devoted to the benefit of the town. The estate is divided into a central urban area of 1200 and a surrounding agricultural belt of 2600 acres. The town is planned for an eventual population of 30,000 and at present (1909) has about 5000. Some London printing works and other small industrial establishments have been planted there, and a number of model cottages have been built. In this connexion another recent novelty has appeared in the shape of an exhibition of cottages. The idea, originated by Mr St Loe Strachey, was to encourage the art of designing and building cheap but good and convenient cottages, especially for the country. Two exhibitions have been held at Letchworth in 1905 and 1907, and others at Sheffield (1907) and Newcastle (1908). The two latter were held on municipal land, and it is proposed by the National Housing Reform Council to hold one every year.

The “Garden City” has led to the “Garden Suburb,” an adaptation of the same idea to suburban areas. One was opened near Hampstead Heath in 1907: it consists of 240 acres, of which 72 have been reserved for working-class cottages with gardens. These developments, with which may be associated the model industrial villages, mentioned above, at Bournville, Port Sunlight and Earswick, represent an aspiration towards a higher standard of housing for families belonging to the upper ranks of the working classes; and the same movement is demonstrated in a still more interesting fashion by a particular form of co-operative activity known as Co-partnership Housing. The first complete example of this method of organization was the Ealing Tenants Limited, a society registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act in 1901, though the Tenant Co-operators Limited, formed in 1888, was a precursor on very nearly the same lines. The essential principle is self-help applied by combination to the provision of superior homes, and the chief material feature is the building of houses which are not only of good design and workmanship, but disposed on a systematic plan so as to utilize the ground to the best advantage. Land is bought and houses are built with combined capital to which each tenant contributes a substantial share; the houses are let at rents which will return 5% on share capital and 4% on loan capital after defraying all expenses, and the surplus profits are divided among the tenant members in proportion to the rents paid by them. Each tenant’s share of profits is credited to him in shares until his share capital equals the value of the house he occupies, after which it is paid in cash. There is thus common ownership of the whole group, which forms a little community. This system has caught on in a remarkable way and has spread with great rapidity. In 1905 a central organizing body was formed called the Co-partnership Housing Council, for the purpose of promoting the formation of societies and assisting them with advice; it is supported by voluntary contributions. In 1909 twelve societies, including the original Tenant Co-operators, had been formed with a total investment of £536,300. They are situated at Ealing, Letchworth, Sevenoaks, Leicester, Manchester, Hampstead (two), Harborne near Birmingham, Fallings Park, Stoke-on-Trent, Wayford and Derwentwater. The rapidity with which the movement has developed and spread since the establishment of the Co-partnership Housing Council indicates great vitality, and since it is based on thoroughly sound lines it has probably a large future. It is the most interesting and in many respects the best of all recent developments. The Report of the Select Committee on Rural Housing mentioned above suggested that a Co-partnership Housing Society should be formed in every county in England.

All the enterprises just described have one feature in common, namely, the laying out of sites on a plan which takes cognizance of the future, secures a due proportion of open space, variety in the arrangement of streets and the most advantageous disposition of the houses and other buildings. They go beyond sanitary requirements and take account of higher needs. They have lent force to the advocacy of municipal “town-planning,” as practised by several towns in Germany; and provision was made for this procedure in the Housing and Town Planning Act of 1909. The act contains clauses giving local authorities power to prepare plans with reference to any land which appears likely to be used for building purposes within or near their own boundaries; and also to purchase land comprised in a town-planning scheme and either build on it themselves or let plots for building in accordance with the plan. The chief object is to safeguard the future, prevent the repetition of past defects and encourage a higher standard of housing.

These new developments represent an upward movement at the higher end of the scale. They cater for the superior ranks of working classes, those who attach some importance to the aesthetic and moral influence of pleasant and wholesome surroundings, and are willing to sacrifice immediate gratifications to a higher end. They embody an aspiration, set an example and exercise an educative influence. But they have nothing to do with the housing of the really poor, which is the great difficulty; and their very attractiveness seems in some danger of drawing attention from it. Garden cities and suburbs will never house the poor or even the bulk of our working class population, and it would be a pity if the somewhat sentimental popularity of romantic schemes led to a distaste for the plodding effort which alone can effect a real cure of deep-seated social evils of long standing. All the new schemes and legislative proposals leave untouched the greatest difficulty of all, which lies not in the dwelling but in the tenant. It is comparatively easy to afford better opportunities to those who are willing to take advantage of them, but how to raise those who are not? The lesson taught by Miss Octavia Hill’s classical experiment is, if not forgotten, certainly neglected in the presence of more showy efforts. Or perhaps it would be more true to say that half of it is neglected. Miss Hill was one of the pioneers in the comparatively modest method of improving and reconstructing bad houses, which, as we have noted, is now being more generally recognized and pursued; but that was only half her work. She improved bad dwellings and made them decent, but she also managed them on business lines, by a system of inspection and rent collection which combined a judicious discipline with the stimulus of reward. This was done by means of personal service, which is the secret of all really effective work among the poor. Her words written years ago remain true to-day: “The people’s homes are bad partly because they are badly built and arranged; they are tenfold worse because the tenants’ habits and lives are what they are. Transplant them to-morrow to healthy and commodious homes and they will pollute and destroy them.”

