July 22, 1946

LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Veterans Affairs; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE:

It is a good speech.

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT AS TO LOAN PROVISIONS-CENTRAL MORTGAGE AND HOUSING CORPORATION
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. FLEMING:

-and in all charity to my hon. friend the Minister of Veterans Affairs one can only say that undoubtedly the minister's fidelity to reality was unable to withstand the torrent of his eloquence.

The over-all picture is not the only discouraging aspect of the report made to the house this afternoon by the Minister of Reconstruction and Supply. I do not profess to be able after his long review-a two-hour review-of housing conditions in Canada and government policy in relation thereto, to be able to make an analysis of it on the spot, but I comment on the fact, in relation to what I said earlier, that it is a sad situation when the first attempt to release that information is made now, after damming it up for four months. It would have been better to release the information in this long statement earlier, instead of attempting to hold it back until this two-hour presentation to-day.

The house will be disappointed, I believe, to find that while the minister speaks of the government's intention to encourage imports, he has not a word to say about trying to retain in Canada some of the building materials that are at present being exported. Not a word. We have been drumming on this subject in the

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house ever since the present House of Commons assembled in September last, and we have yet to hear the first word of encouragement on the question of retaining in Canada, for the use of Canadians constructing needed homes in the country, the building materials that are produced here.

But that is not all. I submit that we did not hear from the minister a presentation of any adequate policy for integrating the plans of the government now, whatever they may be, for construction to meet emergency needs with any proper long-range approach to the housing requirements of the country over a period of time.

It would be only a repetition of things I have said before to go into that situation at length; but it would be nothing but folly, nothing but a prodigal waste of public funds, if we did not have a far-sighted attempt on the part of the government to integrate our present efforts to meet the emergency aspects of the housing need with a proper long-range approach to the housing problems of the people. That means taking full account of the

325,000 sub-standard housing units in Canada which we were told by the Curtis commission two years ago existed and which unquestionably have increased in number since. I say, we have not heard anything in the way of a proper integration of effort or of a long-range approach to the question.

There is nothing but disappointment also for those people in Canada who have been looking for some provision of houses to rent. The minister said that the great bulk of construction in Canada carried on during the past year and at the present time has been the construction of housing for sale, whereas the present need in the country is the construction of houses for rent. What encouragement does he give to people who are looking for houses and who cannot afford to buy houses at present prices? There was not a word of encouragement from the minister, only discouragement.

Consider what the minister said in regard to Housing Enterprises Limited. The objective set for Housing Enterprises Limited at the beginning of the year was 6,000 units. That is what the Minister of Reconstruction and Supply said in an address he gave to the Canadian club of Toronto on April 15, 1946. He said:

A new agency, Housing Enterprises Limited, sponsored by Canada's insurance companies, is now entering the field of low-rental housing, with a programme for 1946 of 6,000 units. This project will be most helpful towards meeting housing requirements in a field that has recently not been attractive to private investment.

He tells us to-day that Housing Enterprises Limited has reduced its objective to 3,400. It has slashed its programme by nearly one-half. We are not half way through the construction season of 1946, and already Housing Enterprises Limited has reduced its housing construction programme to the extent of nearly one-half. Not only is that a disheartening picture for those who are in need of houses t-o contemplate, but it is an admission of failure on the part of the government and in particular of the administration given by the Department of Reconstruction and Supply.

What is the national objective for the current fiscal year? The objective, we are told by the minister, is 50,000 to 60.000 housing units; toward the end of his remarks he said it was 60,000 housing units for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1947. He says that the number of units built in the first twelve months after V-E day, that is, ending May last, was 46,900, and the best that the government can ask the people of Canada to hope for is an improvement to the extent of 10.000 at the most, in the year ending March 31, 1947.

If that is the best the government has to offer the Canadian people, not only is it not good enough, but it is a confession of its own incompetence to cope with the problem. The sights of the government must be raised, because 60,000 housing units by March 31, 1947, will leave the situation much worse than it is now, and we shall have to face a deplorable condition before the coming winter has run its course. In the statement given by the minister to-day, this summary of steward* ship, as he has described it, we have heard a confession of failure on the part of the government.

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT AS TO LOAN PROVISIONS-CENTRAL MORTGAGE AND HOUSING CORPORATION
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CCF

John Oliver Probe

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. J. O. PROBE (Regina City):

I listened for some two hours this afternoon to what should have been the report of the superoptimist who spoke to the House of Commons some time ago on the manner in which reconversion in this country was being effected to the satisfaction of Canadian citizens. I must confess that, after two hours of facts and statistics which I have no doubt eminently covered the subject of housing as it exists in Canada, I at least got the impression that we had been hearing, not the report of a superoptimist with regard to housing but rather an admission of the ineffectiveness of a plan that had been drawn up by some tired old gentleman.

It is not necessary for me at this stage to go into a large number of figures and statistics. They have been put on the record by all those who have spoken on the subject of

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housing. But the fact remains, regardless of statistics that have been presented here this afternoon by the Minister of Reconstruction on behalf of the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, that there are not sufficient houses being built. That is the sum total of the criticism which citizens generally have to make, and which it is the duty of members of this house to bring forcibly to the attention of the minister, with every bit of energy they can summon.

