Council Housing and Culture
The History of a Social Experiment
Routledge – 2001 – 272 pages
Born of idealism, and once an icon of the Labour movement and pillar of the Welfare State, council housing is now nearing its end. But do its many failings outweigh its positive contributions to public health and wellbeing?
Alison Ravetz here provides the first comprehensive and apolitical history from which to arrive at a balanced judgement. Drawing on the widest possible evidence, from tenant and government records to the built environment itself, she tells the story of British council housing, from its seeds in Victorian reactions to 'the Poor', in philanthropy and model villages, Christian and other varieties of socialism. Her depiction of council housing in its mature years shows the often bizarre persistence of 'utopian' attitudes (whether in architectural design or management styles); its rise to a monopoly position in working-class family housing; the many compromises consequent on its state finance and local authority control; and the impact on working-class lives as an intellectuals' 'utopian dream' was converted into a social policy for the masses.
'The arguments here are thought-provoking and the story is well-written. This should be worthwhile reading to anyone interested in the past or the future not only of council housing but also of housing associations.' - John Doling, Local Government Studies
'Its most stimulating aspect is the comprehensive approach to the subject and the avoidance of the simplistic explanations so frequently used when dealing with it. Alison Ravetz has not only researched widely, she has also tried to connect the various strands of this complicated and often depressing story. A book that should be compulsory reading for anyone concerned with reducing social inequalities.' - THES, 6 September, 2002
Part I Chapter 1. Introduction. Chapter 2. A Domestic Revolution: Poverty, Respectability and Housing Reform. Chapter 3. Housing for the Poor. Chapter 4. The Utopian Roots of Council Housing. Chapter 5. The Artistic Inspiration of Council Housing. Chapter 6. Garden City to Council Estate. Part II Chapter 7. The Utopian Legacy. Chapter 8. The Management of Council Housing. Chapter 9. 'Community' on Council Estates. Chapter 10. Patterns of Working-Class Life. Chapter 11. Estate Histories. Part III Chapter 12. Turning Points: The Parameters at the Turn of the Century.
Alison Ravetz is Professor Emeritus of Leeds Metropolitan University, and has written extensively for more than 25 years on the history of housing, cities and planning.