The Expansion ofHousing Policy in the British West Indies, 1935-1960
In the 1930s, governments in the British West Indies began to develop concerns about housing issues. In Britain, unrest throughout the colonies in the 1930s created awareness of inadequate social and economic conditions and eventually caused Parliament to reformulate colonial policy. The new policy was expressed through the Colonial Development and Welfare Act of 1940, which provided funding for social welfare projects, including housing schemes, in the colonies. This research examines the expansion of colonial housing policy in the West Indies between the 1930s and the early 1960s, when the colonies began to gain their independence. There is very little literature on the development of housing policy in the British colonies and most writers have assumed that governments were not active in the housing sphere until independence. The present research demonstrates that, in fact, West Indian governments and the Colonial Office began to take an active interest in housing as early as the 1930s. This interest grew as a reflection of the changes in colonial policy in general that began in 1940. After examining Colonial Office records at the British Public Record Office, the Trinidad Guardian for selected years, and contemporary official publications, I conclude that a fairly comprehensive and consistent housing policy developed in the West Indies in the colonial era. Due to funding limitations, however, housing programs were not always sustained, and they did not succeed in resolving the region's housing problems. As housing policy developed, its initial emphasis on slum clearance and housing policy shifted to an increasing concentration on initiatives designed to strengthen the private sector and to aid self-help initiatives. This was primarily because governments found that public housing was generally too expensive to accommodate the large numbers of people who required improved housing. The approaches to housing that developed in the Caribbean in the 1930s and beyond were significant because they influenced the evolution of housing policy in other British colonies. Furthermore, they enhance our understanding of policies used in the developing world in the post-colonial era.