UK Housing Wiki

Slum clearances in the UK were the wholesale demolition of slum housing by local authorities as permitted by the UK Government.

Following World War I, a national campaign was launched named 'Homes for Heroes', which sought to provide soldiers and their families with suitable housing. This push for council housing for those who required it developed into incorporating the rest of the population. The Housing Act of 1930 encouraged councils to clear slums within their boundaries, which had become hotspots for social deprivation. Slum housing largely consisted of Victorian terraced, including back-to-back, properties constructed as a result of mass urbanisation during the Industrial Revolution. The housing had deteriorated structurally, as well as not providing sufficient sanitary facilities. In many cases, whole families would share just one room.

By 1933, councils were forced to make slum clearancing their main priority, and to propose plans for demolition and rebuilding of the slums to the government. In Bristol, the council outlined that 5,000 homes were unfit for habitation, home to 25,000 people. Councils initially tried to relocate residents in their original localities, but the rebuilding effort mostly consisted of small scale schemes in these areas and councils then sought to build new, larger estates on the peripheries of their towns and cities.

To target this, the Housing Act of 1936 allowed for the designation of redevelopment areas, most widely used for the demolition of slums. World War II brought about the near halt of all slum clearance schemes, and following the end of war, the country was in the grips of a major housing shortage. Not only did much slum housing remain, but a large number of properties had been destroyed by enemy bombing.

The elected Labour government following World War II made housing their welfare priority and once again slum clearance became a source for council concentration. Today, much of the original back-to-back housing has been removed due to the rebuilding efforts of the postwar period. These mostly inner-city areas are now dominated by high-density housing estates, which too have also become blighted by the social issues that once characterised the slum properties before them.