Its been a hundred years since building work started on the first Council Housing Scheme in Scotland. That scheme was the Logie Housing estate, just off Blackness Road in Dundee. Over the next year, leading up the 100th anniversary of the opening of the scheme, we will be releasing monthly blog posts to record the developments of this revolutionary project in Dundee, 100 years on. We’ll give you information about the number of men working on the project, the decision on what street names to choose and problems with the supply of materials. We’ll also share images of the progression of the building site. But first, let’s take a look at how it all began.
Council Housing really kicked off in the UK after the 1919 Housing Act, which meant that Local Authorities had to provide some kind of local housing for people. This was also known as the Addison Act, or the “Homes for Heroes” scheme. But this wasn’t the first act regarding council funded housing. The Homes for the Working Classes Acts 1890 and 1900 did give councils the power to build local housing, but this was mainly aimed at London, although other cities did give it a go. The main problem was the cost. Building houses takes a lot of money. Some of this would be recouped in rents but increased spending meant that rates (similar to council tax) would have to go up. This was not popular.
The first discussion of providing ‘Homes for the Working Classes’ (as the project was known) by Dundee Corporation was in 1907. This was possibly influenced by the Dundee Social Union’s report into housing and health in 1905 and requests from the Independent Labour Party to build better housing in the City. Designs were made and locations picked, but the planning seemed to fizzle out. This could have been due to money or legal issues with the land, but nothing happened.
In 1914 the issue was raised again. Under various Local Acts and Public Health Acts, the Council had the power to close or order the demolition of houses deemed unsuitable for living in. These were dark, damp houses, with little or no sanitation. They were crammed together in slums. The problem was there was a lot of homes that were closed up, and private builders had stopped building homes. By 1917 it was estimated that since 1911 the population of Dundee was up by 7000 people. Meanwhile over 1000 homes had been demolished due to health concerns or the Central Improvement Scheme. But the problem was that building any housing now would be very expensive, and there would be a lack of men to do the work. Dundee was already in the process of building the Caird Hall (started in July 1914). In late 1914 the decision was made to look out for cheap land, but to defer any discussions until after the war.
Then things changed. The war went on longer than everyone expected. In April there were suggestions that the Government would put aside money for local housing schemes. The City Engineer reported that the housing issue was of “extreme importance” to the City and that if it was done it “must not be done half-hearted”. On March 16th 1917 he presented a detailed report to the Housing and Town Planning Committee about three possible locations for new housing – Stirling Park, Springhill or Logie. Each was close to parkland and centres of industry. The aim was to have 20 homes per acre, compared to the current 80 per acre within the busiest areas of the city. Homes would be well spaced out, get good sunlight, have no outbuildings to block light or air-circulation and there would be indoor plumbing. After a bit of back and forth, the Council decided to proceed and in July 1918 the layout for the Logie scheme was approved.
So why did they go for Logie first? The answer was simplicity. The Stirling Park area was bound in legal difficulties about whether the Council could use the land for building on. The Springhill area between Arbroath Road and Broughty Ferry Road was owned by many people. This meant a lot of negotiations over buying land. The Logie estate was owned by the Scott family, who had owned Victoria Park and the Balgay estate to the West. Negotations were quick, and the Council got the land for 1s 3d per pole (about 5 metres squared). Once the Local Government Board approved and committed to giving the funding, all was needed was the War to end. Preparations started in the spring of 1919.