Date of Award

12-1998

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Geography

Supervisor

Richard S. Harris

Language

English

Abstract

The Veterans' Land Act, 1942, helped one hundred and forty-four thousand veterans become settled on the land, ninety-nine thousand of whom acquired small holdings, predominantly in exurban and suburban sites. In spite of this, very little has been written about VLA in the history of housing policy. This thesis documents the character and evolution of the VLA program, and assesses its socio-geographical impact with particular reference to the Hamilton area.

The Veterans' Land Act was part of Canada's veteran rehabilitation program that helped to establish veterans as farmers, fishermen, or as owners of part-time farms/small holdings. The architects of the VLA were determined not to repeat the failings of the earlier Soldier Settlement Act (1919) that caused hardships for so many soldier settlers. With that in mind, the national program and its genesis are examined, including the provisions that attempted to ensure that veterans made a success of their operations, and remained on their holdings.

The focus then switches to the small holdings component of the program, which is examined in detail using archival records and personal interviews. The Hamilton area exemplified the various ways in which homes were developed under the VLA small holdings program. Interviews provide a personal glimpse into the people who participated in this government program. They also shed light on the changing character of the VLA program, the regulations that applied to small holdings, and the changing methods by which homes were actually built.

The small holdings program was flexible and was regularly altered to meet the needs of the veterans. Minimum lot sizes were adjusted, while at different times the Veterans Land Administration laid out its own subdivisions, engaged professional contractors, and supported owner-construction. Over the life of the program the maximum loan amounts were regularly increased. This was done in an effort to ease the financial strain of rising inflation that many of the working-class veterans were susceptible to, and allowed the program to remain a viable form of rehabilitation. Because of its adaptability and flexibility, it better served the veterans that it was created for, and was a success for over one hundred and twenty-five thousand of those veterans.

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