It would be fair to say that the world is fond of centenaries for looking back on crucial periods or events of history. This year, for example, marks a hundred years since the end of World War I – but what were homes actually like as people tried to put that particularly horrid war behind them?
Well, you might not exactly get the most balanced view if you just look for the answer in old episodes of Downton Abbey. Truthfully, homes and their construction have gone through many changes over the past century, often as a result of demographic and political upheavals.
How century-old homes looked, inside out
Given that 38% of England’s existing housing stock was built before 1944 as per a What Mortgage article, you might not be overly surprised to learn that, during World War I, family homes were often visually similar to their modern equivalents… on the outside.
On the inside, it was quite a different story. Just take a look at the interactive graphics on the BBC’s Bitesize website, where you can see what features were typical of living rooms and kitchens in family homes of a century ago. You might even live in a home that was used during the interwar period.
How the Government got involved in house-building
Looking back over twentieth-century British history shows that the UK Government did not regularly intervene in the country’s property market before 1915. Basically, developers just built in the areas to which workers moved, such as cities where job opportunities were relatively promising.
However, as more and more housing was built in urban areas, cramped and unsanitary living conditions increasingly resulted. State initiatives consequently launched included post-war Prime Minister David Lloyd George’s “homes fit for heroes” drive.
This scheme saw local authorities build, between them, a yearly average of 50,000 homes as the interwar period progressed. During World War I, only about 10% of England residents lived in their own homes, while 89% rented privately and 1% rented from local authorities. However, the proportion of owner-occupiers surpassed 40% by the 1960s.
The rise and fall of the home-buying market
The Right to Buy scheme, launched by ’80s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, helped spur homeownership to reach its peak level of 69% by 1999. Around that time, private-rented housing took up only 10% of the market, but the pendulum has since started swinging the other way.
This has been largely due to a combination of high demand but insufficient supply pricing more and more people out of the house-buying market. There has also been increasing demand for social housing in recent years, leading the then-Prime Minister Theresa May to offer, last year, £2bn for the construction of roughly 50,000 new social houses over a decade, as The Telegraph reported.
Therefore, whether it involves North East brickwork, Yorkshire roofing or anything else, we can anticipate demand for domestic construction in the UK continuing to rise. The more things change, as the familiar saying goes, the more things stay the same…