To understand the housing needs of the workers of London it is important to know about London and its demographics at the time of the county formed. Who were the people, what were the building laws and what was the LCC’s challenge in attempting to house them?
It is also important to know about the LCC architects and their influence on the designs. Many were advocates of William Morris’ Arts and Crafts Movement. The pre-WW1 designs have artistic touches both inside and out that visually lifted many large blocks of tenements away from being very plain and “barracky”. However, these architects had to design blocks (and later, garden estates) to house a minimum number of people, in a location that was not of their choice, and to a budget that would permit the Housing Department to make a profit of 5% per annum from rents that were fixed at values for similar property in the area. This was a difficult task for architects who wanted to build quality buildings that they could be proud of. Sometimes they could only achieve this through reducing the cost of the design, which was not to their liking. In a number of cases the Housing Department knew that they could never make a profit but knew (or, maybe, hoped) that other housing schemes would be profitable and they could use those profits of one to offset the losses of another. All the housing had to be funded from government loans which would be paid back over 60 years from a Sinking Fund that was fed from the rents collected (once the significant running costs had been allowed for). The financial officers of the time needed to be quite creative with their methods of balancing the books. To the credit of the Housing Department most of the blocks built, and all four of the pre-WW1 Garden Estates, were to a high standard and generous proportions. The fact that much of the pre-WW1 housing remains, modernised many times, is the evidence of their success at this. Read about the architects and how the funding worked.