Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire

Liverpool Corporation and the origins of municipal social housing, 1842–1890

Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire (2016), 165, (1), 39–56.

Abstract

This article addresses the improvements made to the housing and sanitation conditions of Liverpool’s working-class poor through a series of municipal initiatives between 1842 and 1890. In the vanguard of municipal social responsibility initiatives nationally, the Corporation of Liverpool rejected prevailing laissez-faire attitudes, setting a benchmark for sanitary improvements before clearing slums in order to construct the country’s first purpose-built council housing. With regard to the latter, the Corporation initially sought to stress its role as being one of educating the private sector as to what might be achieved, rather than becoming a long-term provider of social housing. In the twenty years after 1866, that which had been conceived as a model became a stated policy objective. While laudable in intent, the existing framework of limited local governance meant that only the smallest percentage of working-class residents was directly aided. As the article concludes, further progress was only made once the issue of housing provision was allied to that of rentable values charged. This was a policy development dependent upon national legislative changes and thus one upon which Liverpool Corporation could not act alone.

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Author details

Dockerill, Bertie