THE WESTERN MAIL
& SOUTH WALES NEWS, May 9th, 1933
War on Unemployment
More than one
million men, women, and children now live in slums in Great Britain.
have, since the American bubble burst, become the country with the highest
standard of living in the world, about two hundred thousand families still live
in stuffy, overcrowded and dilapidated rooms in narrow, sunless streets.
family living in the slums there is one builder or more out of work who would
with enthusiasm seize the chance of working. Timber is cheap. The prices
of bricks and mortar and glue have dropped. Wages are lower than they have been for years.
In the banks
there are millions of pounds of idle money which can be borrowed at low rates.
Never has money been so cheap. No
general in a war has ever had so many favourable factors on his side as the
nation now in its assault on the slums.
years the subject has been talked about, but all that has been achieved has been
a clearance at the rate of about 1,000 houses a year, a small achievement of
which no nation can be proud.
The Big Drive
At last the
big drive to destroy the slums has been launched. In the beginning of April the Government declared that within
five years England and Wales should be a country free of slums.
which the Ministry of Health issued in the beginning of April, 1933 invited the
local authorities to prepare a programme containing the areas and the houses to
be cleared and a timetable for their demolition. Under this new Five-year Plan loan sanctions were to be
forthcoming to enable the authorities to begin re-housing schemes almost at the
same time as the slums were being cleared.
Minister followed up this circular by making his first public appearance after
his return from America in order to appeal for a vigorous campaign for slum
seems, therefore, to be preparing for action at last. What is the strength of the slums in South Wales?
Conditions in Wales
of insanitary property,” states Mr. Edgar Chappell in his “Housing Problem
in Wales,” “Whether
isolated or congested in slums in the industrial districts of Wales, is
conditions In South Wales are better than in the older coalfields of England and
Scotland. What Wales suffers from
is not slums, but semi-slums.
There are two
main districts where the most insanitary houses are to be found. The first is in the oldest industrial centre on the northern edges of the
coalfield, a fringe which stretches from Pontypool,
through Blaenavon, Nantyglo, Ebbw Vale, Tredegar, Rhymney, Merthyr, Cwmbach and
this northern part of the coalfield, where there are so many small dilapidated
and insanitary cottages, about three-quarters of the poorer housing in South
Wales is to be found.
other district with many houses of a “slummy” character is that which
stretches from Burry Port to Maestag and Tondu, and includes Llanelly, Swansea,
Neath and Cwmavon.
reason for the bad living quarters in this area is, as in the northern district,
the early date when industry was introduced. The areas which attracted industry at a later date have better houses,
for they were populated after the by-laws regulating housing were passed.
Glamorgan and Monmouthshire may be better off than the Black Country, there is a
great task awaiting the slum-clearers. Some
mining towns and villages, built in a haphazard way, present a chaotic picture
of straggling, polluted street., with little space left for parks and
the Rhondda Valley, as Mr. Edgar Chappell points out, the density of the
population has been as much a. 23,650 persons per square mile. Builders paid little heed to the importance of sunshine, and the back
rooms where families usually live are generally in semi-gloom. Semi-gloom is,
however, one of the minor drawbacks of many South Wales houses. Dr. Rocyn Jones, medical officer of health for
Monmouthshire, wrote: “In some of the areas serious over-crowding is still prevalent, and
this becomes more acute each year ... The general character of the defects found
to exist in unfit houses dealt with were mainly defective roofs, damp walls and
detective windows and floors, and in some of the older type of back-to-earth
cottages, inadequate lighting and ventilation and insufficient height of
has a good bill of health. About
twenty years ago the authorities cleared many courts which threatened to become
slums, and while there are many people living in unsatisfactory conditions, it
can be said that there are in Cardiff no areas of a definitely” slum”
many Welsh towns and villages the need for new houses is great. The cry of “Economy” might be raised against the Government’s
policy of slum clearance.
those who raise this cry too vociferously should remember that every job given
to a builder will save the country about £75 per year in unemployment benefit,
that slums lead to high expenses on crime treatment and prisons, and that the
clearance of the slums will lessen tuberculosis and lower the amounts spent on