The following is a list of the principal associations formed for the promotion of housing reform: Mansion House Council on the Dwellings of the Poor, Rural Housing and Sanitation Association, Workmen’s National Housing Council, National Housing Reform Council, Co-partnership Tenants Housing Council. They are all of recent date, except the first. There are also local associations at Liverpool, Oldham, Rochdale, York, Plymouth, and elsewhere.

Other Countries

At the International Housing Congress organized by the National Housing Reform Council and held in London in 1907 representatives were present from a number of foreign countries and a good deal of information was collected and published in the report of the Congress. Further detailed data have been supplied by foreign correspondents to Mr W. Thompson and published in Housing up to Date. The more important facts relating to the principal industrial countries are here condensed from this and other sources of information.

Austria.—An act for encouraging the building of cheap working-class dwellings was passed in 1902; it provides for exemption from taxes for 24 years of working-class dwellings which fulfil certain conditions including sanitary requirements, a minimum area per room, minimum height, minimum door and window spaces, thickness of walls, a maximum number of inhabitants (one to 4 sq. metres in sleeping rooms), prohibition of lodgers, fixed rent and maximum profit. The municipalities are the authority for administering sanitary and housing laws; they have no power of compulsory purchase of land without a special law. There is excessive overcrowding in the large towns; in Vienna (1900) 43% of the population live in dwellings of 1 room or 1 room and a kitchen; in 60 provincial towns the proportion is 63%. Overcrowding is reckoned at more than 5 persons to a room and more than 9 to two rooms; the proportion of overcrowded on this basis is nearly one-fifth in Vienna and one-fourth in the provincial towns (Thompson).

Belgium.—An act was passed in 1889 instituting Comités de Patronage; since then other Acts relating to loan societies, and to inheritance and succession in the case of small properties. Comités de Patronage are semi-official bodies, but without legal power, whose function it is to study the subject of housing, to report to local authorities on existing conditions, to advise, to collect funds and promote the provision of good houses by any means in their power. They influence public opinion and stimulate the activity of local authorities which have the power to compel improvements and close dwellings unfit for habitation; they have led to the formation of numerous societies for erecting working-class dwellings. The latter are encouraged by the law in various ways; they are exempt from the payment of some government duties and partly exempt from others. Working men buying or building houses liable to registration fees up to from 72 to 171 francs are exempted from personal, provincial and communal taxes. The National Savings Bank of Belgium is empowered to lend money to working men for buying or building houses and to insure the lives of those doing so, to preserve the home for the family. In 1904 the number of workmen’s homes exempted from taxation was 164,387, and the amount of taxation remitted considerably exceeded 3 million francs; workmen had acquired lands and houses valued at nearly £4,000,000; there were 161 societies for building working-class dwellings; 30,000 workmen representing a population of 150,000 had become owners of property; and 70,000 representing a population of 350,000 had availed themselves of the law in obtaining exemptions and loans (O. Velghe). The foregoing results effected in 15 years are remarkable and indicate a great capacity for self-help on the part of Belgian workmen with suitable and well-considered assistance. But this movement, in common with those of a similar character in other countries, does not touch the problem of housing the very poor. No statistics of overcrowding are available, but the average number of persons to a dwelling is over 5 for the whole country and nearly 9 in Brussels. The communal administrations are the authorities for health and housing; they have power to abate nuisances but not to compel landowners to sell land for building, though they have the right to dispossession for “public purposes.” No town has constructed quarters devoted entirely to working-class dwellings and only one commune (St Giles) has built any. In towns the height of buildings is regulated by the width of streets; generally it is the width plus 6 metres. The height of rooms and thickness of walls are prescribed by local regulations but not the area of rooms. The housing difficulty has been lessened in a notable degree by cheap transport facilities, including railroads, light railroads and tramways; a large proportion of the workpeople travel long distances to and from work. One-quarter travel on the State railways alone; fares are 1s. 6d. a week for a daily double journey of 20 m., 2s. for 44 m. and 2s. 6d. for 66 m. The area of the labour market of Liége extends nearly to Ostend and out of 5830 workmen travelling over 1000 live more than 50 kilometres from Liége. Some journeys last 3 hours.

