Mr. T. L. CHURCH (Broadview):
I have not taken part in the debate on housing so far this session. I wish to say that I have made it a rule of life to try to get on with people, whether individuals, corporations, railways or municipalities.
With regard to Bill 280, which is before the house for second reading, I believe that there should be read into it the cause and effect of the proposals it makes. Lack of housing is not a local matter; it is not a national matter; it is an international matter. It is a world matter which has been brought about by two long wars and a depression. No allowance was made for the subsequent increase in population. Transportation, electric light, power, water and sewers are municipal services, along with other agencies, which are necessary in any solution of the housing problem in the larger cities of this country.
I remember away back when we did not own the Toronto street railway. We had a privately-owned railway in only half of the old part of the city. What was done between 1915 and 1921 was this. We built civic car lines in the new part of the city. Let us suppose that the old city is on one side and the dividing line of Toronto is in the centre. We took over the Toronto street railway in 1921 when their franchise expired. I was much pleased with the 104 members who were in the city the other day, because as they travelled about our city and out to Oakville they saw the tremendous strides which have been made in housing, even during the period between the two wars and after the last war. I was surprised to see it myself because I had not seen recently as much of the surrounding district as I had before the last war started.
National Housing Act
I am in favour of the government carrying out its present plans or any arrangement it has with the municipalities for slum clearance and other matters having to do with housing, because without adequate housing there would be no public health, notwithstanding the health security programs announced by federal and provincial and civic authorities. The first duty of a government, as I see it, is to look after the health, wealth, peace, happiness and prosperity of its citizens. All the various statutes, plans, blueprints and other remedies which have been proposed by municipalities, provinces and the federal government, cannot be carried out because of the lack of materials and of labour. It shows that in a national sense we have been unable to make, on a percentage basis, any real contribution to solving our national housing difficulties. For the reasons I have given, to provide housing should be the national function of the government.
We are in very difficult days. At a time like this, when we are in an emergent condition, the federal power should deal with the situation. In my opinion housing should be a national problem because the government have almost unlimited methods of finding revenue. They have also control over immigration, tariffs and trade, banks and banking. They can bring anyone they wish into this country. That power is given to them under section 91 of the written constitution which this country obtained in 1867.
Through the medium of Bill 280 another housing act is to be passed, amending the National Housing Act, 1944 and 1945. In this bill are set out the powers of approved lending institutions. They may take steps to safeguard mortgage securities and indebtedness. The bill also gives powers to enter into contracts with builders, and to guarantee rentals from rental housing projects. The terms and conditions of such undertakings are also given. The bill deals with rents for rental housing projects in the form of mortgages, terms of contracts and transfers. It deals with the transfer of property of Wartime Housing Limited to the new corporation. In spite of all these many statutes which have been passed since this housing matter was first brought up, there is still a national housing problem in the urban, rural and suburban areas. Things have been so mixed up by all these various statutes that the municipalities are in a quandary.
I would give some constructive suggestions to the minister and to the government. I have had a great deal of experience, notwithstanding what the hon. member for Parkdale (Mr. Timmins) said. Probably I have had a vaster experience than anybody in the house, 5849-267
because I dealt with one of the largest agencies of housing, namely, transportation. We took over the street railway which served only the old city. We built a new civic railway for the new half of the city and linked the whole city up in the new system. I do not know any constituency which owes so much to the vision of public ownership as ward 6, which is part of the constituency represented by the hon. member for Parkdale. I remember when they had no harbour improvements on the waterfront in that ward. They had the Mimico section of the York radials, running from the old Sunnyside level crossing-a death trap. They had the Toronto suburban running through wards 6 and 7 to Guelph. In 1920 these were all included when we purchased the York radials, and that was a great aid to housing. I described what happened in my friend's own district. The most important thing was the building of a railroad, city car lines in the new part of the city north of Bloor street and St. Clair avenue. We built the city car line system from 1915 to 1921 and it had a beneficial effect on housing. Practically the whole district of wards 1, 6 and 8 and the north Toronto district were built up by it.
