April 21, 1970

ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

HOUSING

LIB

Robert Knight Andras (Minister Without Portfolio)

Liberal

Hon. Robert K. Andras (Minister without Portfolio):

Mr. Speaker, I have indicated to hon. members on a number of occasions that I would be making a statement on the public housing program after some extension of our own reviews and after I received the opinions of each of the provinces. I am pleased to say that, having completed that review of these submissions, I am now in a position to describe some steps which I propose to take which, I am confident, will improve public housing in quantity and quality.

Hon. members will recall, perhaps, that when I presented the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation budget on February 2 I indicated that our commitments for the low-income housing program, including public housing, in 1969 were for some 27,500 units and that this figure was expected to rise to some 35,000 units in 1970. Taken together, commitments for these two years would amount to approximately 75 per cent of all production undertaken in this field in the last 20 years.

As hon. members are aware, a substantial portion of these starts, to which I have just referred, will come from the $200 million fund temporarily reserved for the building of low-income housing of a kind or in circumstances that are likely to yield information or experience which could lead to innovations in the field. About this program I will have more to say within the next few days.

My own studies in all parts of Canada have given me a deep concern, which I know is shared by many hon. members, not only about numbers of units built or projected but about the form, quality, location and management of public housing, and about equity in the matter of rents. It is with these considerations in mind that we have decided on a number of steps which will have a

significant effect, not only on the quality of new low-income housing but on the more effective utilization and management of existing units.

I would like to deal first, since it is a matter of immediate concern to a great number of people, with the matter of rents for public housing. We have proposed to the provinces a revised rent-to-income scale which we feel reflects more closely the realities of the cost of living and the housing market. These proposed revisions are intended to correct deficiencies in the present rent structure. They have, of course, to do with income as it is used in calculating rents; they have to do with security from sudden rent increases; and they have to do with family needs. Just to put these proposals into some kind of prospective, I would like to review briefly the existing situation.

At the present time tenants in public housing who are receiving welfare payments pay an amount of rent that is equal to the shelter payments which they receive from the welfare agency. AH other tenants pay a rent based on their income. The present rent range is from 16.7 per cent of the low to 30 per cent of the higher level of income. I might say that this 30 per cent rate was set at a time when families who had reached this level of income could perhaps have reasonably been expected to find accommodation for themselves on the open market. It was expected that at this stage of income they would move into other accommodation.

In the present market, however, many families, particularly those with a large number of children, have a great deal of difficulty in finding other accommodation when they reach the income level at which the 30 per cent rate comes into effect. They are, by necessity, obliged to stay on in public housing even though they are paying what amounts to an exorbitant and uneconomic rent. In two provinces, Ontario and Newfoundland, this situation has resulted in provincial action to freeze the rents of such tenants.

[DOT] (2:10 p.m.)

Since the level of assistance is based on the simple criterion of income, it imposes a substantially greater burden on a family with five or six children than on a family with one

April 21, 1970

Housing

or two children. Although their incomes are the same, the large family is less able to pay.

Another inequity arises when a wife goes out to work. Her earnings over $250 a year are regarded as family income and the excess is added to the husband's in arriving at a rent. On the other hand, no compensation is allowed for one-parent families who do not have this opportunity for additional earning power by virtue of being engaged in the whole process of a parent looking after children. For all tenants, under the present scheme additional earnings normally result in additional rent charges almost immediately.

These are some of the inequities which the government would like to deal with in proposing revisions in the matter of rents. For public housing we are proposing that:

1. Family size should be taken into account in arriving at rents. Taking a family with two children as the base, we are proposing to make a reduction in the rent for each child over that number-for instance, a reduction of $2 per month for each child after the second.

2. Working wives should be allowed to make substantially more than $250 a year before it is considered as income for the purpose of calculating rent. We are proposing a level of $900 a year.

3. Similarly, incomes of one-parent families, for the purpose of calculating rents, would be reduced by up to $900.

4. The portion of income required as rents from families in the higher income ranges would be reduced from 30 per cent to 25 per cent, to avoid imposing undue hardships on tenants, particularly large families, who cannot find alternative accommodation in the present market.