France.—The question of housing was publicly raised in France quite as early as in England on grounds of public health in connexion with the first visitation of cholera, and building societies were formed as early as 1851, but little was done until after 1889, when the Société Française des Habitations à Bon Marché was founded under the inspiration of M. Siegfried. This led to the formation of several societies, which increased rapidly after the passage of la loi Siegfried in 1894, for promoting the provision of working-class dwellings. In 1902 a Public Health Act and in 1906 a Housing of the Working Classes Act were passed, and these three enactments with regulations made in 1907 govern the procedure. The act of 1906 embodies the Belgian system of Comités de Patronage, of which at least one was to be established in each department with grants in aid, and exemptions from certain taxes of working-class dwellings fulfilling specified conditions as to sanitation and rent. The law promotes the formation of Housing Societies by granting various facilities for the investment of money in building by public bodies and benevolent institutions by taking shares or by loans. Down to the end of 1906 there had been lent for this purpose £233,000 by savings banks, £258,000 by the Caisse des Dépôts, and £14,000 by charitable institutions. The law does not authorize municipalities to build houses and none of the communes have acquired land for this purpose. Under the Public Health Act of 1902 towns can purchase land compulsorily in connexion with unhealthy areas. The Public Health and Housing Acts are administered by the local authority, which makes regulations for building and for laying out building land. A minimum height of 2.6 metres and a minimum cubical content of 25 cubic metres are prescribed for rooms; there are no regulations for thickness of walls. Housing societies are under the Ministry of Works and a Superior Housing Council, which is a central advisory body. These societies are now numerous; there are 46 in Paris alone, but their operations are not on a large scale. One of them deserves special notice on account of its special object. It is called the Société de logements pour familles nombreuses and it builds special flats called maisons des enfants which are let at low rents only to persons with large families. In 1907 it had housed 168 families, averaging 6.8 persons, in two blocks at Belleville and Montmartre. The great defect in France is the large quantity of old, bad, insanitary housing. Real slums exist in all the old towns and in some of them, such as Marseilles and Lyons, on an extensive scale. Very little has hitherto been done to grapple with this difficulty. The standard of sanitation is altogether lower in France than in England, as is shown by the death-rates, and this holds good of the housing. But conditions vary widely in different parts of the country. They are better, generally speaking, in the industrial towns of the north, which are largely Flemish and distinguished by the prevalence of small houses after the English fashion, than in the central or southern districts where tall old tenement houses of six and seven storeys abound. There are no statistics and no standard of overcrowding; but the careful inquiry carried out by the Board of Trade and published in 1909 shows the extraordinary prevalence of tenements consisting of 1, 2 or 3 rooms. In 16 towns for which information was obtained the average proportion of dwellings containing less than 4 rooms was 75% of the whole; in some it was as high as 89% and in none lower than 61%. In 8 towns, including Paris, the number of one-roomed dwellings was more than a quarter of the whole, and in two towns (Brest and Fougères) it was more than half. Some corresponding statistics for English and German towns are given below in the section on Germany. According to the same report, the general accuracy of which has been confirmed by personal inquiries, made in 1909 by the writer in a number of towns, rents are decidedly lower in France. If the London level be taken as 100 that of Paris is only 78 and the other French towns are considerably lower, 21 out of 29 being less than half the London standard. A general comparison between a number of English and French towns shows the average level of French rents to be less than three-fourths of English ones. A noticeable feature of housing in France is the large number of dwellings built by employers in recent years. The mining companies, particularly in the Pas de Calais, have built whole groups of villages; the railway companies and various manufacturers have also done a great deal, chiefly in rural areas. Among the manufacturers MM. Schneider at Le Creusot and the textile mill-owners in the Vosges are noticeable. The houses provided are of a charming type, white with red roofs; the rooms are of good size, the rents low, and a large garden is usually attached to every house.

