Black’s Blog: Social housing in 1947

Jimmy Black
Jimmy Black

Cllr Black looks back to 1947

A hoo-hah is being whipped up around remarks made by Jim Murphy over housebuilding. On a BBC radio programme, he said this … “Ok, well we’ve had a smaller number of social housing built in Scotland since, I think, since 1947 in recent years.”

While I’m not entirely sure what he meant, I immediately turned to Hansard of June 18, 1947. The post war housing programme was meant to be in full swing, but it appeared to be stuttering. Commander Thomas Galbraith, Conservative MP for Glasgow Pollok (yes, really!) was lambasting Joseph Westwood, the Labour Secretary of State for Scotland.

Galbraith reminded the House that the post war Scottish housebuilding target was 90,000 by the end of 1947. He recalled Ministers who said houses would be built as efficiently as Spitfires, through control and planning. But only 7,521 had been built. Scotland was “hungry for houses”, and people were “in despair.”

The Government response was that shortages of cement, timber, bricks, electrics and clinker had held the programme back. Until a trade agreement could be struck with Russia, timber would still be in short supply, which meant using expensive cement floors in kitchenettes.

Under Secretary George Buchanan reported the price of building a new house had risen to £1,286, Giving the latest figures, Mr Buchanan said 8,500 permanent houses had been built, and 17,000 temporaries, since the war. For “temporaries”, read prefabs … still mourned by many. As Mr Buchanan said, “I find that the most popular house in the City of Glasgow at the moment is the temporary house provided by the Government.”

Different times, but one thing remains the same. Mr Westwood declaimed, “it will require the united effort of everyone, including the building industry, to give of their best to enable us to produce the houses that are so necessary if we are to solve Scotland’s greatest social, economic and human problem.”

Cllr Jimmy Black is chair of the COSLA/Scottish Government Homelessness Prevention Strategy Group, but writes here in a personal capacity.

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