Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

about seventeen children. . . . On these premises are found all the conditions necessary for an epidemic.

Overcrowding is rampant; a man, wife, and eight children occupy two bedrooms, one measuring 12 feet by 6 feet by 6 feet, 'where six boys slept,' their ages varying from nineteen to five years. In another case eight people occupy two small bedrooms. Another shocking case of overcrowding is where two small bedrooms and a recess are occupied by a family of eleven-man, wife, and nine children from seventeen years to two months.

At Mitford the Local Government Board sent down an inspector, and in October wrote to the rural district council 'that the Board regard with grave concern the existence of these unsatisfactory conditions, and they desire to urge upon the rural district council the necessity for immediate action under the Housing Acts.' Yet, in face of this, nothing appears to have been done. The only remaining council, that of King's Lynn, has a very small rural area.

Now as to Suffolk. Out of eighteen rural district councils eleven have replied. Out of those eleven all but one state that further accommodation is needed in their areas, and the same. number state their inability to build self-supporting cottages. No councils report a sufficiency of housing accommodation, and none report that they can build cottages which will let at an economic rent. In five out of the seven councils which have not replied we know by the medical officer of health's reports that more accommodation is urgently needed. At Bosmere the housing is exceptionally bad'; at Cosford overcrowding cannot be dealt with owing to the dearth of houses; at Hartismere closing orders would result in driving the family either out of the district or into the workhouse'; at Samford house accommodation is insufficient'; whilst at Woodbridge 'an exceptional number of houses are in an unsatisfactory condition.'

[ocr errors]

In Essex eleven out of seventeen councils have replied to the inquiry. Nine councils state that there is a dearth of cottages in their area; one (Epping) states that there is a sufficiency; while all the councils state that they cannot build without placing a burden upon the rates. Although the Epping Rural District Council reports a sufficiency of cottages, the medical officer of health says that 'the provision of better houses. . . is one of the most important requirements of the district'; while the report on the urban district is to the effect that there are many old rotten cottages beyond repair, but there are no houses for the present tenants to move into.

For information as to the six councils which have not replied we must again turn to the reports of the medical officers of health. In Billericay 'there is not a parish in which cottages

are not wanted; were it not that cottages are so scarce . . . a much larger number would be condemned and really require to be closed.' In Dunmow there is a dearth, while as to Tendring the medical officer says, 'If I represented every house that might be considered unfit for habitation and got closing orders, we should soon be without sufficient houses for the people to live in.'

In Cambridgeshire, out of eleven rural district councils, seven reply. Five state that cottages are needed in their areas; one that none are required; while six state that they cannot build without placing a burden on the rates.

From Wiltshire, out of eighteen councils, fourteen reply. Ten admit a dearth of dwellings, while three state that there are sufficient. Twelve state they cannot build self-supporting cottages, while one council (Westbury) says this can be done.

In Somerset, again, ten out of seventeen councils reply. Seven state a dearth-one a sufficiency. Six councils state they cannot build to pay. Of the seven councils that have not replied we may consider the medical officer of health's reports on four. In Keynsham 185 houses (more than half those examined) have 'only two or less bedrooms, a condition which often leads to moral overcrowding.' In Langport there is a distinct lack of cottage accommodation.' In Long Ashton the medical officer of health states that he has repeatedly drawn attention to the insufficiency of house accommodation for the working classes.' In Wells' houses with more bedroom accommodation are required.'

In Devonshire twelve councils out of eighteen reply, and all state that more cottages are needed in their areas; while all agree that they cannot build without loss.

Matters are little better in Dorset. Seven councils out of twelve reply, and five state that there is a dearth of cottages in their areas; while six say they cannot build without placing a burden on the rates. Of those councils which have not replied, the medical officer of health for Sturminster states that the housing accommodation is anything but satisfactory. In several instances impossible to remedy owing to dearth of good cottages.' In Sherborne the medical officer of health reports that 'the population has increased and the number of inhabited houses has slightly decreased.'

Reports from Gloucestershire are more scanty. Out of twenty-one councils only ten have replied. Four state a dearth of cottages, four a sufficiency; while seven say they cannot build without burdening the rates. The medical officer of health's report for the county, however, gives us assistance in the case of five councils which have not replied, and two samples are here given.

In Campden a dearth is reported; in Tewkesbury it is stated that many of the cottages are in a very undesirable state, and ... it may be necessary for the district council to build cottages to replace any that may be closed.' It is worth noting that in ten rural districts practically no action had been taken up to the end of 1911 to inspect houses under the provisions of the Act.

In Surrey six councils out of nine reply that cottage accom modation is insufficient, but in one (Reigate) that there are enough cottages. All state that they cannot build without placing a burden upon the rates. In regard to Godstone it is interesting to note that the Local Government Board wrote to this council in September drawing their attention to the reports of their own medical officer of health and their surveyor, and asking the council if they had considered the advisability of building cottages in their area. Apparently the Board consider that there is a dearth of cottages in Godstone. Of the remaining councils, the medical officers of health report, as to Farnham, that cottage accommodation is still badly needed'; as to Guildford that there is a great scarcity of cottages in the district'; and as to Hambledon that house accommodation . . . is still much needed.'