Germany.—In no country is the problem of housing more acute than in Germany, where the increase of population, the growth of manufacturing industry and the urbanization of the people have proceeded at an exceptionally rapid pace in recent years and have combined with increasing wealth and a rising standard of living to force the question into prominence. Up to 1909 no uniform legislation for the empire had been framed and no central authority existed for dealing with housing; but the several states have their own public health and housing laws, and great activity has been developed in various directions. The most general difficulty is deficiency of quantity consequent on the rapid change in the distribution of the population. The proportion of the whole population living in the great towns increased from 7.2% to 16.2%, or more than doubled between 1890 and 1900; in England it only increased by about one-tenth. Slums are a much less conspicuous feature than in England because of the comparatively recent development of German towns, but where old quarters exist on a large scale, as in Hamburg, the conditions are quite as bad as anything in English towns, and call for similar measures. Public sanitation in Germany is still as a whole less advanced than in England; but in some cases it is superior and in general it is coming up rapidly; the administration of sanitary laws, as of others, is more effective and uniform, and less subject to evasion. This also contributes to the comparative absence of slums. And there is a third factor which has perhaps the greatest influence of all, and that is the superior manner in which German homes are kept. But the pressure of inadequate quantity is urgent; it has caused high rents, overcrowding, and the development of large barrack or block dwellings which are becoming the prevailing type. At the same time it has led to many and varied efforts to meet the difficulty. Isolated attempts go back to an early date. For instance a building society was formed in Berlin in 1849, Alfred Krupp began to build his “colonies” at Essen in 1863, Barmen started a society in 1871 and there were other cases; but general attention seems first to have been drawn to the subject by the reforming efforts of Pastor Bodelschwingh at Bielefeld about 1884 in connexion with his Arbeiterheim. In short housing reform in Germany is really a matter of the last 20 years. The first efficient by-laws for regulating building in Berlin were not adopted till 1887; the previous regulations dating from 1853 permitted many abuses and under them a great deal of bad housing was constructed, especially after the establishment of the empire and the beginning of the great development of the capital.

The worst feature is the general prevalence of dwellings containing a very small number of rooms—from 1 to 3—and consequent overcrowding. The following figures are extracted from the Report to the Board of Trade on Rents, Housing, &c., in Germany (1908, Cd. 4032). They indicate the proportion of dwellings containing 1, 2 or 3 rooms, or (in a few cases) the proportion of the population living in such dwellings. The towns are those for which the information is given. They are not selected as particularly bad specimens but as representative, and they include most of the capitals and chief industrial centres. The figures relate to the year 1900, except in a few cases, in which they are taken from a municipal house census in 1905.

Percentage of Dwellings or Population living in Dwellings containing
Town. 1 Room. 2 Rooms. 3 Rooms. Total under
4 Rooms.
Berlin  8.0 37.2 30.6 75.8
Aachen 13.7 32.0 21.9 67.6
Barmen (pop.)  1.5 24.3 28.8 54.6
Bremen  3.8(?) 26.8 26.1 56.7(?)
Breslau (pop.)  3.9 46.0 24.4 74.3
Chemnitz (pop.)  1.7 34.8 29.9 66.4
Dantzig  3.3 45.0 29.9 78.2
Dortmund  4.7 45.5 30.0 80.2
Dresden  0.8  3.5 27.8 32.1
Düsseldorf  5.0 26.4 22.7 54.1
Elberfeld  8.4(?) 36.9 21.7 67.0(?)
Essen  2.9 35.4 30.0 68.3
Hamburg  1.0  3.9 24.7 29.6
Königshütte (pop.)  10.0 60.4 16.8 87.2
Leipzig (pop.)  0.4  1.7 14.5 16.6
Mannheim  3.1 22.1 40.4 65.6
Munich (pop.)  4.6 24.1 28.4 57.1
Plauen (pop.)  1.3 14.2 21.8 36.3

The figures must be read with a certain amount of caution, as they are not in every case compiled on a precisely uniform method with regard to inclusion of kitchens and attics. For this reason the position of Bremen and Elberfeld is probably more unfavourable than it ought to be. But broadly the table shows that in most of the large towns in Germany more than half, and in some cases more than three-quarters of the dwellings have less than 4 rooms. Leipzig is the most striking exception. If working-class quarters alone are taken it is found that dwellings of more than 3 rooms are so few as to be negligible. In Stuttgart, where housing is very dear, the percentages for working-class quarters are—1 room 21.0, 2 rooms 51.8, 3 rooms 26.9; total under 4 rooms 98.7. Königshütte, the chief coal and iron centre in Silesia and a purely working-class town, shows the same state of things; 60% of the whole population live in dwellings of 2 rooms and 87% in less than four. It is interesting to compare English towns. The proportion of dwellings containing less than 4 rooms in London was (1901) 52.2%, in Berlin 75.8%; the proportion of the population living in such dwellings was—London 38.7%, Berlin 71.5%. Not only is the proportion of small dwellings very much higher in Berlin but the proportion of the population living in them shows a far greater discrepancy. This indicates a much higher degree of overcrowding. The only point in which Berlin has the advantage is the smaller number of single-room dwellings. The proportions are London 14.7%, Berlin 8.0%. But it is to be observed that overcrowding is not so common in 1–room dwellings, which are often occupied by a single person, as in those with 2 or 3 rooms, which are occupied by families, though probably the most extreme cases of overcrowding occur in particular 1–room dwellings. In the English county boroughs the proportion of dwellings with less than 4 rooms was 24.0%, in other urban districts 17.4, and in all urban areas including London 26.4%. When all allowance is made for minor errors and discrepancies it may be broadly concluded that the proportion of small dwellings containing less than 4 rooms is at least twice as great in German as in English towns, and that the conditions as to accommodation which in England prevail only in London are general in urban Germany. As a set-off German rooms are generally larger than English ones and in block dwellings there is often a little ante-room or landing which does not count but really increases the space.

