After reading Simon Baddeley’s blog, we received an article by Carl Chinn, published in the Birmingham Mail in January. After a detailed history of Winson Green, the article, which may be read in full here, ended:

back to back house“By the late 1970s many of (of the city’s houses) were decaying and their facilities were outdated and inadequate.

“Forty thousand such structures were listed as needing either substantial improvement or a demolition and a further 26,000 were likely to become sub-standard over the next five years if they were not improved. The council had rid itself of one housing difficulty, now it was faced with another.

Above:, by Richard Russell-Lawrence

“Homes and districts began to look shabby and run-down. To reverse this situation both physically and emotionally, it was decided to declare seventy General Improvement Areas, the framework for which had been established by new laws in 1969. These areas covered neighbourhoods where the houses were basically sound but lacked bathrooms, inside lavatories and modern amenities. One of the first was Winson Green.

“These General Improvement Areas developed into Urban Renewal Areas. Many of them were what journalists termed as ‘twilight districts’. Like the back-to-back neighbourhoods of the nineteenth century, they were wrongly and unfairly regarded as unsafe, dirty and immoral. In reality, they were homes to thousands of families most of whom were trying to cope as best they could with the depredations of poverty, ill health and bad housing. And in so doing many held fast to strong notions of neighbourliness and sharing.

“Then as now, the majority of people who live in unfit and inadequate homes do so because they are poor. In the absence of a concerted assault on poverty itself, governments and councils have to address the most obvious symptom of deprivation – bad housing.

“Of course, some dwellings became unsound because they are not looked after by their residents. Such inconsiderate occupiers are a minority and should not be made the excuse for not pursuing a vigorous strategy against poverty. Sadly, then as now it is easier to stigmatise people who live in certain areas and those on benefits than it is to battle the most pressing need still facing society – the eradication of poverty”.