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Unintended Consequences

Demographics and development: Veteran international investor John Corey comments

It is rather interesting to think about how many different housing issues are related to Germany and Queen Victoria’s offspring and grandchildren. WWI was triggered by a relative of the Queen. OK, it happened after she had died and to be fair, most royal families in Europe were related.

In the first two decades of the 20th century, most UK residents lived in rented accommodation. The vast majority of the landlords were private individuals, so it was an earlier version of the Private Rented Sector. With the end of the war, the ‘Housing, Town Planning Act of 1919’ created an obli-gation for local authorities to provide social housing. There was no such thing as council housing prior to 1919. Councils did not have an obligation to house the public.

I am not making a positive or negative comment about the quality of the housing stock in the PRS pre-1919. I am saying that there was no such thing as social or council housing as we now understand it. What we take as ‘normal’ or how things work, was an invention to deal with the returning servicemen so one consequence of WWI was also an opportunity to clear Victorian era slums. Some of the time, you need an external event to galvanise people behind a decision or we otherwise resist making change.

When you look at the data, the Great War (WW1) forced the change to UK housing. An inflection point in the curve which represents the UK housing market. A large shift in the housing stock and who owned it. A new normal.

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