Lost Alternatives to Council Housing? An examination of Stirling's alternative housing initiatives, c. 1906-1939



Smyth J & Robertson D (2017) Lost Alternatives to Council Housing? An examination of Stirling's alternative housing initiatives, c. 1906-1939. Journal of Scottish Historical Studies, 37 (2), pp. 117-135.

First paragraph: It is almost a century since the beginning of the great ‘social experiment’ that was council housing. Born out of a recognition of the poor quality of most housing for the working classes and the attendant health and mortality issues associated with overcrowding and poor sanitation and fuelled by the war-time promise of ‘homes fit for heroes to live in’ the agency chosen to deliver that promise was local government; councils constructing houses for rent backed by central state subsidy. In post-World War One (WW1) Scotland council housing almost immediately became the major provider of new houses, surpassing the number of new private builds as early as 1921 and thereafter out-performing the private sector every year (with the temporary exceptions of 1924 and 1925) until 1978 when the balance shifted back to the private sector which has maintained its dominance ever since. While the move to private build predates the Thatcherite ‘privatisation’ of selling off council houses to sitting tenants, that policy clearly reinforced the trend; whereas in the 1970s more than half of all homes were rented from a council, by 2011 the social rented sector provided just 24 per cent of homes with councils responsible for less than 13 per cent. Over the same period the proportion of owner-occupied homes doubled to over 60 per cent.

Council housing; Stirling; working class; social welfare; philanthropy

Journal of Scottish Historical Studies: Volume 37, Issue 2

Publication date30/11/2017
Publication date online10/2017
Date accepted by journal20/09/2016
PublisherEdinburgh University Press

People (2)


Professor Douglas Robertson

Professor Douglas Robertson

Honorary Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences

Dr James Smyth

Dr James Smyth

Senior Lecturer, History