Luton's '1,000 houses' proposal

Luton Town Council on January 7, 1919, resumed consideration of the Housing and Town Planning Committee's recommendation to agree to the erection of 1,000 new houses under the Government's scheme for providing financial assistance, a debate that had been adjourned a month earlier due to lack of information.

It was pointed out that the adoption of the report did not commit the Council to any definite scheme of building, and critics with one accord agreed to accept the principle laid down, and in the end the recommendation was unanimously supported.

Councillor Murry Barford, in re-submitting the scheme, emphasised that where a shortage of houses was known to exist and if the local council did not supply the need some other body would be given the power to do it at the charge of the local authority.

Private enterprise had intimated that it was quite impossible for them to undertake the work, and until such time as private enterprise could see an economic return for its outlay and some stability in the values of of the property when put up they were not likely to get private enterprise to take up speculative work of that sort.

Unless the councils built and made some provision for, not only their own population as it was now and for the return of the troops, but also looked ahead into the future they would be doing a great disservice to this community.

Only recently he had heard of a house being let to one person who had sub-let parts of it to three separate families, so that there were four families in one household. Returns recently received by the Borough Surveyor as Fuel Overseer with reference to coal supplies showed that the congestion was appalling.

In October 1917, the Council informed the Local Government Board that they were 1,100 working-class houses short. That shortage had been going on, and at the present time at least another 500 ought to be added. It could not be anticipated that private enterprise would provide any houses for at least two years, so that adding on two prospective years they got a deficiency of 2,600. Their proposal was not even to go half way to meet that deficiency.

During the period of the war there had been 2,000 marriages, and during the next two years there would probably be another 2,000 marriages. Those young people ought to be able to find house in which to bring up their children under healthy conditions. A strong progeny could not be expected in houses containing two or three families.

If the Council negatived the proposals it would mean that they had little faith in the future of the borough. It would mean a long period of stagnation.

Councillor Barford concluded by saying the committee did not anticipate having 1,000 house alike – nothing would be more monotonous. So far as details were concerned, only in one thing was pressure put upon them, and that was that there should be a bath provided for. The report was then adopted.