I agree with the hon. member for Eglinton (Mr. Fleming) that the government was remiss in waiting four months after the session had begun before bringing down the report which the minister has presented to the house to-day. I suggest, however, that while the hon. member for Eglinton was drawing attention to the obvious fact that we are not building homes for the people of Canada, he should have gone a step further and indicated to the house just how the party to which he belongs would carry this ball. I do not think there was ever a more glorious opportunity for either the Liberal or the Conservative party in this house, the exponents of private enterprise, to demonstrate to us, who are simply socialists, how private enterprise could be made to work in this instance. I am sure that every member of this house and every person in the country must be in complete agreement on the necessity of constructing homes for the people of Canada. But how each Individual could be made a little capitalist in his own little backyard, with a house which he could call his own, neither the policies of the present government nor those of hon. members to my right would indicate. They do not show how the individual can best become that private entrepreneur. As I say, that opportunity was missed. We are in definite agreement with respect to one thing. In every part of Canada we need more houses. All parties agree that we could use better houses than many of those in which citizens of this country live, including, by the way, members of the House of Commons, who are now living in Ottawa. I am also quite certain that most of us are in agreement that by some means or other we should be able to provide less expensive houses for the people who are expected to buy them and live in them. These are the points which I feel have been missed both by the Minister of Reconstruction (Mr. Howe) and the hon. member who acted as critic for the Progressive Conservative party.

Once more I must draw this fact to the attention of the house. In spite of the fact that what the minister read was intended to be a glowing progress report, we have actually

fallen behind on current demand for housing this year. We have fallen behind somewhere between twenty and thirty thousand units. According to the minister, we had the best building year since 1928. Even that statement would bear some inspection. I recall that last year I was interested in a project on Carling avenue in Ottawa which was sponsored by the Minister of Veterans Affairs (Mr. Mackenzie). There a project of veterans' houses was being undertaken. I remember that last fall we had a little difficulty in keeping one of the basement walls propped up. I went there recently to have a look at the houses. It is now a matter of ten months since the construction was undertaken and these houses are still not being used by the veterans for whom they were intended. On the basis of that and other projects that I have seen in other parts of Canada, I would judge that the 46,000 and some odd houses which were reported to have been built are definitely not finally completed.

While drawing attention to the fact that we have a large problem on our hands in providing houses for Canadian veterans, the Minister of Reconstruction, both in his statement and in the resolution which he has introduced for the consideration of the house, is, as I see it, not approaching the problem. To illustrate what I mean, I think we all agree that people in the upper income brackets are well able to look after their house-building under any financial or building supply difficulty. The people whose needs, whether for ownership of for rental, will not be met by any policy which the government is willing to undertake now are those in the low-income group. [DOT]

Recently I had an interview with the president of Central Mortgage and Housing corporation where I acted on behalf of a housing group from my own city which wished to j{et moneys for the purpose of a fifty or sixty unit housing project in Regina, but they were definitely opposed to the present high interest rate of 4% per cent which the terms of the National Housing Act demand. I went to the president of this government corporation to find out the reasons why a body which consisted of fifty or sixty wage-earners of the middle-income group, $2,000, $2,300 or $2,400 -persons who represent the better than average income group, certainly of my city, and who were equally responsible financially and as secure in terms of the bank as any of those puppets of the mortgage companies which have contracted to put up their three thousand odd houses this year-could not get loans. The president of Central Mortgage and Housing corporation told me that it was against the policy of the government, as he was

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instructed to administer it, to consider members of the cooperative housing association as being anything other than a group of individuals attempting individually and on their own security to secure loans under the National Housing Act. Therefore they could get no better terms than 4% per cent.

I wish to draw the minister's attention to what they are doing across the border with respect to cooperative housing associations. Lest anyone think that the United States has gone socialist with respect to cooperatives, I desire to remind hon. members of the fact, which they already know, that the United States is still an exponent of private enterprise. Perhaps the difference is that they still believe they can put a little enterprise into this old machine. But thej'' are willing to play ball with cooperative housing bodies. The housing act which came up last November, the Wagner, Ellender, Taft proposal provides assistance to non-profit corporations for mutual ownership housing, which would be eligible for ninety-five per cent of their loans with a forty-year maturity, and a -maximum interest rate of 3i per cent. The act foresees the possibility that the private mortgage companies might not care to play ball with cooperatives. Therefore it makes the provision that if private capital should not be available to mutual ownership corporations on these terms, then the federal national mortgage corporation is authorized to make the necessary loans. That is the way in which the mutual home ownership proposition is being handled in the United States. They have an interest rate which is lower than ours; they have an amortization period which extends to forty years. By their attitude toward cooperative home-owner groups they are adopting an attitude which has been recognized for years in Great Britain, Sweden. Denmark, the Netherlands and other enlightened countries.

If we are to build houses for our people- and I presume the -minister is as sincere in that desire as any other hon. member-the minister must not let his personal or political prejudices blind him to the methods by which this can be done. If he is flexible, if he is a business man, when one procedure fails he should try another one which might have a chance to work. But I maintain that the present government are opposed to any cooperative form of building enterprise; they are definitely opposed to anything which is going to provide ownership to a low-income family at a decent, repayable amount. Of course the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the fact is that the low-income people are definitely not getting houses.

In the resolution the minister has brought in for the consideration of the house there are certain suggestions for the extension of the lending feature. For example, apparently he proposes to lend money for the construction of homes by those who have only a leasehold interest in the land, and his explanation this afternoon suggested that this would be for the purpose of building homes in public parks and elsewhere in the public domain. I venture to suggest that before the bill to be founded upon this resolution has ran its course or is replaced we shall have a capitalist corporation lending its property on a leasehold basis to individuals who thereby may be tempted to build on corporation premises. Then, for one reason or another, this corporation eventually will have the down payment of the individual plus the property on which the home was originally constructed. It follows the old English practice whereby property was retained in the name of the landed aristocracy; I think it was called, "in entail".

Further, in the fourth section of this resolution the minister proposes to subsidize, again not the home-owner but large pulp and mining corporations, to perpetuate ghost towns paid for by the money of the people of Canada. I see several of these projects under way now along the Canadian Pacific main line between here and Fort William, and I venture to predict that if these companies are not already operating under some form of agreement with Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation to take over the risk of the projects, they will approach the minister after this resolution and the bill to be founded upon it are passed.