Talk about what was done by those who came into the house a few years ago! I am disappointed in some of the young men who have come into parliament recently. I venture to say that if some of them had had the control of the city of Toronto when I was head of the city council, Mackenzie would have got a renewal of the street railway franchise, because there was only one man in the council who opposed it, and one newspaper-the five other newspapers gave their support to the purchase deals. The action that was taken at that time, however, went a long way toward solving the housing situation in our city. The light and power franchises were taken over by the city and the Toronto Transportation Commission started with a civic system of buses and radials. The metropolitan railway on Yonge street from Lake Simcoe to the C.P.R. north station was taken over also in 1920-21. The Scarboro section of the York radials from Woodbine, on the Kingston road to West Hill was also made part of the T.T.C. civic system. The whole York radial was acquired by the city and all its various sections. The Mimico section, Sunnyside west of the Humber to Mimico, at the level crossing at Sunnyside, was developed after these franchises were removed. In that district there was only one road, which was very narrow, and that was the Lake Shore road.
I have been discussing cause and effect in the housing situation and the condition that
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existed between the two wars. Those hon. members who visited our city the other day got a bird's-eye view of the results of the inauguration of the street car system and the taking over of radials, waterfront improvements and so on, all of which contributed to the prodigious development of that city.
In the district I represent in the House of Commons today, Broadview, and in the Greenwood and Danforth districts, tickets on the new civic car lines in the early days were six for ten cents. The result of the transportation system which we established was the erection of thousands of houses. The hon. member for Danforth (Mr. Harris) will bear me out in that assertion.
All that work was done without any federal or provincial help at all. We inaugurated car lines, radials, buses, water service, sewers, police protection, health regulations and other benefits for the people in those districts, and the result was that many of the returned soldiers in Davenport and all the other ridings from East Toronto to the Humber started building houses for themselves, beginning with a cellar in the summertime, and then putting up one story. Neighbours would come and give assistance and in that way they would help to build a second and a third story. I am simply giving you cause and effect so far as housing is concerned.
My sole purpose in speaking this afternoon has been to try to give the minister some constructive suggestions. I am one member of the House of Commons, and I do not speak for this party; far from it. I leave that to some others who claim that they represent it. I will say this, however. I do give the minister some credit for w'hat he did during the war and even after, as I see what was done in our city. I am one of those who try to get on with people and to work with governments as with individuals.
I would remind hon. members of what took place in this house in June 1923. I was then chairman of the harbour board. I had a meeting until 3 a.m. with the government as to a settlement of the Toronto viaduct case with the two national railways. I acted for the city and harbour and discussed the matter with the then Liberal government. The result was that I marked it down from $37,000,000 to $30,000,000. Present were Sir Edward Beatty, then president of the C.P.R.; Sir Henry Thornton, president of the Canadian National, and Mr. Graham Bell, who was deputy minister of railways. I represented the city and harbour board and I showed them all the facts in connection with the viaduct
and my plan for closing certain streets and cutting down the whole cost to $30,000,000.
An act of parliament was passed at the end of June 1923 and work was later begun on the viaduct. The new Union station was finished, and extensive harbour improvements were carried out for twelve miles to the Humber river. Transportation by civic car lines, cheap power and other civic services in Toronto and suburbs are the main reasons for the success of housing after the taking over of the street railway.
In connection with the proposed purchase of the old Toronto street railway, it was supported by five of the six newspapers; only one paper, the Toronto Telegram, was opposed to it, and in the city hall only the present member for Broadview and one other opposed it. Had the deal gone through the people of Toronto would never have been able to take over the street railway or the radials, nor would they have been able to remedy the deplorable conditions that existed in our city and harbour or to give the services which hon. members saw for themselves the other day. I was the mayor and I piloted the civic bill for the T.T.C. through the legislature and nominated and chose the first T.T.C. commission. It brought about a vast housing improvement and made of Toronto and district a city of homes.
We need a steam suburban service in Toronto. Look at the service they have in Montreal and its aid to suburban housing. The use of commutation tickets between Toronto and Brampton, Oakville and other points should be extended.
