What can history teach us about the future of housing policy?


Housing policy has been much in the news over recent months. Property prices are reported to have risen by 10% on average over the last year and in London by 20%. Responses to the perceived crisis in affordability have included the Coalition government’s Help To Buy scheme, the Labour Party’s proposals to reform the private rental sector and Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s proposals to introduce a new accreditation standard for landlords. There have even been more radical suggestions, such as moving the elderly into smaller flats or building over the green belt.

What could the study of past housing policy tell us about future solutions?

The TUC Library holds a wealth of material on the subject of housing, dating from the 19th century onwards. Much of the material shows that present debates about housing policy have a long history, as can be seen by these pamphlets from the early 20th century.










Following the Second World War a major house building programme was undertaken to replace damaged housing stock, prompting yet more debate on the future direction of housing policy.

Who should build the houses?

Our collection documents the ideological debates that have always existed about who should be responsible for building new houses – the state, private enterprise, local authorities or civil society groups?









A Land Value Tax?

Debates about whether a tax on the value of land would solve the issue of housing inequality have existed since the economist Henry George first proposed the policy in the 19th century. The pamphlet below, from the United Committee for the Taxation of Land Values (1919), makes a similar plea for a land value tax.
New Towns?
We have an extensive collection of material on the “Garden City” and “New Towns” movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.









The return of rent controls?

For much of the 20th century rents were controlled in the UK, until the abolition of such controls in the 1980s. Our collection covers a range of material offering different perspectives on the policy.

The images shown here represent just a tiny fraction of the fascinating material the TUC Library holds on the subject of housing. If you are interested in finding out more, or would like to visit us, see our handy guide to the housing collections here: http://metranet.londonmet.ac.uk/fms/MRSite/psd/ls/libsites/tuc/researching-housing.pdf


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