The German census does not take cognisance of overcrowding and there is no general official standard; but some towns have adopted a standard of their own, namely, six or more persons to 1 room and ten or more to 2 rooms. In Breslau, which is one of the worst towns, 17.5% of the population (53,000) of the “city” or inner ring were overcrowded on this basis in 1900. In Barmen, which is not one of the worst, 20% of the 2-roomed and 17% of the 3-roomed dwellings (together housing more than half the population) were overcrowded according to the English standard. Overcrowding and other bad conditions are worst in the basement or cellar dwellings, of which some towns have a very large number. In Breslau 15,000 persons were living in 3853 such dwellings in 1900; in Berlin 91,426 persons were living in 24,088 basements. Some of these are free from objection, but 11,147, housing 38,663 persons, were situated in back buildings and unfit for habitation on account of darkness, damp, dilapidation and the like. “Back” houses are a feature of old towns; they are houses which do not give on the street but lie behind and are approached by a passage; they are what we call courts and quite as insanitary as anything of the kind in English towns.

With regard to rents the Board of Trade (London) Report gives the following figures for Berlin and a number of other towns:—

No. of Rooms
per Dwelling.
Predominant Range of Weekly Rents.
Berlin. Other Towns.
2 rooms 5/- to 6/- 2/8 to 3/6
3 rooms 7/- to 9/3 3/6 to 4/9
4 rooms .. 4/3 to 6/-

Rents are higher in Berlin than in any other town, though Stuttgart comes very near it. The following table of index numbers shows the relations of 32 towns to Berlin:—

Town. Index
Town. Index
Berlin 100 Nuremberg 53
Stuttgart 97 Aachen 53
Düsseldorf 79 Crefeld 52
Dortmund 68 Bremen 52
Anchaffenburg  67 Plauen 52
Hamburg 66 Leipzig 51
Mannheim 64 Dantzig 49
Königsberg 62 Mülhausen 48
Munich 63 Königshütte 47
Essen 62 Stettin 46
Solingen 61 Magdeburg 43
Bochum 57 Chemnitz 40
Elberfeld 57 Zwickau 38
Barmen 57 Brunswick 37
Remscheid 56 Stassfurt 33
Breslau 56 Oschersleben  28
Dresden 54    

Comparing rents in Germany and England, the Board of Trade Report gives the following table, to which the corresponding ratio

of French towns has been added.
No. of rooms. Predominant Weekly Rents. Ratio of
German to
English (100)
Ratio of
French to
English (100)
England. Germany.
2 rooms 3/– to 3/6 2/8 to 3/6  95 79
3 rooms 3/9 to 4/6 3/6 to 4/9 100 86
4 rooms 4/6 to 5/6 4/3 to 6/- 102 78

If the mean of the English and German figures be taken it shows a very slight difference in favour of Germany; the mean weekly rent per room being 1s. 5d. in England and 1s. 43/4d. in Germany. But in England rent usually includes local taxation (rates) whereas in Germany it does not; if this be added German rents are to English as 123 to 100, or nearly one-fourth more.

