Housing the Poor in England

In the documentary Housing Problems, directors Elton and Anstey attempt to document the living conditions of workers in the slums of England. As they document the current conditions and the current/proposed changes, there is an interesting trend to note: the involvement of the private sector in solving the poor’s issues. Rather than leave the government to design, build and construct new buildings designed to improve the living conditions of the poor, businesses such as cement firms and gas companies were promoting contests in which new living quarters were developed. While this is an interesting development, the real question is why are these business promoting these contests? How does it benefit them? Why are they doing such activities?

As we see these trends in inter-war Europe, we as students truly fail to contextualize the futurism that is promoted in the documentaries and where reality truly went. While all of the developments mentioned in the new “slum” buildings would have created a fantastic world, how many of these buildings were constructed in reality? We see the blip in the attempt to deal with poverty, but fail to grasp what these evolutions mean in the overall history of Europe.

6 thoughts on “Housing the Poor in England

  1. We can also ask how often such films appeared in public? Did this appear as part of a sustained campaign, or a one-time attempt at assuaging public anger?

  2. It would seem that the gas and cement companies would promote these contests for there own gain and profit. Huge developments like the ones being proposed at the time could be major projects for these companies. There support of such proposals speed up a process that the government might have taken longer to do.

  3. The profits and monopolies on entire neighborhoods would have certainly been a motivating factor for these large gas and construction companies. If a company was hired to work on a project like this, it would elevate its profits and its standing in the community, especially among the working class. Some of these companies may have been motivated by altruism, but by and large the motivation would have been the monetary gain. This is, however, an interesting approach to the film, rather than focusing on the hardships of the people and their horrendous living conditions.

  4. In this post I think that Tim really understood the material of the housing problems, and most importantly posted some very interesting questions to information it brought up. I appreciate the concept of futurism as a part of your building from this documentary and the statements of the new urbanization. I wish that there were more of your own analysis towards why this is important and how you built towards these (well thought out) questions.

  5. The British government recognized that there was a far-reaching housing problem that afflicted the country’s working class. They also recognized that having individual firms bid on the new building contracts would allow the government to accomplish their task in the cheapest manner possible. Although British social programs and the general influence of the state was becoming more pronounced in everyday affairs, the bidding for construction contracts demonstrated how Britain took a capitalistic approach to solving the housing inequity problem.

  6. I think you focus on an interesting topic in this blog. The government realized that if it allowed private owned businesses to build the housing for the poor it will benefit. The building of the houses will be less expensive and they will not spend time on it. The businesses saw an opportunity in this to expand and establish better in Britain at that time that is why they decided to take part in the building, and promoted contests.

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