The minister has not shown, either by this resolution or in his address, that he has done anything to get the cost of materials down, or that he has taken positive action for the production of additional building material. I know this afternoon he gave us statistics showing that the production in April of this year was up some thirty per cent in some commodities as compared with April of last year, and so on all down the line; but the cold fact is that we are still not getting material in sufficient supply, that we still get letters from our constituents and others asking where the bottleneck is and what are the government doing about it. The right hon. minister gave no indication that he had taken any positive steps to remove any of these bottlenecks in supplies. Nor has he done anything to reduce the cost of these materials. As a matter of fact, material costs are continuing to increase.

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In the two or three minutes remaining before six o'clock I should like to suggest to the minister that he extend the provisions of the National Housing Act in two important particulars. I am certain that a combination of these two extensions will bring about a considerable increase in the number of homeowners in this country. My first suggestion is that he permit cooperatives to be treated on the same basis as mortgage companies, so that they may borrow money at three per cent for construction purposes. The second suggestion is that he give the low-income groups an opportunity to become home-owners by combining a changed amortization principle with a reduction in the cost of money to the individual. The period of amortization should be extended to thirty or forty years. If we can lend money to Great Britain at two per cent, starting in 1949, there is no reason in the world why we cannot lend money at the same rate to Joe Doaks out in Regina or Vancouver or anywhere else. If wre can do it in the one instance, if it is humanitarian and good business, then we can do it in the other instance.

I should like to give the house just one or two figures to indicate the approximate monthly repayment required on a loan of $3,000 at various rates of interest and over twenty-year, thirty-year and forty-year periods:

Approximate Monthly Repayments on $3,000 Loan

Interest

rate *

per cent 20 years 30 years 40 years

1

$13 86 $ 9 69 $ 7 622 ....'

15 29 11 17 9 153

16 81 12 76 10 824

18 40 14 46 12 645

20 07 16 38 14 58

Three per cent is the present rate allowed to mortgage companies, and five per cent is just above the present National Housing Act rate. I want to warn the right hon. minister of what I am sure he must know, if he would only admit it and do something about it. That is, until you bring the cost of building materials down, by legislation if necessary, or by going into the business on a socialist basis as a government, and change the basis of amortization from twenty to thirty or forty years and at the same time reduce the interest rate, you will never have the citizens of Canada housed as they deserve to be.

At six o'clock the house took recess.

After Recess

The house resumed at eight o'clock.

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT AS TO LOAN PROVISIONS-CENTRAL MORTGAGE AND HOUSING CORPORATION
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PC

Douglas King Hazen

Progressive Conservative

Mr. D. KING HAZEN (St. John-Albert):

Mr. Speaker, I hope that the amendments to the National Housing Act which are set out in general terms in the resolution which the Minister of Reconstruction and Supply (Mr. Howe) moved this afternoon, in the course of his long and instructive speech, will result in relieving the housing shortage that has existed in this country for too long a time. The fact that these amendments are being made seems to me to be an admission on the part of the government that it has failed or has not been successful up to the present time in the efforts it has made.

It is not my intention to speak at any length this evening, but I want to bring to the attention of the Minister of Reconstruction and Supply the fact that there exists in Saint John and vicinity, as well as in other urban centres in New Brunswick, an acute shortage of housing accommodation, which shortage works great hardship on the men who served in our armed forces and who are now endeavouring to reestablish themselves in civil life. A few days ago I received from Mr. L. W. Elster, secretary of the Saint John branch of the Canadian legion of the British empire service league a copy of a resolution which had been moved by Reverend W. C. V. Martin, seconded by A. E. Skaling, and carried unanimously at a meeting held on August 8. The resolution, which sets out clearly the situation that exists there reads as follows:

Whereas Saint John branch No. 14 view with alarm the indifferent attitude of government bodies in providing low cost housing accommodation to fit the incomes of lower paid working men, among which are a large proportion of ex-service men.

It is resolved, that we, the Saint John branch, do strongly demand that immediate action be taken by government authorities to relieve the appalling housing conditions under which exservice personnel are now compelled to exist, which is poor compensation for the sacrifices they made, and the promises they were given for a better future for themselves and their children;

And be it further resolved, copies of this resolution be forwarded to Prime Minister King, Reconstruction Minister Howe, E. King Hazen, M.P.. dominion command, provincial command. Premier McNair and the mayor and common council, warden and councillors of the municipal council of the city and county of Saint John.

I recognize the fact that the dominion government cannot perform miracles, but it has held out certain hopes and made certain promises to our returned men and it is up to it to implement those promises.

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Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT AS TO LOAN PROVISIONS-CENTRAL MORTGAGE AND HOUSING CORPORATION
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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. STANLEY KNOWLES (Winnipeg North Centre):

Mr. Speaker, obviously this is a measure which can best be discussed in detail when the bill has-been presented to us and we have had a chance to examine it before second reading, but it does seem to me that there are a few things that should be said at this time following the lengthy statement made by the minister this afternoon. In all fairness, it must be admitted that he did a good job of lining up the situation as it now stands, with respect to both the need that exists and the machinery that has been put into motion and amended from time to time by the present government to meet that need.

On the other hand, it did seem to me that the minister's statement was even a more hopeless one with respect to the future than even he admitted it to be. Certainly it was lacking in any vision and any sense of realization that this housing problem in Canada could, be turned into a glorious opportunity to do something on a grand scale, something that would be really worth while for the people of Canada.

As I listened to the minister speaking this afternoon I made a good many notes, and as I looked over those notes afterward it struck me that the minister had made a good many admissions with respect to matters that are important and germane to this whole question. First of all, the minister recognized that there is in Canada an acute housing problem which at the present time, to use his own words, is worsening.

