Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




John C. Weaver


The dissertation traces the evolution of Canadian housing policy from 1935 to 1949 and examines the origins of the housing problems which promoted government programs. Housing problems, defined as a gap between affordability and an acceptable minimal standard of shelter, reached major proportions in rapidly expanding Canadian urban cities from 1900-1913. Exacerbation of these disparities by World War One, contributed to increased labour unrest, which in turn promoted the passage of the first federal housing legislation of 1919. After the revival of prosperity in the residential construction industry ended interest in social housing, this program was discontinued. Few positive results were achieved by the experiment, due to the poor quality of construction promoted by unrealistic desire for both affordable and unsubsidized housing. The coming of the great depression stimulated the concern of professionals, unions and certain business groups in social housing. Combined with a backbench revolt of Conservative MP's in R. B. Bennett's government, such pressures led to the passage of the Dominion Housing Act of 1935. The DHA ignored demands for low rental housing. It provided for assisted mortgage loans. Homes aided by the scheme could only be afforded by the top twenty per cent of Canadian families in terms of income. By a series of complex maneuvers, the Department of Finance was able to prevent action on social housing during the depression. The necessities of the Second World War forced a reluctant federal government to accept rent controls and publicly constructed rental housing. This was sustained by protests of tenants and veterans. However, this large scale social housing effort, was replaced with a tokenist public housing program after the NHA amendments of 1949. The final acceptance of the principle of a permanent commitment to subsidized housing, was coupled with a program that provided only a trickle of units until the legislation was amended in 1964. Federal housing legislation remained geared to assisting the production of new homes for sale that could only be afforded by an affluent minority. It also encouraged this to be accomplished by large scale developers, who would shape the future form of urban Canada.

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