In the nineteen-twenties Housing was the responsibility of the Ministry of
Health, so the reports of the Local Medical Officer of Health are revealing.
In 1921, soon after the First World War the MOH for Hornsy wrote:
'On the whole the property of the Borough is of very good quality
--- There are no houses in the Borough that are so dangerous or injurious
to health as to be unfit for human habitation and there are no insanitary
'In parts of Highgate, Crouch End, and Hornsey there are collections
of houses occupied in many instances by more than one family and some
houses exist which the tenants seem to make no efforts to keep reasonably
clean. Sanitary defects in these and other houses have been brought to
our notice from time to time throughout the year and it may be said generally
that the activities of the Health Department have resulted in the amelioration
of many conditions adverse to health.
`It cannot be said that there is any acute shortage of working class
houses in the Borough, chiefly because it is not a working class district.
But that there is a certain amount of overcrowding is undeniable. I do
not consider that the provision of, say, a hundred more houses for the
working class would diminish the overcrowding to any appreciable extent,
for the reason that it is largely financial in origin. For example, a family
occupies a house and, because they are in need of money, they sub-let three
rooms and crowd themselves into the remaining two. The sub-tenants themselves
begin to take in lodgers and these lodgers may in their turn take in other
lodgers. The final result is an over-crowded house. To offer each family
in such a house a separate workman's dwelling would not remedy the overcrowding,
for none of the families could afford to accept the offer.
'The whole problem of overcrowding has given the Health Department much
trouble during the year, [because] it is so difficult to find the correct
remedy. To take people to the police-court acid prosecute them for overcrowding
is no remedy, for the infliction of a fine would merely add to the distress.
Efforts have been made from time to time to find accommodation in other
and more satisfactory places and by this means the conditions in some of
the over-crowded houses has improved.'
In 1922 the Medical Officer of Health reported that many of the houses neglected during the First World War, because of labour shortage and high costs, were now being repaired, but he had to return to overcrowding.
|If two, three, or four families share a sink or a water-closet, it is
nobody's business to keep it clean. It is the business of nobody to look
after the common passage and the common back-yard.