The statistics given above indicate a wide range of variation in the conditions prevailing in different towns in Germany; and that holds good with regard to improvements. The administration of the laws relating to public health and housing is in the hands of the local authorities. The public health service is generally efficient and sometimes very good. Increasing attention has been paid in recent years to the sanitary inspection of houses and in some towns it is now thorough and systematic, but active efforts to deal with old and insanitary quarters en masse are isolated and exceptional. Hamburg is an instance; scared by the visitation of cholera in 1892 the authorities put in hand an extensive improvement scheme on the English plan at a cost of half a million sterling. But demolition is exceptional; slums are usually subjected to supervision and are not allowed to be in a state of dilapidation, and sometimes, as at Mannheim, notices are served to abate overcrowding. In Munich a policy of gradually buying up insanitary houses has been adopted. But improvement has principally been promoted by new building and the reduction of the population in old insanitary quarters, to which cheap locomotive facilities have greatly contributed. The great bulk of urban Germany is new, and the most valuable contribution made by it to the housing question is the more effective control of new building and particularly the principle of town-planning, coupled with the purchase of neighbouring ground with a view to future extension. This policy is comparatively recent and still very partially applied, but it is now rapidly extending. A general act providing for the planning of streets was passed in Prussia in 1875 and still forms the basis of building legislation; but as noted above no effective by-laws were adopted even in Berlin until after 1887, and consequently a very faulty style of building was adopted, especially in large blocks which conceal grave defects behind an imposing exterior. The Saxon towns have been conspicuously successful in regard to housing. Leipzig stands alone among German towns in having 83.4% of its population living in dwellings of 4 rooms and upwards. Yet it is a great commercial city, the fifth in the empire, with a population of upwards of half a million. It also comes low on the rent table, having an index number little more than half that of Berlin. All the Saxon towns are low, Chemnitz and Zwickau particularly so, and the position of Dresden, being a capital, is remarkable. More than two-thirds of the population live in dwellings of 4 rooms or more, and the rent index number is only 54. In Saxony a general Building Act, especially providing for town planning, was passed in 1900; and the Grand Duchy of Hesse, which alone among the German states has a government Housing Department, adopted a Housing of the Working Classes Act in 1902. Other states have followed or are following and the air is full of movement. The distinctive features of urban housing reform in Germany are (1) the systematic planning of extensions, (2) purchase of ground by municipalities, (3) letting or sale of municipal land for building under prescribed conditions. Many of the great towns, including Berlin, Munich, Dresden, Leipzig, Cologne, Frankfort and Düsseldorf, are owners of land to a variable but sometimes large extent. This policy seems to have been originally adopted on economic grounds and those municipalities which bought or otherwise came into possession of town land at an early date derive a substantial revenue from it now, besides being in a position to promote housing improvement. There is comparatively little municipal building, and that as a rule only or principally for municipal servants, as at Düsseldorf, Mannheim and Nuremberg; but there seems to be a tendency to venture further in this direction and some towns have built houses for letting. The municipalities generally sell or let their land, and the building agencies which enjoy most official favour are the societies “of public utility”; they are encouraged in every way and have greatly developed, particularly in the Rhine province. Some are co-operative, others semi-philanthropic in that they aim at building good houses and limit their profits. In 1901 the Prussian Government issued an order urging municipalities to support these societies by remitting the cost of constructing streets and sewers, placing the assistance of building officials at their disposal, taking their shares, lending them money and becoming security for them. A great deal of public money has been advanced to building societies, and one very important source of supply has been developed, since the Old Age and Infirmity Insurance Act of 1889, in the National Insurance Funds which invest their surplus capital in this way. Down to 1906 the Boards of insurance had lent £8,650,000 to societies for building; the Imperial Government had lent £1,250,000, the Prussian Government £1,825,000, and the other states further large sums in addition to the municipalities. Money lent by the state is usually limited to building houses for state employees and Insurance Boards lend on condition that the houses are let to persons who come under the insurance laws. The development of building societies has been promoted by the formation of general building associations of which the earliest was established in Düsseldorf in 1897 for the Rhine provinces; under its influence one-fifth of the new housing provided in 1901 was erected by the societies. The example was followed at Frankfort, Münster and Wiesbaden. Housing by employers has also been carried out on a large scale in Germany. States and municipalities have to some extent built houses as employers, the former chiefly for railwaymen, besides lending money to societies for the purpose; but most housing of this kind has been done by private employers. Krupps, who had built 4274 dwellings housing nearly 27,000 persons down to 1901, are the most famous example; but they are only one among many. In Rhineland and Westphalia employers had in 1902 provided 22,269 houses containing 62,539 dwellings at a cost of £10,500,000; more than half the families so housed belonged to the mining industry, the rest to various manufactures. These two provinces, in which industrial development has been extremely rapid, are exceptional; but housing by employers is not confined to them. At Mannheim for instance over 1000 working-class households have been so provided. At Nuremberg the Siemens Schuckert Company have encouraged an interesting system of collective building among their employees, by which 722 dwellings have been provided.

Holland.—In 1901 a Public Health and a Housing Act were passed, and these two embody most of the features of housing reform adopted in other countries. The first provides for a general sanitary service under the Ministry of the Interior. The second ordains that local authorities shall frame by-laws for building and for the maintenance and proper use of dwellings; that they shall inspect existing dwellings, order improvements or repairs or demolition; empowers them to take land compulsorily for the purposes of the act, to prohibit building or rebuilding on sites reserved for public purposes and to make grants or loans to societies or companies operating exclusively for the improvement of working-class dwellings. If they fail to make by-laws the provincial authorities may take action. Land buying with a view to extensions has been adopted by a number of municipalities including Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and other important towns, and the practice is increasing. Amsterdam has also begun the systematic planning of extensions. There has been a little municipal building in some small places, but it is on an insignificant scale; the tendency is rather to favour societies of public utility as in France, Germany and Belgium. The new laws are too recent to have had much effect and housing reform is as yet in an early stage. Rents are high in the large towns, namely, 1 room 1s. 8d. to 3s.; 2 rooms 2s. 6d. to 5s.; 3 rooms 3s. 6d. to 6s; 4 rooms 4s. 2d. to 7s.

