Class Discrimination in the UK’s Urban Housing | Nicky Patterson

2 Jun


This investigation analyses the presentations of class discrimination within the field of urban housing within the UK. Utilising the theoretical work of Loic Wacquant’s ‘territorial stigmatisation’ (2008) and Ruth Glass’s ‘gentrification’ (1964), this paper investigates the history of property acquisition and the positioning of the working-class as a non-propertied class. The paper addresses the post-war of social-housing from both left-wing and right-wing perspectives, and seeks to ascertain an understanding and reasoning for the circumstances which have led to increasing rates of home-ownership against increasing rates of homelessness during the neoliberal era when social-housing developments were neglected by government. The investigation also uses the post-war housing estate of Castlemilk in Glasgow as a case-study in order to ascertain whether patterns of class-discrimination in Glasgow accord with wider general theory and analyses from theorists and academics abroad.  The research concludes that a housing ‘crisis’ has permanently existed for more than a century and that it has been maintained by a legal and social system predicated on the rights of property, thus discriminating against non-propertied populations, i.e. the working class.

We want decent housing!

Classical and contemporary theories of class discrimination in urban housing (see appendix 1)

The severity of class discrimination in urban housing development first became an area of scientific focus during the Industrial Revolution in Britain. In 1872, Friedrich Engels noted that the process of urbanisation which accompanied the development of industrial society provided capital with parallel opportunities for the engineering of profit through manipulation of the new physical environments that emerged (see appendix 1.1). This manipulation is mediated via the legal and political bases of property, most especially land-ownership. Since houses have to be built on land, then a capitalist builder must acquire land before they can build houses. If houses already exist on land, then these constitute a barrier to the investment of capital for house-builders wishing to construct new developments. These circumstances allow the landowner to extract payment for forfeiting ownership of land. This happens despite land being a natural product of the environment and having no inherent labour value in itself. Land-owners thus appropriate value. Consequently the cost of construction for the builder includes the labour and means of production used, but also the price of the land on which it stands (see appendix 1.4). Thus, despite shelter from the elements being a basic human need, housing is a critical site of class conflict. It is also a “vital element in both the material and social reproduction of the working class”, at the same time maintaining the normal relations of bourgeois society whilst “[t]o be homeless is not simply to be deprived of adequate shelter but to be socially excluded, to be rendered a non-person [in this society].” (Aufheben, 2005 – see appendices 1.5 and 1.6). There is a strong correlation between the analyses of Engels in 1872 and Aufheben in 2005 demonstrating the permanence of class as a critical issue within housing for more than a century.

Property therefore wields capital and thus power, so long as it is not undermined by mortgaged debt. The land-owner and the commercial house-builder are not prone to suffer mortgaged debt, thus property adopts a second use as a means for the capitalist to immobilise the worker financially and physically by encouraging and coercing the worker into mortgaged debt (see appendices 1.8 and 1.9). By immobilising workers thus, the capitalist is able to ensure the vulnerability of the worker and protect against class-based threats such as anti-capitalist industrial-action and anti-property political-action. Social-housing therefore represents a threat to the capitalist’s ability to control the worker population since it offers better terms of physical and financial security to the worker. Thus social-housing must be attacked and the capitalist uses two key methods to do so: firstly social-housing is ideologically demonised against the preferred presentation of property-ownership – and this is executed via media and political control; secondly the fabric and overall abundance social-housing is undermined to suit the programme of demonisation – and this is executed via commercial and political control (see appendices 1.10-1.15).  The urban theorist Loic Wacquant (2014) refers to this twin-propped process and its outcomes, as ‘territorial stigmatisation’ (see appendix 1.2). The capitalist solution is to ‘regenerate’ such territories through a process that Ruth Glass (1964) calls ‘gentrification’, which involves the refurbishment of stigmatised areas to increase profit yields through rent and/or property sale – a joint venture by the land-owner and the commercial-builder. Thus the capitalist is able to maintain control of domestic worker environments through territorial stigmatisation, and ultimately improve profit yields through the development of property-value by gentrification. It follows that a cycle of demonisation/dilapidation-demand-demolition-development is enacted upon the urban physical environment by the capitalist and their agents in finance, commerce, media, and government, as a means to do so (Patterson, 2014).

The history of housing development in Britain (see appendices 2 and 5)

The genesis of these tensions between a propertied (unmortgaged) class and a non-propertied class comes coincidentally at the beginning of the early-modern period of European history – the mid-15th century, synonymous with early capitalism (Federici, 2004, cited in Rent is Theft, 2014). During a period of swift relocation of Europe’s economic centre from northern Italy to the Netherlands, and an associated period of political turmoil, property throughout Europe came to be appropriated by an ascendant merchant-class. Before long such property came to be utilised as collateral for funding the exploration and acquisition of the wider world – Africa, the Americas, and the Indies. Throughout the early-modern period until the beginning of the industrial period, the Enclosures in England and Lowland Scotland, the Clearances in Gaelic Scotland, and aggressive expropriation of Catholic/dissident land in Ireland served to displace rural populations into near permanent vagabondage. This consolidated the power of property and dramatically undermined the ability of non-propertied populations to combine against such activities due to the necessity of their itinerant subsistence (see appendices 2.9 and 2.10). Those who made attempts at resistance were either imprisoned, executed, or transported into either slavery or penal colonies abroad.

This established suitable preconditions for the emerging industrialist-class to attract cheap labour for the new mills and factories by the late 18th century – often located in hitherto unpopulated sites. Departing from traditional relations, accommodation and wages were offered entirely on terms dictated by the industrialist, and invariably rent was subtracted from wages earned (see appendix 2.1). Where these sites developed into extended urban settlements the industrialist lost the monopoly on rent-raising and fell to focussing on wage exploitation alone; but here came a second phase of property consolidation and subsequent rise of the urban-landlord. This rentier-class benefitted from the large populations seeking accommodation on its relatively small pockets of urban land. Profits came from quick construction, low maintenance, overcrowding rooms, and high rents – commonly, conditions were definitively inhumane.