In Reigate, where the council state there is no dearth, the medical officer of health reports that it is exceedingly rare to come across an unoccupied cottage; the demand exceeds the supply.' And in this case again the Local Government Board have written to the council asking them what action they intend to take under the Act.

The ten counties here dealt with are the principal agricultural counties, and therefore most pertinent to our inquiry, and in the great majority of cases there is need for further housing accommodation. In Norfolk it is insufficient in every district; in Suffolk in at least sixteen out of eighteen districts; in Essex in thirteen districts out of seventeen; in Somerset eleven councils out of seventeen report a deficiency; in Dorset nine districts out of twelve; and in Surrey there is, as far as we are aware, only one district out of nine that is not suffering from a dearth of cottages. From Cambridgeshire, Wiltshire, and Devonshire come statements of similar deficiencies, and the reports would be monotonous if they had not such tragic meaning.

In other counties the replies are not full enough to be quoted in detail, and the total figures for the inquiry may now be given. In answer to Question 1 as to whether a dearth of cottages existed, 182 councils say 'Yes,' 107 councils say 'No.'

In answer to Question 2, as to whether cottages could be erected without placing a burden upon the rates, eight councils say 'Yes,' 261 councils say 'No.'

In answer to Question 3, as to whether a State grant for building would be welcome, 169 councils say 'Yes,' thirty-nine councils say 'No.'

The replies to Question 1, together with the extracts given from the reports of the various medical officers of health, show conclusively that a great dearth of cottage accommodation exists in the vast majority of our rural districts.

The replies to Question 2 afford overwhelming evidence as to the impossibility of erecting cottages under the present Act which will let at a rental such as the agricultural labourer can afford to pay, unless a burden is placed upon the rates. Eight rural district councils replied that they could erect cottages and let them without incurring such a burden. Of these, five councils have undertaken schemes; and details as to the estimated income and expenditure are given in the White Paper issued by the Local Government Board on the 1st of August."

2

At Effingham the estimated expenditure is 11. in excess of the estimated income; at Henstead 31. in excess; at Saint Germans 91. in excess on one scheme and 31. on another; while at Hitchin income exceeds expenditure by 11., and at Chester-leStreet the balance is also 11. The balance either way is small, but this all tends to show that councils cannot build without placing a burden upon the rates.

The replies to Question 3 show that local authorities, having realised their inability to build under present regulations and the further necessity that there is for them to build, have arrived at the conclusion that the only possible solution is for the State to make grants from some central fund to enable them to erect cottages which can be let at a low enough rental. The answers afford, moreover, valuable support to Sir Arthur Griffith Boscawen's Housing Bill, and should be of much value when fresh efforts are again made to resuscitate the Bill.

The attitude of the Local Government Board to the Bill was far from satisfactory. Mr. Burns was opposed to the setting up of Housing Commissioners, and declared that he could never agree to a policy of rate-aided or State-aided cottages. His opposition to the latter has apparently been overcome, for in the now famous Swaffham case of October last the Board abandoned their principle of refusing to grant loans on schemes which showed a deficit in their balance sheets. At a meeting of the Swaffham Rural District Council a letter from the Local Government Board was read, in which they stated that

the Board recognised that any scheme for the provision of such houses might involve a small charge on the rates, but although they regarded it as important that a scheme for the erection of working-class dwellings

* In all these five cases we find it stated that the general expenses' will be borne by the parish or district, as the case may be.

should, as far as possible, be self-supporting, the fact that such a scheme showed a small annual deficiency would not preclude them from sanctioning a loan for the provision of the houses if the circumstances did not admit of a satisfactory self-supporting scheme.

But, after all, it matters little if Mr. Burns has abandoned his principle of a few months ago, or if the administration of the Board is slightly more active than in the past; for neither of these things will solve the problem which confronts us-the problem of the cheap cottage. If we refer to the White Paper of August we find details as to rental, and a study of these shows that out of forty building schemes, in only fifteen is the rental less than 3s. 6d. per week: the highest rent which an agricultural labourer can afford to pay. Thus the official papers themselves show that the only solution of the cheap cottage lies in the application of the principle contained in the Boscawen Bill— the system of grants-in-aid for building. This system has already been applied to Ireland, and it will be well to glance for a moment at the Irish housing schemes, and to see what has been effected there under a system of State grants. The first of the series of Irish Labourers Acts was passed in 1883, and various amending Acts have been enacted up to 1911. Cottages are now built in Ireland under an Act of 1906 which was amended in 1911, and 211 out of 213 rural district councils in Ireland have applied these Acts.

Under the 1911 Act loans to Irish local authorities will be granted up to 4,250,000l. at 31 per cent. for sixty-eight and a-half years, the 31 per cent. including the repayment of principal and interest. Only 64 per cent. of this charge is met by the local authorities, the remaining 36 per cent. being in the form of a State grant-16 per cent. from the Labourers' Cottage Fund and 20 per cent. from the Ireland Development Grant. The State thus pays 11. 3s. 5d. interest on every 1001. loan, the remaining 21. 1s. 7d. being found by the local bodies, with the result that cottages are let at a very low rental without placing any considerable burden upon the rates.

A report issued by the National Housing and Town Planning Council a few weeks ago contains the following specimen balancesheet of an Irish cottage erected under the Acts:

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
« VorigeDoorgaan »