Six million people are still on waiting lists
FACING the fact that in spite of over six years of re-housing 6,000,000 people in this country are still on the waiting lists for homes of their own, Catholic Parents' Associations are organising a new crusade to abolish the scandal of increasing slums.
Men and women members of C.P.A.s in the Westminster, Southwark and Brentwood dioceses, all comfortably housed themselves, spent the whole of the sunny afternoon and early evening of Saturday in Archbishop's House, Westminster, at a preliminary conference.
With an interval for tea, their discussions lasted from 2.30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Some of those attending had to travel up to 60 miles.
Some are well known in public life as Conservatives. some equally well known as staunch Labour men. But there was not a word about political differences or outlook on the housing problem and how to meet it.
They met as Catholic parents facing a national family problem appalling in its size and effects.
One of their main purposes is to secure homes for young married couples who are now, in many thousands, doubing-up with "inlaws"-a source of trouble and frustration which was brought prominently before the Royal Commission on Marriage and Divorce at its first meetings last week.
The C.P.A.s are hoping that with all the necessary patronage and approval," they may bring together a big representative conference to stir the conscience of Catholics and nonCatholics to secure the primary right and need of every family-a home of their own.
The size of the problem-and tragedy-was unfolded as speakers got up in various parts of the room.
One said: "There are 22.000 applicants on the housing list in Islington."
The chairman, Mr. A. R. KerrellVaughan-a recognised authority on the whole problem of housing, who presided at the conference-met that remark by saying: "Five thousand families live below the ground in Islington and never sce the light of day in their homes."
Then : "Fifteen thousand families in Finsbury and Deptford live below street level."
Mr. Kerrell-Vaughan again: "Two million families are waiting for homes." He pointed out that this means that more than 6,000,000 are living in slums or are otherwise badly housed.
"The social revolution started by Lord Beveridge aspired to five freedoms. Practically nothing has been done to obtain one of these-freedom from squalor.
"Slums exist everywhere-thousands of them. Birmingham and the Black Country have 103.000 houses that are long over-ripe for demolition. Salford has 20.000. Demolition orders have been withheld for thousands of houses in Glasgow.
At the C.P.A.'s invitation. two fathers went to Archbishop's House to tell of their own housing problems.
One was a father with a daughter of 14. They live in two rooms, have been on the waiting list for eight years, and still see no prospect of a home. With the other occupants of the house they share one tap between two floors. There are no facilities for the household washing.
He cannot get a house because there is no serious illness in the family. He was advised his only hope in present circumstances is to go to a psychiatrist to see if he can find something wrong somewhere with one of the family.
Another father, with seven chit.
dren. got a flat last year after being on the waiting list for 11 years. One of the children contracted tuberculosis. When she returns from the sanatorium. a new overcrowding problem will arise.
Mr. Kerrell-Vaughan urged Catholics to go into the crusade as family people concerned with the health, welfare-above all the spiritual welfare-of the families of the nation.
It is a problem that affects every citizen individually, he declared. "It is only by the grace of God that we are not in the environment where it is impossible to live the normal life of a decent citizen, and as Catholic parents we ought to be aware of the possibility that our own children will find themselves in the slums."
The basis of the crusade, he said, is the brotherhood of man. "In this matter we must become our brother's keeper."
Mr. Kerrell-Vaughan showed that the slum problem, far from decreasing is in fact increasing.
'The Government's programme aspires to 300,000 houses a year. But that is less than the production of houses before the war; in the best years it was 367,000 a year-and that did not touch the hard core of the problem of the slums."
"Douhling-up" young married couples having to live with "in-laws" -was pointed to by Mr. KerrellVaughan as one of the saddest features of the tragedy. Never before has there been so much doubling-up in this country, he said.
"If there were adequate, sufficient and satisfactory dwellings for the families of this country, an amazing proportion of the problems which result in the break-up of marriages, marriage derangements and other family troubles would never arise.
"We could sec the backs of many of the modern witch-doctors psychiatrists and the rest-ifsve were more concerned with preventing defects than curing effects."