Friday, 11 December 2015

Lack of Accommodation for War Workers

From the Birmingham Daily Gazette, 11th December 1915.


Lack of Accommodation for War Workers.

Coventry is at the present moment faced with a problem more difficult probably than any it has hitherto had to tackle.  Thousands of workers have been drafted into the town for employment on various forms of munition work, and within another month or so, a "Gazette" representative learned yesterday, some 6,000 women are to be brought in for a similar purpose.  In addition there has been a great influx of men employed in the building trade owing to the extensions that are being made to existing factories and the erection of new buildings, and with no houses available for their accommodation, practically every house where lodgers are taken is full up, and the common lodging-houses crowded, the problem of housing the extra crowds has become critical.

As far back as last August, when the National Registration was made, and before the invasion really commenced, it was estimated that the shortage of houses could only be represented by big figures.  Indeed the enumerators had instances where beds were being used by both day and night shift men, and were only really "made" once a week, Saturday being the only day they were not occupied.

Special Trains.
Since then other steps have been taken, and a great number of the munition workers are housed in Rugby, Nuneaton, Warwick, Kenilworth, Leamington, Bedworth, and even as far as Atherstone, and for these special trains are run night and morning by the railway company, whilst accommodation on the ordinary trains has been increased.

The Corporation have, at the request of the Local Government Board, commenced a scheme for the immediate erection of six hundred working-class houses at Stoke Heath, in close proximity to the Coventry Ordnance Works, whose employees will be given preference in the letting.  These will be let to munition workers only, for the period of the war.  About fifty acres of land have been acquired for the purpose at a cost of £200 on acre, and though the Ministry of Munitions are not contributing to the cost of the site, they are giving financial assistance towards the cost of the houses, streets, and sewers.

In order to get over their difficulty to a certain extent one of the munitions firms is erecting hutments to house about 2,000 women workers, whilst 300 temporary self-contained dwellings are also being provided in the same locality. These will be of the bungalow type, containing three bedrooms kitchen and scullery.

Skilled and Unskilled.
It has been stated that a large number of women workers are being brought in to release men for the Army, but this is not quite true.  What is happening is that a "dilution" scheme is in progress, by means of which each factory will have such a proportion of skilled, semi-skilled, and unskilled men and women, as will give the greatest efficiency to every one, and it is mainly owing to the excellent concessions made by the trade unions that this has come to pass.

It is unfortunate for Coventry that sufficient accommodation cannot be found for all these workers within the town.  It is estimated that already there are some 6,000 or 7,000, or even more, extra workers in the town which, if even only a small proportion of them are married, would mean a huge increase in the population.  What it would mean with another 6,000 or 7,000 coming in during the next month can easily be imagined.

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