He recognized also that up to the present time, despite all the achievements for which he wished to claim credit, the problem has not been met. He was honest enough, as he went alqng with his speech, to refer to a number of points on which the machinery put into motion had not come up to the government's expectations or hopes. However, it was something to have had from the minister a frank recognition of a problem which requires the full-time attention of a minister who has achieved the reputation for energy which the Minister of Reconstruction and Supply (Mr. Howe) has earned.

During the early part of his remarks the minister spent a good deal of time on the problem of housing materials and he indicated that he recognized the importance of materials in any programme for the building of houses. He indicated at least some of the steps the government had taken to try to improve the situation with respect to materials. In that part of his speech he dealt with the proposal to extend the time allowed for double

depreciation and said that the government had taken action in other ways which would be indicated to us in greater detail at a later stage in the debate.

I strongly support the minister in his bringing to our attention and to the attention of the country the importance of the provision of housing materials in any programme of housing construction. It reminded me of ah experience of mine, listening to a debate at Westminster on this housing problem. The government over there has taken really advanced steps to provide housing materials, recognizing that they are basic to the whole business of the building of houses themselves.

I was interested too in the minister's recognition of the important part that an adequate housing programme can play in providing employment. He gave interesting figures in relation to the number of men employed in certain sections of war industry and how it would require that number to carry on an adequate housing programme. As a matter of fact, it reminded me of things that some of us have had to say from time to time, namely, that this whole business of housing provides a glorious opportunity to the government of the day, to any government in power, to do two things: one, to meet the needs of our people

for homes to live in and, two, to provide useful employment on a large scale.

I was interested in hearing the minister state his recognition of the need for training workers in the construction industry so that we might be properly prepared in the field of labqur as well as in materials.

Another recognition that the minister gave us had to do with the necessity, to some extent at least, for the control of prices of houses. I believe that he made that point when he was referring in part to what appears in section 4 of the resolution before us. He made a statement to the effect that when one provides assistance for speculative building there must be control over prices so that the people of the country would not be exploited. It is good to have that need before us too.

The minister also, although very briefly, admitted to us-and this was one of the points where he admitted that the government's machinery had not done everything that it had hoped it would-that the needs of our rural population for housing somehow had not as yet received full consideration or attention. That was one subject on which the minister did not ask for unanimous consent to place any tables on Hansard, and we all have a pretty good idea why. Such tables, if presented, would show that there had been very little activity in-that field, in fact almost none at all. The

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recognition of that leads to some of the proposed amendments in the resolution before us.

The minister also indicated that another bit of machinery instituted by this government had not fulfilled its purpose, namely, Housing Enterprises Limited, which represents the joint effort of the life insurance companies of Canada in the housing field. The minister's statement was to the effect that although a certain number of projects were under way and a certain number of units were being built-and he gave the figures-the rentals which Housing Enterprises Limited felt it necessary to charge were higher than one could regard as satisfying the demands of a low rental housing project. On that score the minister was frank enough to admit anxiety over a phase of the problem that concerns a good many of us.

The minister also referred to slum clearance, using a plausible argument, to the effect that nothing could be done about that now because of the need of retaining in use every housing unit that can be lived in at all. When some of us think of the conditions of some areas in Canada which are referred to as slums, we realize what a shameful admission that was for the minister to have to make, namely, that these dwelling units must continue to be used. It was an admission that there is a tremendous problem which thus far has not been touched at all by this government through its housing legislation.

Related to that, the minister had a reference in the closing part of his speech to the need for raising housing standards generally. He admitted that even after we overtake the actual deficit in the number of dwelling units which now plagues this country there is a real problem in terms of our desire for adequate Canadian standards of living, the need for raising the standards of the homes in which our Canadian people live.

So that we had set out before us in the speech of the minister, along with the analysis that he gave us of the present situation, a real target to aim at, not just a target in terms of so many units within the next one or two or four or five years, but a total target in the field of housing. As I was listening to his speech, I realized that here was a picture of a government being driven by force of circumstances to do something about housing. Here was a government, whether of its own volition or against its will, that was getting deeper and deeper into the housing business. For a moment I found myself thinking in terms that I sometimes speak in, that perhaps I could, in the course of this debate, refer in complimentary terms to the government for having moved along in this direction, even though only when forced to go there by

the pressure of economic circumstances. But just when I was thinking in those semi-kindly terms of the minister I heard him say that all the things that he had spoken of indicated that the government had got deeply into the housing business, but that it was the government's desire to get out of it, that they wished to have less to do with it in the future than at the present time. That is the thing that annoys me most of all about the failure of the government really to get into this business with both feet and tackle this housing problem on the basis of a public housing authority giving proper assistance to the provinces and the municipalities.

I can sometimes forgive people and I might even forgive a government for not living up to things they never heard of, to ideals that never entered their minds; but here is a government that has come right up against the stark necessity of getting into the housing business, and that necessity has found the government willing to go into it to a certain extent in the machinery they have set up from time to time. They have moved along carefully, cautiously. As the last speaker said, this amendment and previous amendments that we have had from time to time in the government's housing policy are admissions of the failure of the government's initial proposals in the field of housing. Unlike my hon. friends to my right, who never would put the government into business if they could possibly avoid it, this government has got into the housing business because of the pressure of the needs of the people of Canada, and I suggest that, whatever its political philosophy may be, it had before it and still has before it, in this housing crisis and the dire need of our Canadian people for homes, a glorious opportunity really to go somewhere in raising the standards of our Canadian people.