After the first war, under private enterprise, many persons, including returned soldiers, built their own houses in the suburbs of the city. A great deal of building was done between the two wars, and much has been done also since the close of the second world war. The other day I was surprised to see the great development that had taken place on the Lake Shore, the Dundas highway, ward 7 and the Kingsway through to Oakville, in the matter of housing, mostly by private enterprise.
According to the report of the assessment commissioner, during the period of the two wars and until recently some seventy per cent of the people in Toronto city owned their own houses. It might be a small cottage, or it might be a two or three story house. Everyone wanted to own his own house, including the industrial workers, because of the cheap electricity, power, light, transportation, and the other public utilities.
I do not want to see our city become a city of apartment houses. In 1926 and 1927, and again in 1935, 1936 and 1937, I introduced a
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resolution concerning housing and reconstruction. One day it was debated from three p.m. until eleven o'clock, and again all the next day; and, as I said then, I do not always believe in cleaning out slums, though that should be done in some districts. I should like to see the contracts between the city and the federal government carried out to the limit, because I think the development around Regent street is a very good proposition. But as I said on other occasions, when you clear out slums a great many people do not want to leave the district. They are near their work and their friends, and if you clean them right out of the district they have to pile on street cars to get to work. That would make the position of our transportation system, which is overcrowded at the present time, even more deplorable. Persons getting on these cars and buses have been badly injured; others using the transportation system have been killed by motorcars.
I have seen some of these apartment house and housing projects. Not long ago I was in the city of Cleveland, and I saw some of the houses that have been built there. Some are occupied by returned soldiers; all kinds of people are mixed up together. The buses are so crowded you cannot get on them, even on Sunday. In a five-acre lot there must be several hundred of these houses, with thousands of people housed there. There you will find all kinds of people, some of them recent arrivals from Europe who cannot even speak our language. The people there are getting sick and tired of these small prefabricated houses. They tire of them in no time and want to move out, and certainly that is not a situation we want in our city.
I admit that in the district in the United States which I have mentioned they have done a valuable work and the houses are very good. They are well equipped with plumbing, like the houses of some of the ministers; they are sanitary; the rents are low, and all the rest of it. As I say, I do not want our city to become a city of apartments. It was not so between the two wars and long before, since the time of the hon. member for Danforth and the other hon. members who are here from Toronto. I believe we should continue to be a city of homes, particularly among the industrial workers.
If I had my way I would revive the old housing plan we had after the first war; the minister has something similar at the present time, I believe. Under that plan Canada lent money through the banks. Before the second war started Canada had lent $85,000,000, and of that only one-eighth of one per cent was lost.
I think there is a great deal to be said for the amendment which was proposed by the hon. member for Parkdale (Mr. Timmins); subventions, bonuses and subsidies are all right as far as I am concerned. I believe subventions and subsidies should be given to the municipalities. For low-rental houses that was done during the time I was head of the city council; buildings were assessed for about half their cost, under an amendment to the assessment act, and that led to a good deal of construction. But that has been abused, and I notice in the newspapers that some changes have been proposed. I would support some federal system like that under which the municipalities would get certain aid. It has ueen suggested there be provincial aid so that no taxes be imposed for two or three years, and other suggestions have been made by the provinces.
I should like to see the old principle continued of lending money through the banks. The purchasers obtained clear title, and the money was lent at a very low rate of interest. House plans were handed to them free, and as I say some $85,000,000 was lent under that scheme. A great deal of Leaside, parts of Toronto junction and right through north Toronto were built up in that way before the second world war.
There is only one amendment now before the house, because, as you ruled yesterday, Mr. Speaker, a subamendment cannot be moved until the first one is disposed of. I believe the time is past for any more conferences. The municipalities are sick and tired of conferences. Almost every train I have been on during this session has been carrying people to Ottawa to attend conferences. You cannot build houses with conferences. The day for conferences has gone by. The Ontario legislature has adjourned for the year; the city of Toronto has adopted its budget, and so have most of the York municipalities. Toronto some years ago gave assistance through the exemption of certain dwellings under the assessment act, and I believe we should give credit where credit is due for what has been done in the matter of housing-not enough at all, but it is a start.
