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What we can learn from the 100 year anniversary of the Addison Act

The UK has just celebrated 100 years of the Addison Act, a transformational piece of social policy that led to 500,000 council homes being built over the course of three years. The act was transformational because it was the first time that safe, quality and affordable homes became available at scale throughout the entire country. 

Although Dr Addison wasn’t responsible for housing (he was the Health Minister), he knew that having a home was the foundation of a happy and healthy life, a life from which everything else could fall into place.
The UK is in desperate need of more good quality affordable housing. However, a reduction in the building of council homes over the last 30 years1 has left a huge housing gap in our society that undermines the very ethos of the Addison Act. We have all seen or experienced the impacts of this gap. Shelter estimates that 320,000 people in the UK are homeless, 83,700 are in poor temporary accommodation, countless people are prey to a poor quality private rented sector and millions of people are struggling to get on the housing ladder as prices continue to soar owing to years of under-investment in the building of new homes.
There are many ways in which the housing market is also contributing to higher levels of inequality in the UK. In some instances of new builds, we have seen an increase in reports from existing communities of the use of things like ‘poor doors’ that provide different entrances for those in the lower value housing. In a broader context, home ownership rates have been in decline for all age groups, except the over 55s, since the early 1990’s. Those who are able to enter the housing market are increasingly relying on the ‘bank of mum and dad’ with almost 49% of first-time buyers in 2018 relying on a financial gift or loan from family2. The Resolution Foundation also found that by the age of 30 those without parental property wealth are approximately 60% less likely to be homeowners than people whose parents are homeowners. Whilst housing is not the only cause, it is no wonder that in 2019 social mobility appears to be drastically low. This can be seen in part from the UK’s levels of income inequality, which are significantly higher in 2017-18 than were ever reached in the five decades from 1937 to 19873.
Just like Dr Addison we know that the provision of bricks and mortar alone will not solve the issue of inequality in the UK. However, safe and secure housing can provide the foundation individuals need to build healthy and fulfilled lives. And social investment can play a key role through the provision of affordable social housing. One example of this is our investment in the CBRE UK Affordable Housing Fund, which aims to increase the supply of good quality affordable homes into the market.
We are looking towards a future with inclusive new housing developments, developers that give their communities a voice, and places that allow everyone to participate. Over the coming months we will be exploring this topic, the challenges behind it and the role social investment can play in overcoming them. If you feel that you have something to add to this conversation, we would love to hear from you.
Find out more about housing and social impact investing at Big Society Capital in our previous blog, which looks at our focus, challenges and emerging solutions.


1 Local Government Association - House building in England - Between the late 1940s and 1950s councils built more homes than the private sector and until the late 1970s local authorities were building 100,000 homes a year. But following a suite of policy measures introduced in the late 1970's-1980's, housebuilding by local authorities fell.

2 Social Mobility Commission, State of the Nation 2018-19

3 Resolution Foundation - The Living Standards Audit 2019: Living standards across the distribution, pg. 34

Last updated | 
14 August 2019


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