5. The final revision which we are proposing in the matter of rents is the method of adjusting rents as income changes. At the present time, public housing tenants must notify the housing authority as soon as their income increases and the rent is then raised. We feel all tenants should be entitled to enjoy the security of a fixed rent over a reasonable period of time. For this reason we are prepared to have tenants report their incomes at intervals of two years, at which time any increase in rent would be put into effect as a result of any increase in income. On the other hand, a reduction from the income at which the two-year lease rent was negotiated can be reported at any time and the rent reduced an appropriate amount.

[Mr. Andras.j

Before I leave the subject of rents, Mr. Speaker, I would like to emphasize that any revisions will be undertaken after consultation with the provincial governments and with their co-operation. We recognize the need to build the widest possible latitude into these arrangements so that they will be flexible enough to meet particular local conditions. Some provinces may for various reasons wish to charge rents that are not precisely in accord with the federal scale. In this event it is proposed that the federal subsidy would be either half of the project losses, or half what the losses would have been if the federal scale had been adopted, whichever is less.

We have already held a round of talks with provincial authorities and the initial response indicates a substantial measure of agreement with the objectives we are endeavouring to achieve.

I now wish to deal with some other steps which we are taking which will have a particular effect on new and existing low-income housing.

1. Social and recreation facilities, in both new and existing public housing projects, will be eligible for federal assistance. The precise nature of these facilities will be negotiated with the agencies concerned. By way of illustration, I am talking about such things as community meeting halls, day care nurseries, paramedical physical facilities in homes for the elderly, and the like.

2. Duly constituted public housing tenant associations will be assisted with grants. As these groups develop, it is apparent that for the most part they are reasonable, articulate and informed. We feel that this kind of selfhelp activity deserves to be encouraged.

3. A more progressive attitude to public housing tenants' rights will be encouraged with the publication of a revised and, I hope, more sensitive manual for housing authorities, which will include a model lease.

4. In co-operation with the provinces we shall undertake formal training programs in public housing management. We are already providing continuing assistance through our research program under part V of the National Housing Act for the further study of public housing performance standards and user requirements.

While it is our firm resolve to increase the quantity of housing for low-income people as expeditiously as possible, no opportunity will be overlooked for improving the physical qualities of new developments to overcome objections to some past projects. Indeed, many

April 21. 1970

of the design proposals for developments undertaken in 1969 were altered to incorporate recommendations of the task force and suggestions presented to me during my own investigation of projects in all parts of the country. Certainly, for example, there has been strong criticism of the practice of providing public housing primarily in the form of high-rise apartment buildings.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   HOUSING
Sub-subtopic:   STATEMENT ON PUBLIC HOUSING PROGRAM
Permalink
PC

Thomas Miller Bell (Chief Opposition Whip; Whip of the Progressive Conservative Party)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Bell:

Order! Come on! What is going on?

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   HOUSING
Sub-subtopic:   STATEMENT ON PUBLIC HOUSING PROGRAM
Permalink
LIB

Robert Knight Andras (Minister Without Portfolio)

Liberal

Mr. Andras:

I am in complete sympathy with this concern. The high-rise apartment is admirably suited to the requirements of many prospective public housing tenants, especially elderly citizens who want very much to remain where the action is in the downtown areas of our cities. But such accommodation in its present form is not always the most suitable for families with a number of small children. To the best of our ability we must strive to meet these diverse requirements.

We are stressing the need for careful consideration of the location of new public housing units in terms of proximity to transportation, schools, hospitals and other community facilities, and in terms of the dispersal, wherever possible, of public housing throughout the community so as to achieve better integration, avoiding the heavy concentrations that result in physical and psychological ghettos.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   HOUSING
Sub-subtopic:   STATEMENT ON PUBLIC HOUSING PROGRAM
Permalink
PC

Thomas Miller Bell (Chief Opposition Whip; Whip of the Progressive Conservative Party)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Bell:

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker,

I challenge the minister; he is deliberately trying to cut into an opposition day by giving us a lot of boloney about housing. I think he should learn the rules of this House. If the government wants co-operation from us, this is not the way to get it. These statements are traditionally made on Wednesdays. This is a subterfuge used to cut into an opposition day. We demand our time. We ask that the minister cut short his speech about nothing.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   HOUSING
Sub-subtopic:   STATEMENT ON PUBLIC HOUSING PROGRAM
Permalink
IND

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Independent

Mr. Speaker:

I assume the hon. member is referring to the provisions of Standing Order 15. While the Standing Order requires comments made by members speaking on behalf of parties in opposition to be brief, it is silent as to the length of statements made by ministers. At the same time, it seems to me the spirit of the rule is that since the statements made by way of comment on the part of members of the opposition are to be brief and to the point there is at least a moral obligation on the part of the minister making a statement under the terms of Standing Order 15 to be relatively brief.

