By Mrs. C. .1. MATIILW. J.P.. I..C.C.
There is an entirely mistaken idea that the accommodation offered by the slum landlord is the cheapc3t to be had. This prevents poor (and not so poor) people applying for council housing-and is very far from being even neatly true. Families where there are young children-if they are considered at all -are expected to squeeze into what is only part of a house once occupied by one family.
In fact, London's children are being reared (at great expense) in London's worst properties. 7 he slum rents run into such figures as the following_:In Whitechapel. 2 rooms with no convenience, 14s.; 15.s.; 16s. up to 25s. for 2 or 3 rooms. There are four rooms I know where a family of 7, of 9 sonietimes (the father and son go to sea), live up 0 stairs like a loft, and pay 20s., with no "convenience."
There is a cottage of 3 rooms and a scullery (which is unusable) at 24s. 6d. per week. The local council rents run, for simplified accommodation. at 3 rooms and scullery 9s. 3d.; 2 rooms 5s. 7d.; some times the scullery is shared. There are slum houses where the rooms. generally two, are not even on the same floor. so that the family are crowded into one room to sleep!
Nine years ago I moved a supplemental estimate to obtain powers to build for all classes instead of the present position, which is. that we can only build for " persons of the working-classes." 1 was, of course, defeated-it was too "socialistic.' -and we are still handicapped, The socialist-labour majority has added another 10 per cent. to the large type of accommodation, but we could do with more than that. I think we ought never to build less than four rooms. Our concern is with the young family-and two rooms or three soon get overcrowded.
The Laxgest Landlord
We must guard against tuberculosis, which is a -house" disease, and rheumatism, which is a problem of the present day. There is just now an awakening of the public conscience about housing and certain local authorities are making their contribution. but the largest landlord by far is the London County Council.
Our 'rent-roll is about £3,000,000, and in the outer estates the accommodation is good: there are gardens hack and front, bathrooms to each house and
other amenities of a good type. • The objection is that the. rent, although very reasonable. is, with the. fares, impossible where there are several people to go to work.
One family 1 know of had to come back to London because their outgoings, rent and fares. came to 35s. per week before they could "buy bread." and it broke their nerve! Where the family is young (Becontree's average age is 23 years!) the father bicycles many miles to work to save the fare. but where more -go to work this "is notpossible--and so they stay in over crowded surroundings. . .
• Central Sites Scarce '
On the basis of the 1935 Act. 39.000 or 40.000 additional tenements will be required to provide for the persons who are living in overcrowded conditions-and central sites are very scarce, so inevitably some families will have to move out, but much could be done in town-planning inner.London, and control of industry will do a great deal.
Stepney has quiet squares now lost to housing because industry. has taken the houses, or rooms in the houses. and used them as factories or workrooms, and farther down the road there are empty factories! _ I want an experiment niade and it is this: I want Catholics•to form (as some other people have done) a public utility society to experiment in building for families. There could be elastic structures capable of expansion and diminution, by ihe use of steel and careful planning of windows-so that rooms to fit the family could be provided.
One Central Kitchen
h is not, I am told, unduly expensive. The chief reason I want the experiment is so that this society could try out having one central kitchen-also reading and writing-rooms such as are now in use in public libraries. where children and grownups could be undisturbed.
There should be nurseries and playrooms, a laundry. a garden playground I want the young considered as well as the old. The families would want careful choosing. but the experiment would be worth while and, if it fails, the structure would still be an asset.
The rooms should be larger than is usual in flats of this type-the walls of a small room get more wear and tear than those of a large room, and maintenance is as much to be considered as capital.
We want to save the children from bad housing and street "playgrounds."
fThe substance of the above article appeared in the Catholic Citizen, the organ of St. Joan's Social and Political Alliance, by whose kind permission it is reprinted here.]
The Sower is undoubtedly one of the