Rented property in the public sector, like other types of rented property, has been subjected to considerable pressures over the decades. Its significance grew after the First World War when Lloyd George, the then Prime Minister, realised that one way of meeting his election pledge of ‘homes fit for heroes’ was to increase the stock of local authority accommodation. Between the First and Second World Wars housing was a political football kicked to and fro between the opposing parties. The Conservatives supported private enterprise and regarded state intervention merely as a temporary measure while Labour envisaged a permanent role for public housing but was hampered by a lack of political power and economic resources. Even so, there was a high output of new houses in both the private and public sectors and by 1938 local authorities owned 11 per cent of housing stock. Millions of residential properties in Great Britain were destroyed or damaged during the Second World War and, not surprisingly, new building had been at a virtual standstill. After 1945 both Labour and Conservative governments promoted the building of local authority housing (albeit with varying degrees of enthusiasm) and the sector grew every year until, by 1979, it accounted for 29 per cent of housing. By 2003 it had dropped to 11 per cent. The decline can be attributed to a number of factors. Local authority tenants have exercised their ‘right to buy’ (introduced by the Housing Act 1980), fewer local authority homes have built, and many authorities have transferred the whole or part of their housing stock to new owners — usually Registered Social Landlords (i.e. housing associations registered with the Housing Corporation).
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- Chapter 18