Houses in the cities had been built quickly to satisfy demand and were often not fit for living in. The housing in Glasgow and Dundee was mostly tenements which were cheaply built and crammed together with no building regulations or regard to safety. They were damp and cold, while fire was a constant risk.
Overcrowding was common and large families were forced to live in small spaces – often with up to 12 people in one ‘house’. Many people lived in ‘single ends’ (houses consisting of one room only). Other more prosperous immigrants lived in a‘room and kitchen’.
The tenements lacked washing facilities and toilets. These were usually shared and located in separate buildings and water was collected from a shared standpipe on the street.
Disease spread due to the lack of sanitation and overcrowding. Water was frequently contaminated with sewage and refuse and as a result, cholera was common. Diseases such as typhus and tuberculosis spread quickly as people lived so close together and fresh air was lacking.
Middens (heaps of refuse) were located behind the houses - they created foul air and attracted rats.