SIR,-Mr. Bob Walsh but confirms that the people are prevented from housing themselves by ownership when he states that private building is but permitted a percentage of the State building -it varies from 25 to 10 per cent. (Before the war private building put Lip four-fifths of all houses!) And now they have clapped a new tax of abreit £400 on any soul intrepid enough to build his own home, pour ericOurager IeS autres.
The statistis I gave can be ohecked by anyone in the official Abstract of Statistics: a war-time deficit of about 2 million houses, a pre-war building rate of 360,000, a present-day rate of 240.000. The ghastly truth is self-evident the homeless are increasing.
Then for the concrete programme I am asked for.
First (Abstract of ,Statistics), only one-third of building work in 1948 was devoted to housing. Then all work other than housing must be stopped and materials properly used. More, Britain is a vast quarry of stone, slate, clays and sands: so let the age of Production emulate the old organic economy which produced a brick and lime kiln in almost every parish. (Timber is being imparted a: two-thirds the pre-war rate, and more could be obtained by cutting other imports.)
The State should proceed with a vast programme of interest-free loans for house ownership under two main schemes (other critics will see that these are for the workers) :
1. By self-building, repayments 10s. a week.
2. By ordinary building. repayments 20s. a week.
If the loans for the iwe schemes were respectively £600 and £1,250 (with a small deposit) then the repayments over a 25 year period would be approximately the sums
stated. And the cost to the State would be £300 and £600 for the Iwo loans, as against the £2,000 which every State-rented house costs in various subsidies.
But, though such schemes rule almost everywhere, there is always the mysterious excuse that the winds blow against ownership in these latitudes. Then here are the concessions which Eire's Christian housing policy gives, to enable the family to own its home.
I. A cost price loan on only 5 per cent. deposit.
2. An outright grant of £275, 3. Cancellation of two-thirds of rates for seven years.
Of course, home ownership has always been the instinctive thing for all mankind. And, obviously, housebuilding must be the most distributed of all activities; the provision of individual houses for the most distributed of all units, the family Then, when a Minister recently complained that the building industry was too "anarchic " to fit into the centralising State plans. it is a pity that no one rejoinedWhat is anarchy ?
The ownership system would mean lower costs for the family and for the State, and homes. And, clearly, it is only the Socialist mentality in bath Parties (in varying degree) that prevents this realisation. But why do not Catholics join in to demand a housing policy which is Catholic-to its very foundations ?
JOHN G. CAMPRET,L.
StR,-A correspondent asks for sonic concrete suggestions as to how the building of houses can be accelerated. I make bold to offer one it is that the return to the forty-hour week be adopted. Even this would leave us far behind our Continental neighbours whose achievements have astonished travelling Britons since the war. In saying a " return " to the forty-hour week I am pointing out that the present weekly hours of work actually practised by the building trade (in London, at any rate) is roughly twenty-four hours per week. What with arriving late, leaving early (more accurately perhaps "starting late" and "leaving off" early), going out for snacks at 10.30 and 3 p.m.-that is what their weekly hours on the job actually amount to. If they ever manage to get up any momentum in their work in these broken snatches of timeit would he remarkable; in fact it is
remarkable that any work ever gets completed at all ! I observed all this from a hotel window one wet day, and since then have had it confirmed from several other sources.
69 High Street, North Tawton, Devon.
Si,-Miss Clare Hyrnans says in her letter to you that the Government wants to ensure that all the
houses that are built. . shall be Mines. . and that they shall be available to those who need them inste.ed of only to those who can Afford high prices."
The facts are these: local Housing Authorities arc compelled to build houses that are too expensive for the majority of the working class. I speak with some knowledge. I am the chairmen of a Housing Committee and we have to choose (for post-war houses) not those who most need of them. but those who can afford the rents. The "lucky" class are the minority oft our waiting list. I think that most housing authorities have the same experience.
(Rev.) C. H. DE LAUBENQUE,
St. Thomas', 59 Burgett., Canterbury.
Sne-Your correspondent, Clare Hymens, would do well to consider the housing shortage from the humanitarian point of view. She should ask a few of the homeless whether they would prefer Diogenes' barrel to their present condition. Many, I can assure her, would.
To quote my own case, we have been married four years and have a toddler, another child being expected shortly. Owing to the present condition we are still living with " inlaws "--having an attic bedroom and a living room on the first floor. I have to carry everything up a flight of fairly steep dstairs at the same time assisting the toddler up. What wouldn't I give for a mansion of two to four rooms ?"