Throughout the industrial period the emerging urban-working-class were able to win more promising spaces and conditions for resistance to these tendencies. This agitation combined with liberal-bourgeois philosophy as well as capitalist expediency to engender the municipalisation of urban areas, and this included the provision of housing. Prior to WW1 90% of households were privately let with no clear distinction between working-class and middle-class tendencies. The Glasgow Rent Strikes of 1915 came at the climax of a general housing crisis and caused political changes which led to simultaneous proliferation of private-ownership and social-rent, and from here class distinction became clearer with the middle-class more likely to mortgage and the working-class more likely to remain in private-rent or assume social-rent tenures (see appendices 2.2 and 2.3). According to Aufheben (2005), “between the construction of the first municipal housing in 1869 and 1914 the proportion of households that were council tenants had grown to 2%. By 1939 10% of households were living in council housing.”  After WW2 however the housing crisis had worsened and the Labour government responded with a house building programme twinned with full-employment policies (see appendices 2.4-2.8). New social and private housing rose at the same time as old dilapidated housing was demolished, and for a period class tensions in housing seemed to abate. By the late 1960s these programmes (both social and private) tailed off despite permanent high demand, and the maintenance of social-housing stock fell away providing fertile grounds for an aggressive period of ‘territorial stigmatisation’ aimed by the propertied-class at the vast new social-housing schemes that had been built, and the old urban areas that had yet to be rejuvenated. This in turn aptly prepared housing as an area of keen interest during the rise of neoliberal political-economy from the 1970s onward.

The Tory government under Thatcher (1979-1992) increased the rate of social-rent and promoted private-ownership via “right-to-buy” policies for long standing social-tenants in 1980 (see appendices 5.1-5.7). This was presented as an opportunity for working-class families to help themselves out of their ‘stigmatised territories’, and was accompanied by large-scale ideological programme of demonisation-versus-glorification in favour of private-property-ownership and against social-tenancy. Nevertheless, as Meek (2014) points out, while private-homes were constructed at a rate of 200,000 per year during the 1980s and social-homes almost zero, even this fell during the 1990s and 2000s by 50,000 per year. Glynn (2012) further points out that social-homes in Scotland alone were demolished at a rate of 5,000 per year between 1992-2009. The overall picture of house construction is illustrated in the graph appendix 5.4. This perpetuated a housing shortage throughout the period (overseen by the New Labour government from 1997), in turn allowing rentier-class landlords to increase rates whilst an ideological prompt for private-property-ownership was maintained and aimed at non-propertied workers. Meek (2014) notes that during this period those obliged to accept private-tenancy for lack of social provision paid 2-3 times the rate of social-rent without the security of long-term tenancy nor of suitable property-maintenance. Meanwhile vast amounts of social-housing stock (the entirety of that in Glasgow for instance) was transferred from government ownership to localised not-for-profit “housing associations” – an ostensibly open panel of local interested parties. Hodkinson (2012) likens this to neo-Enclosure policy, whilst Glynn (2012) relates this to a process of gentrification, confirming the assertion by Aufheben (2005) that such policies were designed to undermine the social-value of social-housing in favour of private-investment for the sake of profit yields either from future sale-transfers or for the benefit of the aesthetic-value of other local developments.

Alternative perspectives (see appendix 3)

Criticisms of the above analyses come most prominently from the right-wing, or otherwise from apologists for the legalistic necessity for property as central to society and economy.  These perspectives tend to purport an individualist philosophy that is fundamentally at odds with state-controlled social-housing. As such they tend to blame government agency rather than a property-based socio-economic system for the crises that have emerged.  King (2008) speaks from the right-wing but cites the anarchist urban theorist Turner (1976) to make criticisms of the state itself as manager of property, preferring that the state ‘facilitate’ private access and control over resources (see appendices 3.1-3.5). King further complains that the (left-wing) Labour government that most championed social-housing in the post-war era, relied too heavily on planners and architects without consultation with local populations, and thus experimental architecture was allowed to thrive at the expense of community and adequate property maintenance. Whilst this is indeed a criticism that anarchists would make with regard to consultation, it has already been made clear that shifts in the political-economic system toward neoliberalism governed the winding down of construction and maintenance, rather than solely poor design. Nevertheless King hints at the ‘territorial stigmatisation’ which developed, but again places the source of the problem too immediately, and ignores the wider socio-historical context.

Paterson (1994) assumes a similar position to that of King and states that “between 1950 and 1980, three quarters of new houses in Scotland were in the public sector . . . Design of the new houses was left to architects and surveyors. This produced a recognisably Scottish style, at first for good in the solid, stone-built houses of the 1920s and 1930s, but later arguably for worse in the high-rise flats of the 1950s and 1960s. [ . . . Ultimately, Scotland rejected] partnership with the private sector because it was deemed not to be effective enough.” (Paterson, 1994). Both Devine (1999, pp.559-561) and Aufheben (2005) speaking from broadly leftist positions accept that the state’s eagerness to address the severity of the post-war crisis led to hasty planning and construction. In mitigation, Devine emphasises the severity of the crisis that required redress (see Case Study: Castlemilk below), whilst Aufheben point to the active encouragement of the commercial-builder, the apparent advertised expertise of the modernist architects, and the problematic ratio of land available to head of population as critical factors.

Clearly leftist theorists accept that many aspects of post-war social-housing failed, and admit that human or bureaucratic issues caused and perpetuated problems in housing. But since the problem exists prominently both before and after the post-war era, and the outcomes accord with general leftist analyses of housing both globally and historically, the right-wing criticisms do not fully account for the issues they seek to address.

