Southwark Council celebrates 100 years of the Addison Act 

8 November 2019

To commemorate 100 years since the Addison Act, which paved the way for large-scale council home building across the UK, Southwark Council has launched an exhibition which will be touring the borough to celebrate our long history of public housing.

The exhibition was unveiled by Cllr Leo Pollak, Cabinet Member for New Homes, Great Estates and Social Regeneration, alongside local council tenants, on Monday evening at Southwark Council’s head office.

The eight-panel exhibition takes residents through the decades, starting in the mid 18th century, when south Londoners had to rely primarily on the charity of others for their housing needs, moving on to the slum clearances of the late 1800s, and eventual realisation that the state must provide affordable, safe and clean housing for residents across the borough.

The display covers the turbulent history of the boom, decline and investment in council housing across Southwark and shows that the council is once again entirely committed to expand and enrich all of our estates, build 11,000 new council homes by 2043, and make sure all of our estates become Great Estates.

Bonsu Osei-tutu grew up in a council house in Rotherhithe, and was a guest speaker at the event. He is currently studying for a degree in architecture at Oxford Brooks University, a decision in part inspired by his experiences of growing up in a council home.

“I grew up in a two-bed flat, housing three, often four people all year round, for 20 years,” he said. “It’s evident that, over the years, ‘council housing’ has developed a stigma attached to it, and those words now convey an image of poverty and poorly-maintained facilities. Fortunately for me, my home has been relatively well-kept for 20 years, and it’s only recently that I’ve begun to see a decline in its maintenance. Observing this has made me realise how important good council housing is, so those words don’t continue to plague what I believe is a great solution to the affordable housing crisis that faces our great city.

“Seeing this exhibition, I was delightfully overwhelmed and excited to see how far council housing has come. After seeing this, I’m more enthusiastic and encouraged about its future, and I’m looking forward to witnessing – and hopefully being a part of – how we design well-maintained and sustainable council homes for generations to come.”

Cllr Pollak said: “Southwark council have used the opportunity of the Addison Act centenary to commission an exhibition capturing in full the rich conflicted and inspiring history of social and council housing in our borough, going back to the 1700s. As London’s largest council landlord and house-builder we are hugely proud of the legacy of council house-building in the borough, which has helped shape the diverse mixed communities that make Southwark such a great place to live.

"Now is the perfect time to reflect and celebrate our council housing history as we grow our in-house capacity, expand our land holdings and elevate further our design aspiration for new council housing with a new architects framework and refreshed design standards.

"We’ve had great demand from libraries, community groups and TRAs to host the exhibition so we look forward to it touring round the borough, and building awareness of the importance of providing quality, secure, affordable housing for all."

Page last updated: 08 November 2019