The minister mentioned subsidies, but said: Oh, that must not be done. We get these proposals of assistance to the life insurance companies, these proposals for double depreciation, and all kinds of suggestions for government assistance in an indirect way; yet such a direct way as subsidies to make possible low-rental housing, such a direct way as allout assistance to cooperative organizations or assistance to the provinces, the municipalities, or to public housing authorities- these things the government comes up against, sees them as possibilities, but instead of recognizing them as ideals to be pursued, shies away from them as though there were something poisonous about them.

I was interested in reading in one of the Ottawa papers to-day an editorial referring to our sister dominion of New Zealand and

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the ten-year plan which is now being presented in that country for a number of projects, including a house-building programme to be financed by the use of credit made available through the government-owned Bank of New Zealand. What interested me in that report was not just the means, the use of national credit which is to be employed, which I endorse whole-heartedly, but the whole appeal of a ten-year positive programme which looks toward many of the needs of the people. Our government, as I say, comes up against the ways and means of doing these things and then shies away from them. I hope that what the minister expressed as the desire of the government will not be realized, that they will not in the course of a year or so withdraw from such an extent as they have gone into the field of housing, but rather that as, during the past three or four years, they have been pushed by one economic circumstance and another into this field, they will go still farther, until we really have a public housing authority that is concerned, not about assistance to private lending institutions, to life insurance companies, and to private firms along the line of double depreciation, but rather with meeting the needs of the Canadian people in the actual business of providing homes.

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT AS TO LOAN PROVISIONS-CENTRAL MORTGAGE AND HOUSING CORPORATION
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PC

Douglas Gooderham Ross

Progressive Conservative

Mr. D. G. ROSS (St. Paul's):

Mr. Speaker, year after year since I have been in the house I have spoken on the subject of housing and the condition of houses in my riding in the city of Toronto, but I have never had much success, never had much sympathy from the government. Early in the war I saw what was going to happen. I remember bringing to the attention of the minister what should be done. AVe had big plants around the outskirts of Toronto, and at that time I suggested that we ought to have wartime housing put up there, but nothing was done about it. AVe had great numbers of people working in factories at De Havilland, Malton, Leaside, Dawes road and elsewhere, for whom housing was an urgent necessity. There was a great influx of people as a consequence. At the present time we find ourselves confronted with a crisis, and it is going to be difficult to do much about it. The lack of wartime housing in these places has accentuated the difficulties which we have in Toronto.

What I rose to comment upon was something said by the minister this afternoon to the effect that he had taken off the priorities in connection with certain types of building. He said he thought that was a good thing. Well, I do not think it is a good thing. What he actually did was to pass the buck to the

municipalities. It is all very well to say that the city of Toronto have control as regards all the houses and other buildings to be built in Toronto, but they have not control to the same extent as the government has. The government knows wThat is necessary. We know we need houses.

Here is the situation. Permits for the city of Toronto are up some S2,898,000; at the end of June they stood at $7,982,000 as compared with $5,084,000. The building applications which have been received and on which construction has not been started cover 289 structures, of an estimated value of $10,067,000. AA'hat are all these? One thing the government can tell us is whether they are necessary or not. There is a plastics factory, 8264,000; another factory, $125,000; and may I say it seems peculiar to me that, with all these surplus structures formerly used as war plants, it is necessary to have these new buildings. We have also another office building at $580,000; and I admit that we need office space. But there is a government warehouse at $850,000, with all these war buildings around the city going for a song. AATe have also a bank building, S3 million. I want as much as anybody to see a bank building put up in Toronto, but I want to see houses built first of all. Then there is another office building, $482,000. Then we have $920,000 for four theatres. All these buildings require material and workmen, and it is mainly the shortage of workmen which makes it difficult to get houses built. Yet another warehouse, $161,000. An apartment building-which we probably need-to cost S133.000. Another factory,

$150,000-as I said before, with factory buildings all around the city being given away for a song. Two more factory buildings, at $350,000 and $150,000 respectively; a

garage, $120,000; why? Another theatre, S140,-000; yet another theatre, $115,000. There is no justification for this kind of building when people need houses to live in, and these theatres take considerable material and employ a good many men. Another factory, $140,000; an industrial building. $100,000.

The whole thing does not "add up"; that is all. AVhat. do we want more theatres for? AA7e need houses. AA'e want people to put those houses up, and the material which is going into theatres should be going into those houses.

I should also like to know whether these factories and theatres get priority on the wrought iron pipe which is so necessary for construction purposes. Is it to be understood that they can get plumbing fixtures, the necessary wiring, and the men to instal them when

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house-builders cannot? As I say, the thing just does not add up. The city of Toronto cannot control the situation; it is a bigger job than they can be expected to handle. It is true that a certain amount of material is allocated to the metropolitan district. I speak only for the city of Toronto, but I know also that in the surrounding district quite a number of theatre buildings are going up at the present time, though we do not need them, and the people need houses.

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT AS TO LOAN PROVISIONS-CENTRAL MORTGAGE AND HOUSING CORPORATION
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PC

Harry Rutherford Jackman

Progressive Conservative

Mr. H. R. JACKMAN (Rosedale):

Mr. Speaker, I feel obliged to say a few words about these amendments to the various housing measures, because, like my colleague, the hon. member for St. Paul's (Mr. Ross), whose riding adjoins mine, my riding is in the centre of the city, and we are divided by Yonge street. My constituency is on the east side and goes over as far as the Don river, and the area contains one of the most congested districts in the city. The hardship which exists to-day, the human suffering which results from this housing shortage, is quite sufficient to make the most callous-minded individual fight to the very last for anything that can be done to alleviate this crying need for houses. Not only does it affect the ordinary individuals, but it affects a great many veterans who were away from this country for five or six years, during which interval what vacancies there were were taken up by other people, munitions workers and others, who came to this city, and when the returned men came home they found there was no place for them to lay their heads, much less provide a decent home for their wives and children.