Case Study: Castlemilk (see appendix 4)

The extent of the housing crisis in Glasgow is outlined in a transcript document for a public enquiry into the compulsory purchase order (CPO) of the Castlemilk estate in 1937 (see appendix 4.1). This document details a legal dispute between the Glasgow City Corporation and the commercial-builder Dickie. This is of acute interest since it concerns the planning of a social-housing estate and of a neighbouring private-housing estate, and occurs in the interwar period. Dickie is primarily concerned that he stands to lose, via the CPO, some land that he recently purchased with the intention of building private-housing.  The Commissioner, R.H. Maconochie, K.C., makes frequent allusions to the idea that a social-housing estate (which he frequently refers to in derogatory terms such as “slum housing” and “working-class housing” as opposed Dickie’s “superior-class” housing) will undermine the profits Dickie can command from his construction and sale-transfer to private individuals – interestingly Dickie’s legal counsel refute this in the hope of winning their case to prevent land from loss to CPO.  The Director of Housing for the Corporation, William Barr McNab (appendix 4.1, pp.62-66), states that the crisis envelopes two key elements: slum-properties, and overcrowding. Under Section 1 of the 1935 Housing Act, the Corporation were required to survey for overcrowding in properties with a rateable value of £45 or under. This revealed that 82,086 of a total 259,000 properties were overcrowded – 29.7% – and of these 5,597 were deemed unfit for human habitation, whilst an additional 24,943 were also deemed unfit for human habitation but were not overcrowded – 11.8% in total. Overcrowding for Scotland as a whole was less at 23.7% and 23.9% in the burghs – while Edinburgh and Perth were 17.1% and 13% respectively. The Corporation agreed in 1936 to build 65,000 homes and utilise CPOs according to the 1925 Housing Act in order to address the crisis.

The remainder of the document outlines the quarrel between the commercial-builder Dickie and the Glasgow City Corporation over the utilisation of a particular 30-acre site. It is clear throughout that the Commissioner is sympathetic to the builder’s case – that of private-property, and derogatory toward the Corporation case – that for social-property. Also of interest are the comments made with regard to the previous land-owner being consulted and satisfied by the commercial-builder’s plans for the 30-acre site, and the the lack thereof in the case for the Corporation: this is a clear presentation of legal sentiment favouring the interests of land-and-property above the interests arising from the housing-crisis as outlined by Corporation representatives.

An interview conducted with anarchists, community-activists, and residents of Castlemilk for nearly 60 years, John and Carol Cooper, provides insight into the interim developments post-construction of the estate (see appendix 4.2). They describe Castlemilk in the late 1960s when nearly 40,000 people lived on the estate as overbuilt and overpopulated with a “claustrophobic … canyon effect” which was very oppressive. They describe a list of local amenities which was published during the 1970s but which listed only local churches and any of their associated community projects. John was a community activist for over 40 years and states that the practical purpose of much of the work here was to secure amenities that would alleviate the effects of the poverty which had set in. After construction, Castlemilk was presented as an estate where the working-class could find decent housing and access to employment, however it was clear from the beginning that there was no immediate industry to be found. John himself worked in Linwood – some 14 miles away and a 2-hour commute each way by bus. His mother worked as French polisher in Glasgow, and his father as a skilled-worker also in Linwood. John and Carol describe how by the early 1990s most of the skilled-workers had left Castlemilk and poverty became even more endemic – the population half of what it had been 20 years previous. During this time the physical fabric of the estate had fallen to minimal-maintenance or otherwise dilapidation (see appendices 4.3-4.?). The local-authorities made several attempts from the 1990s to address the ‘territorial stigmatisation’ that had arisen as a by-product of these circumstances. The local-authorities however “lacked trust” in the local population to make decisions themselves or otherwise take responsibility for projects; these interventions were “top-down in the extreme” according to the Coopers. One example of this is the intention of the community-activists to articulate poverty as the core issue and employment as a critical solution, but where the local-authority agents refused to do so, instead preferring to attempt cosmetic adjustments to the estate within their proposed “5-year-plans”. One such adjustment was the reduction of one storey from many of the flatted properties during the 1990s to reduce the “canyon effect”.

The testament by the Coopers clearly supports the views outlined above by the right-wing, and by Devine and Aufheben that government agencies failed to deliver an adequate long-term programme of housing. At the same time, as Aufheben have pointed out extensively above, when the circumstances of Castlemilk – accepted here as typical of other Glasgow developments, especially of Pollok, Drumchapel, and Easterhouse – are considered in full historical socio-political context, a far better understanding of the nature of events can be reached. When political support for the maintenance of social-housing stock was withdrawn from the 1970s onward, the capitalist-led cycle of demonisation/dilapidation-demand-demolition-development was engaged. The difference in these cases is that because the estates were established fully and purposefully as social-housing stock, the cycle took decades longer to complete since private-interests took longer to embed themselves physically and begin the process of value extraction.

The Status Quo of the Housing Situation in Relation to Class (see appendix 6)

The Marxist urban-theorist David Harvey offers a poignant summary of this report which includes the experience in Castlemilk as typical:

“Throughout the history of urbanization, the provision of public spaces and public goods (such as sanitation, public health, education, and the like) by either public or private means has been crucial for capitalist development. To the degree that cities have been sites of vigorous class conflicts and struggles, so urban administrations have often been forced to supply public goods (such as affordable public housing, healthcare, education, paved streets, sanitation, and water) to an urbanized working class. While these public spaces and public goods contribute mightily to the qualities of the commons, it takes political action on the part of citizens and the people to appropriate them or to make them so.” (Harvey, 2012:3)

Slater (2014) offers further insight to accord with the complaint by Glass (1964) that ‘gentrification’ occurs as a means of embedding propertied-interest in the physical fabric of a territory (see appendices 6.5-6.7). This involves the insertion of middle-class as a pseudo-propertied-class who are then able to exert and extend their interest further into the territory engendering further demonisation/dilapidation-demand-demolition-development, while the working-class community are excluded from participation – as in Castlemilk.  This gives the propertied-class (proper) the mandate for their value-extraction activities. This is exactly so in Castlemilk today where owner-occupancy is comparably prevalent to recent decades, and where private-housing estates have been built in the past 20 years. As Slater points out however, as in the case of Dalmarnock – another ‘stigmatised’ working-class area of Glasgow that was recently ‘gentrified’ in preparation for the 2014 Commonwealth Games:

