Social housing 100 years on

As we mark the centenary of Dr Addison’s social housing legislation, at CIH Cymru, we’re asking what needs to be done to progress things further?


In 1919, Parliament passed the historic Housing Act that promised government subsidies to help finance the construction of 500,000 houses within three years.

As the economy rapidly weakened in the early 1920s, however, funding had to be cut, and only 213,000 homes were completed under the Act’s provisions.

However, the 1919 Act – often known as the ‘Addison Act’ after its author, Dr Christopher Addison, the Minister of Health – embedded a significant principle into law.

For the first time, it recognised that government, at a central and local level, should play a central role in ensuring affordable housing, at a decent standard, should be made available to all according to need.

Housing finds itself in a welcome place at the top-table of Welsh Government, and the initial actions undertaken by the new Minister for Housing and Local Government have been positive – such as allocating additional funding to support efforts to develop a comprehensive Housing First model in Wales.

Add to that the ongoing review into affordable housing supply in Wales, due to report in April, housing’s profile within the spectrum of policy areas is likely to continue to benefit from greater attention.

But clearly, as we settle into 2019, we continue to have a chronic housing crisis, with tents providing those sleeping on our streets with limited protection a regular feature in our capital over the Christmas period.

As we mark the centenary of Dr Addison’s legislation, at CIH Cymru, we’re asking what needs to be done this year to progress things further?

For us, that starts with a shift in thinking to focus on building a cohesive ‘one housing system’.

That investment must seek to improve the consistency in what people experience across different types of housing tenure, whether that be social rent, private rent or home ownership.

While no one tenure should dominate the housebuilding programme, considering the acute issue being faced both locally and nationally linked to the shortage of affordable homes, the Welsh Government must become increasingly ambitious in this area.

This will require the leadership to go beyond the political-cycle of the Welsh Assembly and consider a cross-party approach to ensuring that the idea of access to a rented home, underpinned by a secure tenancy, becomes a common feature of our housing market.

This goes hand-in-hand with making the welfare system work to enable and empower people. Whereas, at the moment, the evidence all too often demonstrates how people are met by an unfair system, unresponsive to their circumstances and needs.

We wait, with eager anticipation, as the independent affordable housing review panel formulate their recommendations to Welsh Government.

Due to report in April, the review will no doubt be a key moment for the Welsh housing sector this year.

Throughout the review, funding certainty has come up time and time again. Money is obviously important, and now even more so in the context of decreasing resources, particularly when we consider our colleagues in local government who are currently experiencing their eighth consecutive year of cuts.

Certainty over social housing grant, a longer-term rent settlement, dowry funding and Major Repairs Allowance and the supporting people programme are all crucial parts of giving housing professionals a stable footing on which to provide the progressive changes we all want to see.

So, while the pieces are all in place to provide the profession with a real opportunity to demonstrate the case for the sector to continue its role at the heart of the public policy discussion, we also need to see that the new-look government continues to follow-up the prioritisation of housing with real, tangible action.