I believe the government have done some good work. I have seen some of the houses they have built, and some of the apartments. In view of the scarcity of materials and labour this is a start in the right direction, and I am fair enough to say so. I do not believe they have done all they might, but here we see cause and effect; the lack of labour and lack of materials. Personally I think something should have been done to halt the con-
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struction of some of these large bank and theatre buildings, where I believe they pay more for their material and their labour. As a civic official I had some experience with carpenters, bricklayers, lathers and plasterers, and I have been told they get better pay when working on banks, apartment houses, theatres and buildings of that kind than when working on small houses; and in addition their work is steadier. That may or may not be true; I do not know.
Then I think some assistance should have been given to make more use of Toronto island. I know what has been done at Belle Isle and along Lake St. Clair boulevard to help solve the housing problem in Detroit. The climate of Toronto island is good; sometimes in the winter it is as warm as it is in the city. If the government had carried out the proposal to build two bridges or a tunnel, that island could be used all year. As it is it does a great deal to lessen the housing problem during six or seven months in the spring and summer.
I believe one of the main reasons for our housing problem-I know because it has affected me-is found in the abuses of our housing control system. I had to part with some property I once owned. I did not need to sell it, but I disposed of it because I could not be bothered with the control system. You got a tenant in who signed a lease for no boarders; he turned the house upside down, let it go to rack and ruin, put in things not allowed in a residential district, profiteered and violated his lease; yet under the control system you could not do anything about him. So I parted with that property at a considerable sacrifice. If we could have some modification of that absurd control system I believe it would help the housing problem, as no one now wants to own real estate with such abuses. Under controls real estate has been permanently injured. It is an impossible system because it prevents private enterprise from building the smaller homes. Under our controls returned soldiers cannot get into houses they have bought with their credits and gratuities. So I believe that as soon as possible we should eliminate the control system as it applies to small houses. As the hon. member for Brandon said the other day fifty per cent is the law in New Zealand; it should be sixty per cent in Canada. For this year there should be a suspension of the building of skyscrapers for theatres and buildings of that, kind; and the labour and materials used for that type of building should be diverted to housing projects up to sixty per cent. It is true that the materials used
may not be the same in all respects as for banks and theatres, but those costly buildings do lead to higher labour costs and higher costs of materials in connection with the building of small houses.
I believe the doctrine of paying bonuses, subventions and subsidies is a good one; if it is applied properly it would solve all economic needs of all the provinces. As I said earlier, I did not intend taking part in this debate, nor have I done so to any considerable length. But I can tell you this, that we in the city of Toronto have been a very happy people. Those who visited our city the other day would find there a kind-hearted people, a people who have a keen interest for their country in their hearts. Our city was built by people of that description-people of all classes from all parts of the world.
The city council has been committed to a certain program' in connection with Regent street, and many other matters, and I hope the federal power will carry it out. I understand from the minister's bill that if any individual applies to the new corporation under Bill No. 280 he may obtain a loan up to ninety per cent. That fact has not been very well advertised either in the newspapers or over the radio. I suggest that there should be more extensive advertising of that fact. If it were known many people would apply immediately. We have something over four months before the early part of the winter-because we realize that immediately after the Canadian. National exhibition, early in September, the fires have to be lighted again in our houses. I do not know where many people will be next winter, in view of the great number of applications for possession and ejection which have been and are now being made before the county court judges. Not a day should be lost in building with labour and materials made available. The only way to solve the difficulty would be to have a sufficient number of small houses built immediately. I do not believe in the building of too many larger apartment houses. I would urge that so far as possible the government should get on with the work and have a large number of small houses built in the next four months -and there are only four months in which to do this.
I believe Toronto has done more than any other city in Canada along the lines I have stated in providing splendid municipal service. It has gone a long way in connection with the ownership of public utilities. It owns its street transportation system, and hon. members will be familiar with the Toronto transportation commission. Then, it has been, most active in the development of good roads, and has
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paid forty per cent of the cost of the Toronto-Hamilton highway. The city has contributed to the operations of the York highways commission, which has built a magnificent highways system of fifteen miles in the Toronto area, and which now should be revised as only enabling and assumed by the province.
Subtopic: AMENDMENT WITH RESPECT TO POWERS OF APPROVED LENDING INSTITUTIONS, ETC.