‘notorious’ places which lack the magical ‘prerequisites’ for gentrification just get bulldozed, which is ‘healthy’ as those places are not ‘resilient’ enough to survive and this is all part of the ‘natural’ way cities change . . . it’s either gentrification (good) or disinvestment (bad), which reduces urbanisation to an ugly morality play that precludes the crucial political question of how capitalist urbanisation and uneven development creates profit and class privilege for some whilst stripping many of the human need of shelter. (Slater, 2014)

Overall in Scotland, 65% of homes are owner-occupied, whilst social-rent is at its lowest for 50 years (Glynn, 2012). In the UK homelessness more than doubled between 1980 and 1990 from 65,000 families to 137,000 (Aufheben, 2005). In 1996 7.5% of the total UK housing stock, and 25% of private-rented housing, was deemed unfit for human habitation (Aufheben, 2005). This demonstrates no overall improvement of the condition of housing since the interwar survey by the Glasgow City Corporation when the figure of 11% inhabitability was deemed unacceptable, and this has occurred against the paradoxical background of twinned increases in homeownership (almost entirely under mortgaged debt) and homelessness.

Very recent examples demonstrate the ongoing nature of these crises. The millionaire urban-landlord and Tory MP Richard Benyon was recently criticised for his property firm’s  acquisition of social-rented property in London, and subsequent rent-hikes with threats of eviction to the workers not able to manage under the new regime (Chakrabortty, 2014). In an article from March 2015, Zoe WIlliams summarises the current UK housing crisis and states that, “[r]ent and wages are so out of kilter that at one point in 2013 rents were going up five times faster than salaries.” (Williams, 2015). The situation in Glasgow was severe enough to warrant Govanhill Housing Association to announce the purchase of 579 properties – almost all previously controlled by private-landlords accused of charging extortionate rents for slum-conditions (STV, 2015).

Nicky Patterson is a community activist based in the southside of Glasgow. He can be contacted directly at


Appendix 1

Excerpts from material on classical and contemporary theories of class discrimination in urban housing

