In 1980, over three-quarters of all British households lived in houses with gardens (Social Survey Division, OPCS, 1982). Moreover, despite popular views to the contrary, the majority (65 per cent) of households in publicly owned council housing also lived in houses with gardens. Indeed, British council housing, compared to public housing in other developed nations of the world, is unusual in just this respect (Stretton, 1975) and, as a result, often singled out for special praise. Rather than develop a peculiarly urban form of housing, housing authorities in this country have preferred on the whole to continue a century-long tradition of suburban housing form. Only during a relatively brief period in the 1950s and 1960s did another form — the high-rise block of flats — become almost as dominant in new local authority construction as the house with the garden, and then generally in the more densely populated urban areas (Dunleavy, 1981). (Enough was built, though, to ensure that outside Scotland, most high-rise dwellings in this country are publicly owned.) However, as Austerberry and Watson point out, both high-rise living and suburban living have severe disadvantages for women. In the former, women who are housewives and mothers often have to struggle with inadequate and unsupervisable play-space for their children, bleak and frequently vandalised communal facilities, and the unlit terrors of urban pathways at night.
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