1 SEPTEMBER 1917, Page 9


THE ROOT or SOCIAIT REFORM'. [To rue EDITOR or THE " Serrraroa.'7 "This Congress urgently directs the attention of the timers- ment to the critical need for the prevision of additional housing for the working classes, and in respect of the national interest and responsibility in the matter urges upon the Government to set aside no less than .120,000,000 to make such advance; to Local Authorities and other agencies as will enable them to provide houses at reasonable rentals, having regard to all necessary and equitable circumstances and conditions."

"He spoke of the large number of houses in Scotland where there was a total absence of proper accommodation and sanitary conveniences, where families of seven and eight persona lived in a single apartment, and where births and deaths took place in the same room."

"Taking the town of Hamilton, in Lanarkshire, he said the population was 38,000. The acreage occupied by dwelling-houers was only 300, while connected with property adjacent to the town there were 2,500 acres of pleasure grounds. Of the population 27,000 lived in houses of one and two rooms."

"The housing problem in South Wales was as serious as. if not more serious than. in any other part of the country. There were thousands of houses in which the beds were never cold. being occupied during the whole of the twenty-four hours by different people."

So spoke the members of a deputation from the National Housing and Town Planning Council to the President of the Local Govern- ment Board some little time ago. As Mr. Walter Long replied in effect. " This will never do." lie further stated that even if the 4:20,000,030 so boldly demanded from the State for after-war housing schemes were indeed forthcoming. it was doubtful whether it would meet all the needs of the ease. I submit that it is not doubtful. Colossal as it is, even this great sum would still leave thousands of families housed as human beings should not be housed. What- ever the State may contrive to do, there will still be ample scope for all the private and public endeavour that can be directed towards this fundamental step in the general national better- ment. Individualists are wont to argue that " State interference" would infallibly kill private enterprise—that it would put ties speculative builder out of business, and that there would con- sequently be a worse house-famine than ever.

The passing of the speculative builder would be far front lament- able if he can be rendered superfluous, and the State will pro- bably wisely seek to co-ordinate, stimulate, finance, and direct municipal, county, district, or parochial inert rather than I. "compete." IVhat the Stale can achieve and has achieved by the organization of industry is a wonder and a portent that all may see. It has got throw dose—seemingly impossible things—and done quickly. The go-as-you-please " voluntary system " of housing has been given its chance, much good advice and exhortation has been forthcoming. and even fillailriid assistance and helpful legis- lation of a somewhat timid and tentative sort. But exhortation and local blisterings won't turn an exhausted crock into a mettle- some, willing horse, and an adequate National Housing Scheme must have unlimited horse-power behind it to make it any morn than a " scheme." We have schemed and planned and conferred and written and preached and talked. Talked! Now—or rather as soon as the war is over—we must do. And we must be ready. It may be urged that there has been no failure of " voluntary housing," but that is only because there has been little or no serious effort. Landlords and builders may be complacent enough and point to their little achievements—but hear what the doctor% the wage-earners, and their delegates have to say about it. Their side of the picture does not, cannot, make for any sort of com- placency in any one rentotely concerned in the righting of this wrong. And who is not?

Now great opportunities and large-scale operations give us our chance for a grand and decisive success or a large-scale failure.

By grappling with the housing problem directly peace returns in

a national " war " spirit and on the grand scale that that spirit implies, we shall have a chance never dreamt of—or more than dreamt of—in the had old days before the war, a chance that may

never return. Let our best thought and energy and goodwill be directed, and directed wisely and in time, to the prosecution of ths great offensive against inadequate housing. A hundred-and.oue

things will need as great a patriotic push to perform or refer!. or abolish, but decent housing should be a first charge on the national energies and wealth. As Mr. Walter Long said "When

the war was over, whatever might be the condition of things as regards finance and other matters, there would be great

competition among advocates of all kinds of social reform, and at the root of those reforms lay the provision of houses."

The two chief factors that might make for the failure of State operations are :—(a) Extravagance in land-purchase, building, and subsequent management. (e) Lack of understanding as to local needs, conditions, building resources, and building traditions. With regard to (a), -financial -failure can only be averted by working through local representative bodies who know exactly what is wanted, where it is wanted, and how and when the need ran be best and most economically met. The supply of the Army has shown no in somewhat lurid fashion what waste and extrava- gance there is apt to bo where there is no direct incentive to economy and thrift. We must therefore see to it that economy and thrift are the concern of everybody in this vital matter of housing. In the first place—if invoked in the right way—a vast amount of voluntary expert help will be forthcoming, as well as offers of suitable sites, building stone, &c., either free or at a nominal price. The great movement is and ought to be a national and patriotic one—and properly presented in that light, ready and generous support will not be lacking. The war has discovered and net up a new standard of service and altruism. It may be objected that one cannot found and conduct a great business enter- prise -(and this must be a business enterprise) on vague goodwill and voluntary support that may languish and fail. That is admitted. Such meets should be made the utmost possible use of; but the foundations must be laid on is bedrock of sound finance. These foundations I mould see laid on a co-partnership and co- operative plan, interesting the greatest possible number in the economic and general success of the venture. I would primarily interest (end interest financially) those who are, or ought to be, especially and in any case interested in any housing project. They are the landlords and all employers of labour whatsoever.