  1. The growth of the big modern cities gives the land in certain areas, particularly in those which are centrally situated, an artificial and often colossally increasing value; the buildings erected on these areas depress this value…  They are pulled down and replaced by others… The result is that the workers are forced out of the centre of the towns towards the outskirts; that workers’ dwellings, and small dwellings in general, become rare and expensive and often altogether unobtainable, for under these circumstances the building industry, which is offered a much better field for speculation by more expensive houses, builds workers’ dwellings only by way of exception. (Engels, 1872 [1987: 18]).
  2. The concept of territorial stigmatization weds with Bourdieu’s theory of ‘symbolic power’ Goffman’s model of the management of ‘spoiled identity’ to capture how the blemish of place impacts the residents of disparaged districts, the surrounding denizens and commercial operators, street-level public bureaucracies, specialists in cultural production (such as journalists, scholars, and politicians), and state officials and policies” (Wacquant et al, 2014)
  3. The right to the city, according to Lefebvre, is a right to inhabitation, appropriation and participation. It is both the right to inhabit and be in the city and the right to redefine and produce the city in terms that challenge the routinizing demands of capitalist accumulation . . . ‘to maximise use value for residents rather than to maximise exchange value for capital’ (Purcell, 2003: 578).” (Vasudevan, 2014)
  4. [H]ouses have to be built on land. Before a capitalist builder can build houses they have to buy land. Private property in land therefore acts as a barrier to the investment of capital into the construction industry, which allows the landowner to extract a payment for surrendering the ownership of land. Thus, although land is not produced by labour – and hence has no value in itself – the landowner can appropriate value. As a consequence, the production price not only includes the costs of labour and means of production used in the construction of the house but also the price of the land on which it stands. [ . . . Thus H]ousing has often been an important site of class conflict (Aufheben, 2005)
  5. Housing is a vital element in both the material and social reproduction of the working class. Of course, in all but the most benign climates shelter from the natural elements is a basic human need. However, under capitalism shelter assumes the fixed and social form of housing, which serves . . . to enclose a distinct private space out of which household members are constituted as consumer/citizens. As a home, housing is the primary site for the consumption of commodities. Housing not only protects the members of the household from the natural elements but it also physically protects what they own . . . more importantly housing also protects what they own from others outside the household. (Aufheben, 2005)
  6. Hence housing is central for the integration of the individual within bourgeois society. To be homeless is not simply to be deprived of adequate shelter but to be socially excluded, to be rendered a non-person. For this reason the threat of homelessness has been a particularly potent weapon for capital in its efforts to impose work. After all, the need to pay the rent or to maintain mortgage repayments, the need that is to prevent eviction and homelessness, is ultimately the strongest objection to strike action.(Aufheben, 2005)
  7. [According to Engels, 1872] working class property ownership . . . required workers to take on long-term mortgage debt, which far from liberating them from capital would merely transfer the ownership of their future labour product to their creditors and physically chain them to place. Indebtedness and immobility would in turn increase capitalists’ social power to intensify labour exploitation, and render the working class far more vulnerable to the sudden shocks and turbulence of economic crises by threatening repossession, devaluing their property, and making living off the real estate impossible [ . . . this] reads at times like a prophecy of the contemporary urban experience in capitalist society, particularly in the waves of disinvestment-demolition-displacement-redevelopment-gentrification cycles that have occurred in response to overaccumulation crises, and the structural incapability of the private house building industry to build affordable, decent housing for all.” (Hodkinson, 2012)
  8. This ever-presence of housing crises under capitalism suggests that regardless of the use-values we attach to our homes and housing process, exchange-values of land and property as commodities ultimately dominate as long as capitalist social relations exist. This is not just the case for private housing as the 20th century experience of public housing provision was heavily circumscribed by the private ownership of land and the political and economic power of the commercial building industry. Nevertheless, however alienating the experience of public housing, the post-1979 retreat of the state from housing provision in the West has had a particularly devastating effect on housing conditions in all sectors (see Hodkinson, 2011). And far from enabling more local, self-managed housing to emerge, housing privatisation has worked alongside other neoliberal urban policies to inflate urban land values and thus impose further barriers to tenant control and community ownership.” (Hodkinson, 2012)
  9. Rachel Weber [2002] argues that discourses of ‘blight’ and ‘decay’ are mobilised as neo-liberal alibis to stigmatise places targeted for ‘renewal’. The state’s willingness to subject its property and land base to market rule, and its desire to control and disperse native populations, accounts for the zeal with which it stigmatizes certain people and certain places. For Weber, regeneration policies, backed by negative discursive regimes, can be seen as little more than “property speculation and public giveaways to guide the pace and place of the speculative activity. (Gray, 2008)
  10. In order to make the built environment more “flexible and responsive” to the capitalist demand for liquidity, local states routinely provide financial inducements to reduce the risks and costs of development for capital. Local governments are then compelled to juggle the political imperative of ‘managing’ potentially recalcitrant local populations, with the financial imperative of maintaining or creating the conditions for profitable capitalist investment. This balancing act – between accumulation and legitimation – is in part achieved by place-specific discourses of blight and decay which act as a “convenient incantation”, and justification, for the devaluation and disposal of unprofitable properties and land. Here, a discourse of decline functions to create a convergence of thinking “around such critical issues as the economic life of buildings, the priority given to different components of value, the sources of devaluation, and interrelationships between buildings and neighbourhoods.”” (Gray, 2008)
  11. Gentrification is a process which is made up of mainly two things; economic pressure and state sanctioned violence. The goal being to divide communities and further alienate people to make them more susceptible to control and exploitation [ . . . ] The destruction and expropriation of communities through the use of state violence can be traced all the way back to the earliest stages of capitalism. The enclosure acts during the Middle Ages expropriated vast amounts communal lands from the people through state violence, creating mass poverty in Europe and laying the foundations for the creation of the modern waged worker. (Rent is Theft, 2014)
  12. “[ . . . ] The neighborhood is one of the main spheres of social reproduction. Meaning it is a place where people create a particular network of meaningful relations with others within a specific area which also provides a basis for human interaction within it. The way people interact and establish relationships within this network is what creates the culture or “community identity” of the neighborhood. This community identity is a basis in which we craft our own individual identities which in turn, provides a basis for other unique relations and interactions with people outside our communities. In other words, you can take the person out of nyc, but you can’t take the nyc out of the person. (Rent is Theft, 2014)
  13. Now the intimacy of these connections within the neighborhood varies, but to varying degrees, in each of us, already exists an inclination to form these relationships with other people. This is because as humans, we can only survive and create meaning out of our lives through forming networks of relations with others. The proliferation and interaction of these networks is how society came into being. We form these distinct networks with people who live in the same area as us because we interact with each other on a much more personal and meaningful level. We are social beings who are always seeking to form new relationships with others. It’s how as humans, we could go on to create things like agriculture, cities, and art. We can only create and transcend ourselves along with our environment by creating relationships with other beings that facilitate this organic process of self-determination.The community is simply the natural manifestation of this innate feeling. (Rent is Theft, 2014)
  14. However in capitalism, these relations are under constant attack. This is because capitalism can only exist if these intimate, complex webs of relations are removed or continuously made more impersonal. How else could you have a system where people accept the exploitation and enslavement of others? With the destruction of communities, what follows is the atomization and alienation of the individual. It makes it harder to create these intimate, complex relationships and experiences that make life so meaningful. Stripped of these relations, people become further alienated from each other to the point that they can be reduced to mere objects to be managed and exploited by those in power. To the boss, landlord, or bureaucrat who you are as a human being is largely irrelevant. To them you are simply another faceless worker, tenant, or citizen who they don’t give a shit about. All they want is for you to remain obedient and content in your perpetual state of domination. (Rent is Theft, 2014)

