Inadequate housing for the increasing urban population led, in the mid-19th cent. in Great Britain, to the development of a reform movement. Humanitarian and philanthropic groups first took up the cause of workers' housing. The Society for Improving the Dwellings of the Labouring Classes was established in 1845 and was followed by similar organizations dedicated to the building of low-rent dwellings. Ultimately, public opinion encouraged Parliament to pass (1851) the Shaftesbury Acts (the Labouring Classes Lodging Houses Acts). They provided for the construction of lodging houses according to certain minimum standards.
Slum clearance began with the Torrens Act of 1868, which provided for the demolition or improvement of unsanitary dwellings. After the turn of the century much was done in Great Britain toward eliminating slums and constructing model tenements; the garden city was one solution offered to the housing problem. The first Housing and Town Planning Act in 1909 granted local governments the power to oversee housing development. The large-scale destruction of housing during World War II resulted in severe shortages after 1945; between 1945 and 1970 about 7 million new dwellings were built in Great Britain.