Italy.—A Housing of the Working Classes Act was passed in 1903, to promote the improvement and provision of workmen’s dwellings. Municipalities have the power to purchase land compulsorily for housing purposes and also to build workmen’s dwellings. A few towns, of which Milan is one, have done so. There are building regulations relating to the area and height of rooms and the thickness of walls. The antiquity of the Italian towns and the great quantity of old and insanitary building make housing improvement a very difficult matter. La Società Umanitaria, a benevolent trust founded by Prosper Loria of Milan in 1902, has taken up this subject among others and has built two model tenements, housing 2000 persons.

United States.—Interest in the housing question in the United States is confined to a few of the largest cities and can only be said to be acute in New York, though there have been investigations by commissions elsewhere and Miss Octavia Hill’s work in London has found admirers and imitators in Philadelphia and Boston as well as in New York. The evils of housing in New York have been the subject of much sensational writing which has elevated them to the position of a world-wide scandal. It is not necessary to accept all the allegations made in order to see that several circumstances have combined to produce an exceptional state of things in this great city. The limited space—the island or peninsula of Manhattan—in which central New York is built has compelled the erection of large tenement blocks, otherwise rare in American towns; the incessant inrush of immigrants from the poorest parts of Europe has filled these tenements with immense numbers of persons of many nationalities accustomed to a low standard of living; the generally backward state of public sanitation in America, and the absence or evasion of regulations and supervision, have permitted the erection of bad dwellings, their deterioration into worse, and their misuse by excessive overcrowding. Other large cities in which bad housing conditions are known to exist are Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Pittsburg, Jersey City. There are doubtless many others, but bad housing conditions are not so general in the United States as in Europe. Outside the very large cities there is more space, more light and air, less crowding together, less darkness, dirt and dilapidation. Large houses, occupied by two or perhaps three families, are common, but they have more room space than is usual in Europe. The 18th annual report (1903) of the Commissioner of Labour gives the result of a special inquiry embracing 23,447 families distributed in 33 states. The average number of rooms was 4.95 per family and 1.04 per individual. It is a fair inference that overcrowding is confined to a comparatively small number of exceptional places. A large number of the schedules were furnished by the eminently urbanized and manufacturing states of New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Ohio and Illinois; and in all these the average number of rooms to a family exceeded 4, ranging from 4.2 in Ohio to 5.5 in Massachusetts. The condition of homes as to sanitation and cleanliness was statistically stated thus: Sanitary condition—good 61.46%, fair 32,59%, bad 5.95%; Cleanliness—good 79.63%, fair 14.66 bad 5.71%. Other special inquiries have been carried out in particular towns. In 1891–1892 the tenements in Boston were investigated for the Massachusetts Labour Bureau, which found 3657 sleeping rooms without outside windows and about 8% of the population living in conditions objectionable from one cause or another. In 1892 Congress authorized a special inquiry into the slum population of New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Baltimore, the results of which were published in the seventh special report (1894) of the United States Commissioner of Labour. It was estimated that the total “slum population” (presumably those living in unhealthy conditions) was—New York 360,000, Chicago 162,000, Philadelphia 35,000, Baltimore 25,000. In Baltimore 530 families, consisting of 1648 persons, were living in single rooms with an average of 3.15 persons to a room; in Philadelphia 401 families were so living with an average of 3.11 persons to a room. The proportion of 1-room dwellings was less in New York and Chicago. In New York 44.55% or nearly half the families investigated were found living in 2–roomed dwellings, in Baltimore 27.88%, in Philadelphia 19.41% and in Chicago 19.14%. These figures conclusively prove that European conditions reproduce themselves in American cities. Poverty was not the cause, as the average earnings per family ranged from £3, 4s. a week in Baltimore to £4, 6s. a week in Chicago. Another official investigation in New York was carried out in 1895 by the Tenement House Commission appointed by the State of New York. It reported “many houses in the city in an insanitary condition which absolutely unfits them for habitation.” Further details have been compiled from the census by the New York Federation of Churches, chiefly relating to density of population in the city. In 1900, out of a total of nearly 250,000 dwellings, 95,433 (38.2%) contained from 2 to 6 persons, 60,672 (24.2%) from 7 to 10 persons and 89,654 (35.9%) 11 persons or more. The density of population for the whole city as now constituted was 19 persons to the acre, in Manhattan 149; in the south-eastern district of Manhattan 382 and in one ward 735. Between 1900 and 1905 the density increased in every district, and in the latter year there were 12 blocks with from 1000 to 1400 persons to the acre. The number of persons to the acre in London (1901) is 60.6; in the most densely populated borough 182, and in the most densely populated district (a very small one) 396. This will give a measure of comparison. The large tenement blocks in New York have been constructed with far less regard to health than those in Berlin, and reproduce in an aggravated form the same evil of insufficient light and air. In place of the inadequate courts round which many are built in Berlin, the New York tenements have merely narrow air shafts. In 1904 there were reported to be 362,000 dark interior rooms, that is with no outside windows.