Appendix 2

Excerpts from material on the history of housing development in Britain

  1. In the early stages of the industrial revolution the need to locate mills and factories in under- populated areas, in order to take advantage of water power or to be close to coal deposits, led many capitalists to see the provision of housing for their workforce as part of the necessary costs of setting up production. The provision of housing not only served to attract workers by providing them with somewhere to live but also offered the capitalist the advantages of combining the position of landlord with that of employer to wring out the last extra penny from his tenant-workers. However, the advantages of being an employer-landlord only remained so long as the capitalist was the principal local employer. Once the single-employer industrial village grew into a multi employer industrial town or city, and it became possible, and indeed necessary, for workers to switch employers, then it became far too troublesome for each capitalist to act as a landlord, particularly for other employers’ workers. As a consequence, the provision of housing for the working class became, like that of the middle classes, the preserve of speculative builders. (Aufheben, 2005)
  2. Before World War I 90% of households lived in privately rented accommodation. The middle class were just as likely to rent as the working class; and the working class was just as likely to own their homes as the middle class. Class differences were expressed exclusively in terms of the quality, size and location of accommodation not in the form of tenure. [ . . . ] Following the crisis in the nineteenth century housing regime, which was brought to a head by the Glasgow rent strike in 1915, the private rented sector went in to [sic] decline. The private rented sector became squeezed between the growth of owner occupation on the one side and council housing on the other. Tenure now came to express clear class distinctions. Council housing came to be identified as the tenure of the working class; it was the tenure of collectivism and social democracy. In contrast owner occupation became identified as the tenure of the middle class, the tenure of individualism.  (Aufheben, 2005) background history
  3. Between the construction of the first municipal housing in 1869 and 1914 the proportion of households that were council tenants had grown to 2%. By 1939 10% of households were living in council housing.”  (Aufheben, 2005)
  4. The expansion of council housing not only resolved the post-war housing crisis, which threatened to stir up working class discontent at a time when the spectre of Stalinism haunted the bourgeoisie across Europe, it also eased the transition to the high wage-mass consumption economy of the post-war era. During a period of near full employment, which strengthened the bargaining position of even traditionally low paid workers, subsidised housing costs alleviated upward pressure on wage rates. (Aufheben, 2005)
  5. The removal of bad housing not only removed what had been an important mobilising issue of working class discontent in the inter-war years, it also served as a means to break up old working class communities. Many of the old working class communities of the inner city areas, which had grown up over several generations, had been marked by a high degree of proletarian solidarity and vigorous street politics, which had provided much of the basis for the advance of the labour movement in the first half of the twentieth century. With the ‘slum clearance’ programmes these old working class communities were systematically swept away. (Aufheben, 2005)
  6. With the end of the war in Europe thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen returned home to find that there was no where to live. The first reaction was the mass occupation of army encampments. The squatting movement then moved on to take over empty houses in London and other towns and cities. At the height of the movement it was estimated that there were more than 35,000 squatters. (Aufheben, 2005)
  7. The response to the rising burden on the public purse of council housing was firstly to reduce the construction standards of new housing. Secondly, there was a shift away from building low-density council houses to the construction of higher density council flats. Thirdly, the expansion of council housing was targeted towards the needs of urban regeneration schemes. (Aufheben, 2005)
  8. [T]he fall-off in construction by local authorities from the late 1960s soon led to a severe shortage of council housing. The waiting lists for public housing grew and the bureaucratic allocation of such housing became increasingly irksome for those waiting. At the same time, strapped for cash, particularly with the onset of the economic crisis of the 1970s, Local Councils were led to cut back in repairs and maintenance. Council tenants had now to wait longer for repairs to be done and postponed maintenance led to the deterioration of the council’s housing stocks. Many of the bright new housing estates, that had replaced the old Victorian slums, soon became the sink estates that still exist today.”(Aufheben, 2005) tie to lefebvre territorial stigmatization
  9. “In Silvia Federici’s brilliant book, Caliban and the Witch, in discussing the transition to capitalism, she points out how, “In Europe land privatization began in the late-15th century, simultaneously with colonial expansion. It took different forms: the evictions of tenants, rent increases, and increased state taxation, leading to debt and the sale of land.”(Federici 2004: pg. 68) Sound familiar? She also notes how,”In the Middle Ages, migration, vagabondage, and the rise of ‘crimes against property’ were part of the resistance to impoverishment and dispossession…Starting with England, always a pioneer in these matters, the state passed new, far harsher anti-vagabond laws prescribing enslavement and capital punishment in cases of recidivism.”(pg 82) In other words, we see more of the same process, community displacement through economic pressure and state sanctioned violence.  (Rent is Theft, 2014)
  10. “The destruction of the Medieval village was the main goal of this process. As Federici notes, “Social cohesion broke down; families disintegrated, the youth left the village to join the increasing number of vagabonds or itinerant workers…while the elderly were left behind to fend for themselves.”(pg. 72) Once again we see the relations between people and their communities being purposely eroded to create the conditions for capitalism. Allowing the state to divide and conquer the people, and forcing them to accept this new form of slavery. This could only happen with the destruction of villages. According to Federici “…the medieval village was the theater of daily warfare.”(pg. 26) Mass opposition to these policies was everywhere, all across Europe there were massive uprisings against the destruction of communities.The village was the place in which these rebellions would begin to burst. With their destruction the people lost the ability to resist the annihilating force of the capitalist machine. All of which led to the continued objectification and enslavement of individuals. So beginning the long history of the despotism that is capitalist society and the resistance of the people that continues to this very day.” (Rent is Theft, 2014)

Appendix 3

Excerpts from material on alternative perspectives and criticisms of leftist analyses

  1. “[H]ousing, for those with a regular income, can be safely left to personal decision-making. This is why over 80% of households in the UK rent or buy through markets.  (King, 2008)
  2. But this leaves a minority of households who cannot provide for themselves, and now rely on provision by the state. [ . . . ] This is not due to incapability – of incompetence or any lack of knowledge of what constitutes good housing – but of the access to and control over resources. this agrees largely with the left (King, 2008)
  3. this does not [ . . . ] instead of government seeking to provide housing itself it should play the role of facilitator.  (King, 2008)
  4. Turner goes on to argue for the need for requisite variety where the controlling system should be as varied as the system it seeks to control. He states: ‘In housing, this implies that there must be as large a number of decision-makers, or controllers, as variations demanded for the maintenance of a stable housing system.’ (Ibid., p. 32) (Turner, 1976, pp. 31–32)  (King, 2008)
  5. Planners draw specific lines of action and so dictate what must be built, where(King, 2008) it must be built, and how. It is therefore highly prescriptive and controlling. (King, 2008) right wing perspective → link with Paterson
  6. “[B]etween 1950 and 1980, three quarters of new houses in Scotland were in the public sector . . . Design of the new houses was left to architects and surveyors. This produced a recognisably Scottish style, at first for good in the solid, stone-built houses of the 1920s and 1930s, but later arguably for worse in the high-rise flats of the 1950s and 1960s. (Paterson, 1994)
  7. [ . . . Scotland rejected] partnership with the private sector because it was deemed not to be effective enough.” (Paterson, 1994)
  8. It has become fashionable to criticize the massive post-war expansion in Scottish public housing for monotonous buildings, poor construction, the absence of amenity, pubs and entertainment in the large schemes around the cities, inadequate transport and the break-up of old communities. Evidence can certainly be found in abundance to support these claims. Billy Connolly’s description of the big estates as ‘deserts wae windaes’ rings true for many observers. But two points also need need to be borne in mind. First, the truly appalling scale of the housing crisis which had to be confronted, especially in Glasgow and some of the western industrial towns, made local authorities go for rapid construction of dwellings almost to the exclusion of all else. (Devine, 1999, pp.559-561)
  9. “Such an architect sees himself as a ‘man of synthesis’, thinker and practitioner. He believes in and wants to create human relations by defining them, by creating their environment and decor. Within this well- worn perspective, the architect perceives and imagines himself as architect of the world, human image of God the Creator.  (Lefebvre, 1996, p.98)
  10. [L]ocal and national government readily adopted a strategy of high-density high rise building, which was being vigorously promoted by large-scale construction firms and modernist architects. It was hoped that modern building techniques would contain building costs, while the high densities allowed by high rise housing would reduce the amount of land required by the rehousing programmes, thereby saving land costs. As a consequence, the 1960s became the decade of the high-rise blocks of flats, which sprang up across Britain’s towns and cities. (Aufheben, 2005)

