Friday, 1 June 2018
Housing and decency
Municipal Dreams: The Rise and Fall of Council Housing by John Boughton (Verso) takes me back to the1960s and the fights between my parents about housing. To be re-housed by the council was an aspiration. We were on the Southwark housing list, but they moved slowly.
Boughton talks about 'decency': decent housing, treating people decently, feeling a sense of decency when your home wasn't cramped and squalid. Nobody suggested there was anything 'indecent' in wanting a council house. When the day came, and a four-bedroom maisonette on the Heygate Estate, with the novelty of a bathroom and running hot water, became the family home, everybody was proud as well as pleased. It wasn't charity; it was housing that could be afforded by those on an average working income. Social housing made social sense. By the end of the 1970s, almost a third of households were in council properties.
And then in 1980 Margaret Thatcher's 'right to buy' legislation came in, and after that private ownership was moralized as the only decent thing.