If American cities have nothing to learn from other countries in regard to bad housing, they have nothing to teach in the way of reform. They are following Europe slowly and a long distance behind. There is no serious attempt to deal with insanitary areas as they have been dealt with in England, or to prevent the creation of new ones by regulation and planning of extensions as in Germany, or to promote the provision of superior houses by organized public effort as in several countries. A little has been done in New York to improve the worst housing. A Tenement House Act was passed after the report of the Commission of 1895 and a Department formed to give effect to it. Some cleansing and repairing and insertion of windows is carried out every year, but more attention seems to be paid to fire escapes. Societies for providing improved dwellings exist in New York, Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia. The oldest is one formed in Boston in 1871, called the Co-operative Building Company; it was followed in 1876 by an Improved Dwellings Company in Brooklyn, and in 1879 by a similar society in Manhattan, and in 1885 by another in Boston. The largest concern of the kind is the City and Suburban Houses Company in New York, formed in 1896 under the guidance of Dr E. R. L. Gould; it has built four groups of tenements housing 1238 families in the city and 112 houses on a suburban estate at Brooklyn; in all it has housed some 6000 persons. More recently Mr Henry Phipps has given £200,000 for the provision of model dwellings in New York, and a building has been erected on the plan of the Maison des Enfants in Paris. In Chicago the City Houses Association works at housing reforms in various ways. There are some other institutions of a like kind, but the aggregate results are inconsiderable. Two other building agencies have done far more in the United States than philanthropic societies; these are the building and loan associations and private employers. The former are co-operative provident societies; they are widely diffused throughout the United States and their operations are on a very large scale. They date from 1831, when the Oxford Provident Building Association was formed at Frankfort, near Philadelphia. Pennsylvania has still the largest number of associations, but from 1843 onwards the movement spread rapidly and continuously in other states. The high-water mark appears to have been reached in 1897, when the total assets of the associations amounted to about £133,000,000. In 1905 there were 5326 associations with an aggregate membership of 1,686,611 and assets of about £130,000,000. The states of Pennsylvania and Ohio head the list, but the movement is very strong in many others. It accounts for the comparatively large number of houses owned by working-class families in the United States. With regard to housing by employers, no comprehensive information is available, but the total amount is certainly considerable though probably not so large as in Germany or in France. Some of the better-known instances are the Pelzer Manufacturing Company at Pelzer in South Carolina, which has built about 1000 dwellings; the Maryland Steel Company at Sparrows Point, Maryland, 800 dwellings; Ludlow Manufacturing Associates at Ludlow, Mass., 500 dwellings; Whitin Machine Works at Whitinsville, Mass., 600 dwellings; Westinghouse Air Brake Co. at Wilmerding, Penn., 360 dwellings; Draper Co., Hopedale, Mass., 250 dwellings. These are all more or less “model” settlements, not in cities, but in outlying or country places, where works have been established, and that is generally true of housing by employers in the United States, whereas in Germany much has been provided by them in the large towns. Rents are very much higher in American cities than in European towns of comparable size and character.

Authorities.—Board of Trade Reports—“Cost of Living of the Working Classes (England)” (1908); “Cost of Living in German Towns” (1908); “Cost of Living in French Towns” (1909). Proceedings of International Housing Congress (London, 1907); The New Encyclopaedia of Social Reform; E. R. Dewsnup, The Housing Problem in England; T. C. Horsfall, The Example of Germany; J. S. Nettlefold, Practical Housing Reform; A. Shadwell, Industrial Efficiency, ch. xi. on “Housing”; W. Thompson, The Housing Handbook, Housing up to Date.  (A. Sl.) 

From Belcher and Macartney, Later Renaissance Architecture in England, 1901. By permission of B. T. Batsford.
Fig. 14.—HAM HOUSE, PETERSHAM, 1610.
From Gotch, Architecture of the Renaissance in England, 1894. By permission of B. T. Batsford.

From Belcher and Macartney, Later Renaissance Architecture in England, By permission of B. T. Batsford.
From the same source as above.