As far as they go, the amendments which the right hon. minister has suggested are probably veiy good. We have not yet had very much time to analyse them, but I assume, knowing his ability along certain lines, that they are undoubtedly an aid to the solution of this great problem. The question is, do they go far enough, and will they do even half a job? As he said, last year some

47,000 dwellings were built in Canada or reconverted. But that is a very small number considering the total need for housing, when there is a deficit throughout the country of about 700,000 units. Even if we cut that in two and call it 350,000, we still have an appalling shortage of dwelling units. As the minister said, the contribution last year was not inconsiderable. But these are not high words from any minister of the crown in describing the efforts of his department, and I feel very sorry to hear him say that in the fall of this year conditions will worsen, because people who can do with makeshift

accommodation during the summer months, living in summer cottages and non-weather-proofed dwellings, cannot continue to live in such places during the cold winter months.

I should like to read a few cases reported in the Globe and Mail as at July 3, so as to give the house some indication of how the housing shortage is affecting people in cities like Toronto. An interviewer called on the welfare department, central bureau, in Toronto where the necessitous cases are listed, and at the present time there are some 6,000 cases listed there. There is no decent place for these applicants. This is the type of case that exists:

Shortly after the office opened yesterday, a young man came in with liis wife and three children. He had been almost five years overseas, and since his return they had been living in rented rooms. But the landlord had been objectionable and eventually had forced them out. They lived briefly in a tourist cabin, but could not affdrd to pay $6 a night. The husband appealed for help and a room was found for them in a Mutual street house.

That is in the Moss park area of the city where conditions cannot be described as at all good. There is overcrowding and the condition of the houses is little short of shocking in many cases, because most of them are extremely old and in want of repair.

They will remain there until more permanent accommodation can be arranged.

When that will be, no one knows. Certainly at the present rate of progress it will be a very long time, and certainly a time which can well be measured in years for the typical case. Let us take another:

A woman brought in her two young girls. They were without a place to stay and had spent the night in an automobile. They were given accommodation.

A man with lengthy overseas service asked that some help be given him in finding rooms for his family. He, his wife and two children were in two rooms. One child was required to sleep in the hall. A moment later, he was followed to the inquiry desk by a family of four. They had been living in one room. Another man reported that the landlord was trying to force him out illegally by threats and abuses. He wanted protection and help in finding a new home.

The day was not an exceptionally heavy one, explained Frank Dearlove, the department's housing director. There were almost fifty inquiries from people in desperate circumstances.

These are typical of conditions in the centre of Toronto and, I dare say, typical of conditions in many of our large urban centres. If the minister were attacking this problem in a way in which we could see some relief, if not in the immediate future, at any rate within the period of a few years. I should not feel called upon to take up the time of the house. But the suggestions which he has made, while worthy

Housing Act

as. far as they go, do not seem to me to reach the heart of the problem in any manner whatsoever.

I am interested, as I am sure the great majority of members are, in making sure that the economic system under which we operate, which we know can be extremely productive, as was proved during the war years, when we made such a notable contribution in materials and supply, shall function properly; and if there is an acute housing shortage at the present time, as there seems to be, that system cannot be said to be operating with that degree of satisfaction which the people have a right to expect. Indeed, I wonder that the people have stood for such hardships as they have had to bear through no fault of their own. They were willing and capable workers; and during the depression years, when the present government was in power, they put up with privations which I am quite sure, had I been in public life at that time, I should not have been willing to see them put up with. I should have done everything in my power, no matter what the financial cost might be, to make sure that they were given sufficient housing and food.

May I suggest to the minister that during the long period of the thirties, as he himself intimated this afternoon, there was little building going on. The building industry was starved during the depression. During the war years it was of necessity starved because we could not afford men for the building industry and for war production and we had men overseas at the same time. The result is that the building industry to-day is in decidedly low gear, and very little has been done to change gears, under any recommendations or laws which the minister has put on the statute book. Something more drastic needs to be done at the present time.

The building trades were likewise in an unsatisfactory condition. Work was exceedingly scarce. In my own riding, even in 1940, there were no less than 10,000 forced to accept relief; and on inquiry, going about the riding, one found that many of the men connected with these families were in the building industry. But there was no work for bricklayers, carpenters, plumbers, decorators, and so on. There was stagnation in the building industry, and nothing has been done since that time to arouse the industry out of that stagnation. I recall a case recently of an uncle advising his young nephew, who was about to embark on his life's career. The uncle had been a carpenter and he warned the nephew against going into the building trade. He said, "Don't become a carpenter; the work is too unsteady. See what happened

to me during the depression. There is no assurance that work will be provided for a period of years." The result is that no young man will go into the industry in view of the hardships which those who were in the industry had to endure during the depression years.

Something should be done to make certain that the building industry, which is, of course, in this country a seasonal one, is put on a firmer basis than it has ever known; otherwise we are not likely to recruit enough young men to fill up the vacancies in the trade. And we must fill up those vacancies if we are to get on with the job.

Another problem to which I widh the minister would give some consideration, because it certainly calls for a solution as far as the long-range approach is concerned, is this: Even in the more prosperous days

when workmen were steadily employed they did not find that they could afford to buy houses for themselves. One of the best reasons I have heard given for that is that, owing to the fact that the building trade is a seasonal one and the number of working days relatively short out of the total year, the rate of wages is of necessity high in order that the building tradesmen may get enough to live on during the entire year. If the rate of pay is high, then the ordinary workman who gets perhaps half or three-quarters as much per hour cannot afford to buy the product of the better rate paid building tradesmen. Some study should be given to this problem so that the ordinary workman may exchange his work for that of the building tradesman.