Appendix 4

Excerpts from public local inquiry on The Castlemilk Estate Compulsory Purchase Order, 1937

[images unavailable]

Appendix 5

Excerpts from material on the history of housing during the neoliberal era

    1. By the late 1960s the expansion of owner occupation was beginning to run out of steam as both the rising building costs and prices of land made it increasingly difficult to attract the less well-paid sections of the working class into home ownership. However, with the onset of economic crisis in the 1970s, the Tory policy of making council housing less attractive through higher rents proved to be insufficient to counter the slow down in the expansion of home ownership, at least in the immediate term.. [ . . . ] One of the leading issues of the Conservative election campaign in 1979 that brought Thatcher to power was the sale of council houses. With the carrot of generous discounts for long standing council tenants and the stick of a full transition to market rents for all public housing, the 1980s saw the large scale sell-off of the better part of the municipal housing stock. Strict regulations imposed on local councils meant that the money gained from council house sales had to be used to pay off local council debt and made it difficult for local authorities to build more housing. Instead, more money was provided for housing associations to build more ‘social’ housing but this was far from being sufficient to replace the loss of council housing. As a consequence, in the last twenty years the proportion of households that are council tenants has almost halved. (Aufheben, 2005)
    2. [The Tory and New Labour governments] have introduced market mechanisms into the public sector and blurred public/private boundaries through the introduction of competitive outsourcing and through increased reliance on ‘not for profit’ companies at the expense of public ownership. And they have promoted and subsidised large-scale state-led gentrification. (Glynn, 2012)
    3. The gradual enclosure of land that produced wage-labourers is replicated in today’s re-privatisation of public housing, forcing more and more people out of a quasi-secure housing space that constrained the exploitative power of capital through its mix of low rents and legal protections, and into the private housing market where, through fear of mortgage defaults or evictions, people are more susceptible to capitalist exploitation.” (Hodkinson, 2012)
    4. “It shows that in the 1980s, as the construction of new council houses shrank to almost nothing, there was a slight rise in the number of private homes being built, peaking at around 200,000 homes a year at the end of the decade. Then it fell back – and stayed fallen. Between the early 1990s and the onset of the financial crisis in 2008, supposedly a boom time in Britain, the number of new private homes built each year didn’t go up. It barely budged from the 150,000 a year mark. The market failed. There was increasing demand without increasing supply. Mid-boom, as the imbalance between the number of people chasing a house and the supply of new homes reached a tipping point, average house prices took off like a rocket, trebling between Tony Blair’s accession and the 2008 crash. (In Tower Hamlets, prices went up three and a half times.) Even allowing for inflation over that period of time (36 per cent) it’s a terrifying increase. [ . . . ] The chart only shows part of Right to Buy’s drawbacks. Those tenants who didn’t buy their houses, either because they didn’t want to or because they couldn’t afford to, had their rents jacked up. At the same time, because of the growing shortage caused by the inability of councils to build, the failure of private builders to build enough, and weak government support for housing associations, rents in the private sector went up. The poorest and most vulnerable members of society, the sick, the elderly, the unemployed, single mothers and their children, were shared between a shrinking stock of council housing – the council housing least likely to be sold, that is, the worst – and the grottier end of the private rental market. [ . . . ] Much of the rent in both types of tenure had to be covered by housing benefit, and as council houses continued to be sold, the proportion of the poor and disadvantaged claiming housing benefit in expensive privately rented property rose. Many people who bought their council houses sold them on to private landlords, who rented them to people on housing benefit who couldn’t get a council house, at double or triple the levels of council rent.” (Meek, 2014)
    5. The sale of council houses at large discounts to sitting tenants was a far more important concession. The sale of council houses not only represented a substantial transfer of wealth from the State to working class families, but also opened the prospect for their escape from the condition of ‘being working class’.” (Aufheben, 2005)
    6. [New Labour], like elsewhere in the public sector, has sought to draw in private capital to finance public investments. Following the policy introduced under the Tories, but which had always been inhibited by lack of public funds, the government has sought to transfer the remaining council houses that have not been sold to their tenants to housing associations and other ‘social landlords’. Private capital is then given an opportunity to invest in the management, repair and maintenance of public housing and in return gain a secure income from the rents, with the government providing subsidies to ensure that private capital is well rewarded. (Aufheben, 2005)

Appendix 6

Excerpts from material on the current status of class discrimination in urban housing developments

