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Private enterprise in eclipe? A reassessment of British housing policy in the 1940s

Malpass, Peter


Peter Malpass


Conventional analyses of housing policy in most European countries treat the 1940s as a decade when private enterprise was eclipsed by social housing programmes. As a result, private enterprise is also eclipsed in most accounts of housing and housing policy in the early post-war period. This paper draws on the British experience to show that if the policy narrative is traced from wartime plans rather than from post-war action, and if the question of who actually built post-war social housing is raised, then a different picture emerges. From the middle of 1942 British civil servants and ministers were engaged in detailed planning for post-war housing, in both the short and long term. Private enterprise was assumed to have a major role to play in the long term, and a supporting role in the transitional period. In practice the post-war Labour Government relied on local authorities as housing developers, who themselves relied on private contractors to build the houses. The eclipse of private enterprise was, therefore, more apparent than real.


Malpass, P. (2003). Private enterprise in eclipe? A reassessment of British housing policy in the 1940s. Housing Studies, 18(5), 645-659.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Sep 1, 2003
Journal Housing Studies
Print ISSN 0267-3037
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 18
Issue 5
Pages 645-659
Keywords 1940s, British housing policy, private enterprise
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