During the war other industries took from the building trades and the building supply industries all the available workmen they could get in order to build aeroplanes and to turn out the other necessary munitions of war. When the wage freezing order came into effect most of the workmen who were engaged in the building trades, such as brickmakers and others engaged in the building supply industry, had their wages frozen at low levels, whereas those who went into the war industries received new levels of wages, because higher wages were necessary to attract people from one industry to another. There have been some slight modifications of the low wages paid to some of these people in the building industries, but not enough really to attract a sufficient number of men into the building trades and the building supply industries to get these industries going at a rate which is necessary if we are to solve this problem.

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May I point out that there are other industries in Canada, valuable industries, some of which are engaged in the export end of our economy, and which bring in valuable United States dollars. I refer in particular to the newsprint industry which has greatly expanded its production during recent years. In a clipping from a newspaper I find the following:

With Canadian newsprint mills operating at 92-8 per cent of capacity in March, compared with 92'8 in the previous months and 70-2 per cent in March, 1945, newsprint production expanded to a new high level, according to figures released by the Newsprint Association of Canada.

Further on, it has this to say:

This brought production in the first three months of 1946 to 970,923 tons compared with 768,203 in the first quarter of 1945, an increase of 26-4 per cent.

That is splendid increase, a splendid contribution to the Canadian economy and to the bringing in of needed United States exchange, but I do not think the newsprint industry should be given a priority of that kind. The industry was not badly treated during the war. The newspapers had adequate supplies of newsprint, particularly when one compares them with other countries, not the United States, but overseas countries and I do not think any of us suffered because of the size of our newspapers. The point I am making is that the same men who cut down the trees which are ground into pulp to become newsprint could also be used to cut down trees to make more lumber to help in the building of our houses. I believe that the government is derelict in its duty in allowing an industry of this kind, valuable as it is, to expand to a considerable extent when a great deal of the manpower required to turn out the raw product could be used to turn out more lumber, which is badly needed. I should be glad if the minister would point out any flaw in this argument, because it seems relatively simple to me. In most of the areas, not all, where wood pulp is found there are also trees which are also suitable for lumber, and the same lumberjacks could do the same job in cutting down the larger trees as they could in cutting down small trees for newsprint.

From my observations I believe that the effect of the income tax is a bad one so far as getting houses built is concerned. We find that building tradesmen will not work more more than a five-day week; certainly they will not work on Saturday mornings or afternoons because they get into overtime and into a higher income tax bracket. I believe that is one of the reasons why we have not as many man hours in the building industry as we

should have. It would not be asking too much if I asked for the sympathy of the minister in this regard. I hope that he will endeavour to bring some influence on his colleague, the Minister of Finance (Mr. Usley) and point out to hipi that we are not getting the maximum output from our present supply of building tradesmen that we might get, and goodness knows the supply of building tradesmen is scanty enough. The exemptions for income tax purposes of $750 for single men, and $1,500 for married men under the new provisions are not adequate to have a carpenter, a plumber or a bricklayer do his utmost to get houses built because the incentive is taken away from him.

The effect of the corporation tax is also not conducive to the greatest efforts in regard to building. Then salary controls enter into the picture. We have an industry which I have endeavoured to show has been in low gear for at least a decade, and the men connected with it who are employed by building companies were on a low salary scale because the industry could not afford them an adequate return or one which would ordinarily be considered fair. From my observations there is no doubt that if some of these men were allowed to get more, greater production would result, and what is more important, more men of executive capacity, foremen and up, would be induced to come into the building industry.

The minister has pointed out that double depreciation is available to certain of the building supply companies. That is a help. I believe he is not only on the right track but that he should do more along these lines for the next five years until we get over the hump in the building shortage.

I understand that under the Wyatt plan in the United States the building supply companies which exceed their production of the previous year are given a bonus on that additional production in order to stimulate them to work overtime and to think out plans at night to get production going in the best possible way.

I should like to ask the minister what happened to the appropriation which was mentioned by one of his departments two years ago under which a certain sum was set aside for the buying en masse of household utilities such as bathtubs. A supplier would be given an order for five thousand, and he could go ahead with the job, rather than be given an order for a few dozen of this type or that type of bathtub and not be able to get a real line of production going. There was an appropriation along these lines, but I have not heard anything about it for a long time. If more government assistance of that type is required

Housing Act

it should be forthcoming, because it is the duty of the government to make the present system operate so that our people will not suffer from the acute housing shortage.

Another matter to which I should like to direct the minister's attention is the price ceiling on builders' supplies. Builders of Toronto tell me that they can get some supplies but not others. There is an acute shortage of some vital part because the manufacturer finds he can get some return on his investment if he makes X parts but cannot get any return on his Y parts, so that he concentrates on the X parts. Consequently these shortages and bottlenecks occur in the building supplies industry. The present price ceiling system has also given rise to black markets in the lumber trade. There are certainly black markets, and there are evasions which may not quite infringe the law but which come very close to doing so. These all make for needless work and difficulties in obtaining the necessary materials to go ahead.

I wish to bring to the attention of the minister another matter which certainly many hon. members might not consider to be politically expedient for anyone to mention, but it is this. In order to build houses, someone must put up the capital required. The man who does this naturally expects at least some return on his money; yet we find that under the rental freezing order of October, 1941, all rentals were fixed at the level then prevailing. If the dwelling unit had not been rented at that time a new rental was fixed which in most cases was substantially higher for the floor space involved. Let me give an example so that the house will understand precisely what I am aiming at. In some of the higher class residential districts of the city will be found apartments consisting of three rooms with kitchen or kitchenette and bath, available for S45 and $55 a month, which is a very low rate considering the residential area in which they are located. Then, in the poorer distficts will be found dwelling units which were not rented prior to the freezing order-if I may describe what I came across as a dwelling unit. A veteran and his wife paid $30 a month for one room and the joint use of a kitchen. Compare that with the well-to-do person in the high-class apartment, and there is no fair relationship whatever. I am suggesting to the minister that inasmuch as landlords' costs have also gone up, some slight alleviation should be allowed, even though it be only five or ten per cent on the basic rentals under the freezing order. Otherwise those who have their capital invested in commitments of this kind find they are not getting any return. The increased

cost of supplies, janitor service and so on is eating heavily into their rentals; and landlords, or those who might become landlords, are not encouraged to put their money into buildings.

