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“The Addison Act” - a celebration of 100 years of social housing

One hundred years ago this month, the Housing, Town Planning Etc. Act 1919 received Royal Assent. Commonly known as the Addison Act after the then Minister of Health and Housing, the Act established the legislative basis for the mass building of subsidised housing by local authorities.

By section 1 of the Act local authorities were placed under a duty to “consider the needs of their area with respect to the provision of houses for the working classes, and … to prepare and submit …. a scheme” for acquiring land and building housing.

Although not entirely successful in achieving the aspiration of building 500,000 “homes fit for heroes”, the Addison Act marked a fundamental change in political thinking. The role of the state was no longer simply to intervene in housing provision on public health grounds but to be actively involved in the provision of housing itself – an idea whose time may have come again!

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