    1. [ . . . A]fter peaking in the early 1980s, the various home improvement grants offered by central government to councils, private landlords and homeowners to rehabilitate housing were steadily cut back. As a result Britain continues to have an aging housing stock that is increasingly in a bad state of repair. In 1996 7.5 % of the total housing stock, and 25% of the private rented housing, was considered as unfit for human habitation. Nearly one and half million homes are considered to be in a serious state of disrepair. (Aufheben, 2005)
    2. With the sell-off of council housing and growing unemployment homelessness increased reaching a peak in the early 1990s. In 1980 there had been around 62,000 homeless families registered by local authorities, by 1990 this had more than doubled to 137,000” (Aufheben, 2005)
    3. In 1981 over half of all Scottish households (nearly 55%) lived in public housing. Now, a quarter are in social housing (14% in council housing and 11% in housing association homes), 65% are owner occupiers, and private renting (one of the most parasitic market relations) is on the increase. Social-rented housing in Scotland is at its lowest level in 50 years. (Glynn, 2012)
    4. “Throughout the history of urbanization, the provision of public spaces and public goods (such as sanitation, public health, education, and the like) by either public or private means has been crucial for capitalist development. To the degree that cities have been sites of vigorous class conflicts and struggles, so urban administra­tions have often been forced to supply public goods (such as affordable public housing, healthcare, education, paved streets, sanitation, and water) to an urbanized working class. While these public spaces and public goods contribute mightily to the qualities of the commons, it takes political action on the part of citizens and the people to appropriate them or to make them so.” (Harvey, 2012:3)
    5. Ruth Glass, who coined the term ‘gentrification’ in 1964 . . .  [sought]  to describe a process whereby the housing opportunities of working class people were restricted whilst those of middle class ‘invaders’ were expanded. The very impetus for her work was the injustice of displacement that gentrification caused. [ . . . ] [A] substantial body of scholarship exists to show that whilst architectural heritage and urban location/amenities matter to the middle classes, what matters most is profiting from property, or a sound financial investment in housing.  These consumer preferences and opportunities for profit have to be produced – they do not just happen naturally. (Slater, 2014)
    6. The implication [from Ball, 2014] is clear – ‘notorious’ places which lack the magical ‘prerequisites’ for gentrification just get bulldozed, which is ‘healthy’ as those places are not ‘resilient’ enough to survive and this is all part of the ‘natural’ way cities change . . .  it’s either gentrification (good) or disinvestment (bad), which reduces urbanisation to an ugly morality play that precludes the crucial political question of how capitalist urbanisation and uneven development creates profit and class privilege for some whilst stripping many of the human need of shelter. (Slater, 2014)
    7. Housing is class struggle over the rights to social reproduction – the right to make a life.  This is a class struggle playing out within the realm of the circulation of capital in urban land markets, between, on the one hand, those living in often desperate housing precarity, and on the other, finance capital and all its many tentacles. (Slater, 2014)
    8. [A]t some point – perhaps the 1950s, perhaps even earlier – ‘slum clearance’ began to merge into something else, the needless destruction of fundamentally sound old terraced houses which councils could have bought and modernised.” (Meek, 2014)

Appendix 7


  • In the last 10-15 years the height of tenaments was reduced … from the start, Castlemilk was overbuilt and overpopulated. It had a canyon effect. So they removed the top storeys from most of the buildings and even entire blocks of flats.
  • … Their 5-year-plans featured continually … most of these involved co-option of local community groups by what they [the local authorities] called “consultation”. For example the Castlemilk Partnership was set up around 12 years ago with a remit to regenerate for the existing population, but while the existing population organised as a community to say “poverty” is the issue, the LAs [local-authorities] said categorically that they were not there to deal with poverty!
  • … At one point [late 1960s] there were 40,000 people living in Castlemilk without any amenities … it was very claustrophobic. They actually published a list of amenities for the local people, but all it had on it was the names of all the churches and some of the things that the churches were doing activities wise. The roads were too narrow … a lack of foresight for motor cars … especially since the number and size of families were increasing since many of the first inhabitants were young couples. 40 years of local campaigning was ALL about securing amenities.
  • … It became clear very quickly that Castlemilk was a dormintory town … there was NO industry … I mean I [John] worked in Linwood which was 2 hours each way by bus unless you could get in tow with someone on shift with a car. … the whole incentive to move to Castlemilk was for decent housing and access to work … eventually all the skilled workers left, leaving only unskilled workers and the whole thing really degenerated from the 1990s onward. … my [John] mother worked as French polisher for a TV cabinet company … my father was a skilled worker in Linwood … There was no employment for local skilled trade in Castlemilk … we [the community activists] made “poverty is the issue” our 1st commandment.
  • … The LAs lacked trust in the local community to produce our own solutions … there was only one community representative allowed on their committees … and you were up against numerous other officials who did not live there [in Castlemilk] … I [Carol] remember [one of them] came and experimented living as a member of the working-class … she did it for 6 weeks … these people have no clue … Various MPs visited … Iain Laing … Malcolm Rifkind … but they just look about and then get out as quickly as they come in … they seem to have to be the ones who provide solutions … we obviously aren’t of the right calibre to do that.

Appendix 8

“A milestone in Glasgow’s housing history was reached in 1958 when a three-apartment flat, one up left, in Carriden Place in Easterhouse, was designated the 100,000th house to be built by Glasgow Corporation since 1919.

At a time when the success or failure of governments and local authorities was measured by the number of houses built, the occupation of the 100,000th house was seen as reason for celebration. The drive to build more council houses continued, and by 1965 the total had risen to 135,000. A report at that time envisaged that 100,000 houses would be cleared in the following twenty years, mostly in the city’s twenty-nine comprehensive development areas. As it was estimated that no more than 40,000 houses could be replaced in these areas, the city faced a continuing overspill problem.

It was appropriate that the 100,000th house should be located in Easterhouse, an area which saw intensive development in the 1950s. During the years from 1953 to 1957, an average of 5,600 permanent houses were completed each year in the townships of Drumchapel, Castlemilk and Easterhouse.”

Reference: Glasgow City Archives, AP9/7/27/24



Four-apartment flats over shops in Machrie Road, Castlemilk, photographed soon after they were opened in 1958. The Machrie Road shops were the first to be built in Castlemilk, several years after the first houses were occupied.

Lack of amenities posed serious problems for Castlemilk tenants, particularly for the early settlers. The nearest shops were at the Croftfoot roundabout at the foot of Carmunock Road. Mobile shops and vans toured the estate, but their prices were not always competitive and many people preferred to return to the area where they had lived previously for shopping. In addition, children had often to travel to their old schools as school building programmes lagged behind house provision in Castlemilk. There were few job opportunities in the area, and working people usually faced long journeys to and from their workplaces across the city.

Gradually, shops, schools, and churches were completed and public transport services improved. However, the shops provided only a few limited job opportunities for locals.

Reference: Glasgow City Archives, AP9/7/28/96



Castlemilk street post-construction

Glenacre Drive Castlemilk 1987/1988



Castlemilk, 1955.


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