Housing is both a personal and a public issue. Throughout the period covered by this book, the majority of people obtained their housing through the private market, either by renting from private landlords, or by borrowing large sums of money from banks or building societies, or (more rarely) by purchasing their property outright. At the same time, housing is also a public issue. The state accepts that it is in the public interest to ensure that all housing meets certain basic standards, if only to guarantee basic standards of public health, and it also accepts a more specific responsibility to ensure that all individuals are guaranteed access to shelter. The aim of this chapter is to examine the different ways in which the private and public aspects of housing interacted to shape the history of working-class housing in Britain in the nineteenth century.
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