I would also point out to the minister that while some of the suggestions I have made might result in higher costs, since they include higher wages to attract men into the building industry, and since in order to speed up the production of building supplies these tradesmen may have to get more, that is not necessarily the whole picture. We do not want the veteran particularly, or for that matter anyone, to acquire a house at the present time at an inflated level. Therefore I suggest that in addition to the financial measures the minister mentioned this afternoon the government might well give consideration to a further cut in the interest rate on the loans which go to finance these dwelling units. If the rate were cut to perhaps three per cent the minister would find that over a long period of years during which the cost of the house is amortized, with the lower interest cost which bulks as a large part of the total, the monthly cost to the purchaser would be substantially reduced.

I want the minister and the government to look upon the housing crisis at the present time just as they looked upon the war emergency. If it were a question of making tanks or aeroplanes or bombs to beat Hitler, with the ability the right hon. minister showed during the war-and, may I say, with an unlimited pocketbook-we must forget some of these financial considerations to some extent until we get over this crisis-if he would look upon this housing crisis as an emergency I have no doubt he would find the men and materials in fairly short order to solve the problem which faces our people at the present time. If he will go and meet the people who are up against it he will realize that this problem constitutes a crisis of the first order. Therefore I suggest, sir, that the proposals made by the minister this afternoon are not adequate; they are not of a sufficiently longterm nature really to solve this crisis. I suggest further that the government is not giving the forceful, immediate leadership required if we are to have any solution of this problem in the next one or two or three years. To wait five or ten years is to wait too long.

Motion agreed to and the house went into committee, Mr. Macdonald (Brantford City) in the chair.

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT AS TO LOAN PROVISIONS-CENTRAL MORTGAGE AND HOUSING CORPORATION
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. FLEMING:

There are some questions I should like to ask the Minister of Reconstruction and Supply. First, in the target of

Housing Act

60,000 houses which he set for the current fiscal year, he did not indicate how that was broken down among the various agencies, private enterprise, Wartime Housing Limited, Housing Enterprises Limited, and so on, except that he gave a figure of 3,400 as the programme for Housing Enterprises Limited for the calendar year. Would the minister be good enough to indicate how the 60,000 figure is broken down, according to the estimates of the department? I might point out that when the minister gave his estimate last fall it was broken down in that way.

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT AS TO LOAN PROVISIONS-CENTRAL MORTGAGE AND HOUSING CORPORATION
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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Reconstruction and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

I am sorry I have not before me a copy of my own figures; but, as I recall it, about 15,000 are under construction at the present time under one or other of the government-assisted plans and subject to priority. The other 45,000 are being built privately, without government assistance. I think that is about the proportion.

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT AS TO LOAN PROVISIONS-CENTRAL MORTGAGE AND HOUSING CORPORATION
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. FLEMING:

May we take it, then, that about 11,000 or 11,500 are to be built under government assistance other than Housing Enterprises Limited?

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT AS TO LOAN PROVISIONS-CENTRAL MORTGAGE AND HOUSING CORPORATION
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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Reconstruction and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

Yes, at least that number; I would think more.

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING ACT
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. FLEMING:

Of those to be built by Wartime Housing Limited, is the minister in a position to indicate how many are being constructed with cellars and how many without?

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT AS TO LOAN PROVISIONS-CENTRAL MORTGAGE AND HOUSING CORPORATION
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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Reconstruction and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

I believe there are only three or four projects with full basements, of which three are in the city of Toronto and one in the city of Ottawa. The basement adds $7 a month to the rent, and there are not many cities that want to pay the extra cost. Wartime Housing Limited is just as willing to build a basement under a house as not, provided that it can get a return on the investment.

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING ACT
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. FLEMING:

I do not wish to monopolize the floor, Mr. Chairman, because these *questions are not interrelated, but if no one else has any questions to ask, perhaps I might continue. As to the figure the minister gave this afternoon of completed houses, is the committee to understand that those are houses completed and occupied?

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING ACT
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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Reconstruction and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

Yes.

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING ACT
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. FLEMING:

Sometimes there is some misunderstanding as to what the completion of a house consists of. May we take it that these are houses completed and occupied?

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING ACT
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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Reconstruction and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

Yes.

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING ACT
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. FLEMING:

And that figure of 46,900 includes reconversions?

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT AS TO LOAN PROVISIONS-CENTRAL MORTGAGE AND HOUSING CORPORATION
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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Reconstruction and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

Yes, though I believe the reconversion figures for 1946 are very small.

I think the figures I gave are practically all those of Wartime Housing Limited, which at that time had not been handling reconversions. According to this schedule, the house must be completed in every particular and the lag between the report of full completion and occupancy is seldom more than a day or two.

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Subtopic:   AMENDMENT AS TO LOAN PROVISIONS-CENTRAL MORTGAGE AND HOUSING CORPORATION
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. FLEMING:

Is the government keeping any statistics of houses occupied? I asked some questions a while ago, and the answers seemed to indicate that the government is not keeping any statistics of actual occupation. The estimates of completion do not necessarily take account of occupation.

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT AS TO LOAN PROVISIONS-CENTRAL MORTGAGE AND HOUSING CORPORATION
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July 22, 1946