Of en-operative nod co-partnership schemes applied to housing there have been many—some of them good, some indifferent, some bad, but nose of them vital in the highest sense. That they can be vitalized I, honorer, firmly believe, but the problems of Governmental finance, whether Imperial or local, must be dismissed later and in much greater detail than is possible here. Certain essential side-issues of the housing problem may be glanced at, though rather by way of caveat than of solution. Under (h) I spoke of a lack of understanding of local building resources and tradition as one of the possible obstacles to success. Neglect of Ulm factors does not merely spell unnecessary waste, lost tends to raise up formidable opposition just where help and re-operation are most needed—that is, amongst country land- owners. A great railway recently, and very properly, undertook a big building programme whereby it sought decently to house a proportion of its employees along the whole length of its system in good rottimes of its own building. Unfortirnately it standard- ized a dreadful-looking structure (presumably planned in its engineers' office without reference to an architect or the architec- tural decencies), and proceeded to strew the whole of the enormous area that it serves with this unsightly but doubtless sanitary and otiviously expensive horror. The thing begins to grin at you as soon as you are clear of London—it disfigures the landscape all through the Home Counties, the Midlands, and right into the heart of Wales. There the same malignant box of red and purple defiles perhaps a scene of low-toned greys and browns and affronts one's every sense of aesthetic propriety. All this is done with the best intentions in the world at unnecessarily large expense and without a grain of imagination. And that is precisely the mot of thing that those who care for the comeliness of the country and the seemliness of its buildings do genuinely fear if "the Governs- ment " are let loose on cottage-building. Unhappily the fear is not groundless, as post-officee, police-stations,-and the like all too eloquently testify.

But within the last year or two beneficent influences have been quietly at work leavening public opinion, and even Government Departments, with a sense of what is meet and fit in " housing" architecture. Now that we have seen the dire disfigurement pro- ;heed by the blight of squalid, though possibly hygienic, cottages that lately descended upon unlucky Ireland under Government auspices we are on our guard as regards Great Britain. The Government itself most surely be a little aghast and seared at the horrid result of its well-meant though feckless venture. The reentry is appreciably the sadder for it; let us hope that the Government is the wiser.

It must be remernhered that there is a large rued influential section of the community who would far rather have an old and picturesque village left alone in its cramped insanitary mellow- ness than ace it tampered with, set to rights, and expanded by the county surveyor with his "railwayeaque" rows of model dwellings. They are not cynical, these sensitive folk, they are perfectly sincere. They would leek picturesque dilapidation as their own dwelling-place any day sooner titan a soulless, staring ,tructure that was a model of material convenience and as sani- tary as a sterilized stopper. Surely they have at any rate some right on their side, holding as they do that material well-being and bodily comfort are not everything. They have sensitive eyes emel imaginations, that is all. An ugly building causes them more genuine discomfort than does a draught ar damp or ookl, we moderate inconvenience, or a 'depressing smell. There are many such, and there is no reason why their valuable sympathies should not be for the cause instead of against it, if early the architectural decencies are observed. Good manners, in a building as in life, cost little and mean—well, what don't they mean? At lowest, they often just make the difference between success and failure—even commercially, and when we are stealing with tens of millions it is worth a little trouble to succeed.—I am, Sir, &c., [That something will have to be done, and done quickly, in regard to housing is obvious. Further, as our correspondent realizes, the total bill for housing is much more likely to be Ja250,000,000 than .£20,000,000. Before the war we were strongly in favour of leaving the supply of houses to voluntary action. The war has, however, altered our social conditions no pro- foundly that for the time we are as convinced- as is our corre- spondent that we can no more leave housing alone than we can leave roads, or ships, to an economic "chance medley." We say this with a full realization of the fact that a State-made housing scheme will result in great waste—waste of the kind in- volved in war, but not less unavoidable. That the best mechanism will be provided, as our correspondent suggests, by some form of Co-operation and Co-partnership, partially financed by the State, we do not doubt —En. Spectator.]