1 OCTOBER 1948, Page 2

Eipensive Houses

The first report of the Girdwood Committee on the cost of house- building, published on Thursday, is of considerable general interest. It is, on the whole, a gloomy document. Taking as typical a local- authority house with Three bedrooms, the Committee finds that the cost has risen from L380 in 1938-9 to £1,242 or more today. One reason for this is the increased cost of wages and materials—the price of timber, for example, has quadrupled—but there is also an astonishing decline in productivity in the building trade, a decline of 31 per cent. It is easy to assign causes for this—a depleted and ageing building-labour force, the fear of unemployment gone, a bad psychological atmosphere caused by time-wasting for various reasons, among them an uneven flow of materials and the Government's mis- taken policy of embarking on more houses than could be finished in a reasonable time. Nor, the Committee finds, is it likely that houses will drop greatly in price in the near future as they did after the First World War. There are one or two brighter spots in a dark picture. One is that there is no evidence of profiteering by building contractors ; and another is that some of the increased cost comes from more elaborate equipment and a slight increase of size in the new houses. The Committee urges another review of standards of houses, and also the erection of more two-bedroom homes. For the rest, it can only suggest better labour conditions and personnel management to foster team spirit among building operatives, and inducementi M work,- such as the bonuses agreed on last November.