Housing

I am sure all hon. members appreciate the importance of the statement being made by the minister, but I believe they will all agree with the Chair that the minister should give some thought to shortening what remains of his statement.

[DOT] (2:20 p.m.)

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   HOUSING
Sub-subtopic:   STATEMENT ON PUBLIC HOUSING PROGRAM
Permalink
LIB

Robert Knight Andras (Minister Without Portfolio)

Liberal

Mr. Andras:

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Quite frankly, I was not aware of the implications the hon. member has raised. As far as I am concerned I thought there had been contact made with the opposition party housing critics. Certainly I have been requested a number of times during the last several weeks to make this statement, but I apologize if there is an inconvenience to the House. I hope Your Honour will permit me to continue to tell the House about what I have understood to be a very necessary change that is to be made.

We are very conscious of the need for dispersal of public housing units throughout the community for the reasons that I have given.

The provincial governments generally are in agreement, although they have asked that we avoid precise limitations, by regulation, of the number of units to be clustered by community size. I think I am inclined to agree that it is really not practical to be an absolutist in matters like this.

Another factor that has been given consideration is the whole question of tenant organization and involvement in the management of public housing. We are quite prepared to encourage this sort of thing as a matter of social justice, and we think in turn it will encourage a much healthier outlook and climate all round and remove a major cause of some of the difficulties. Along that line, CMHC has funded a series of seminars on tenant participation through the Canadian Welfare Council which will identify the principles and problems involved.

In conclusion, I should like to assure hon. members that we are moving with all possible speed to meet the urgent requirements of Canadian families who lack the means to acquire proper accommodation. I appreciate the suggestions made by hon. members in all corners of the House in regard to this serious problem. At the same time I should like to say that we are now getting some housing on the ground and are proceeding with a continuous process of innovation and evaluation.

Indeed, in the broader sense the greatest weakness of the public housing program is

April 21, 1970

Housing

that it is necessary, and at best is an attempt to treat the symptoms rather than the causes of a deep social problem. In this whole process we are deeply involved with our partners at the provincial level. Ideas are being proposed, discussed and modified, and I shall be keeping hon. members informed of the progress of these negotiations as they develop.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   HOUSING
Sub-subtopic:   STATEMENT ON PUBLIC HOUSING PROGRAM
Permalink
PC

Lincoln MacCauley Alexander

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Lincoln M. Alexander (Hamilton West):

Mr. Speaker, I believe that in all fairness I should give some credit to the minister for providing me with this statement at least one hour prior to the time I was to reply to it. I hope his colleagues on the treasury benches will realize that if the minister can do this with a statement of this length they should be able follow suit and do the same thing, rather than make statements to the media outside the House.

For me to comment in great depth or offer severe criticism of the statement of the minister would certainly be like being against motherhood. Keeping that in mind, I believe that some changes have been made which have been long awaited by many people who are concerned about the problem of public housing.

I recall that the housing task force had quite a bit to say about this matter. It indicated that the federal government should initiate a thorough research program into the economic, social and psychological issues of public housing, and went on to recommend that until such a study is completed and assessed, no new large projects should be undertaken.

The psychological area of public housing has given many people concern as to the need for, and perhaps the value of, public housing.

I hope the minister is making some in-depth study of this question. I believe that what is needed in public housing is reform. There is no doubt that what the minister has done is some indication that this is happening.

The new rent scale will, of course, affect many people. In particular, the ability of a tenant to remain on a fixed rental for approximately two years will give him some hope that he will be able to move away from public housing and acquire his own home, though with rising interest rates and the lack of mortgage money I do not know how this is going to be possible.

I am particularly pleased to note that there has been some recognition of the value of tenants' associations. I believe this will bring them closer to where the action is. With

groups such as this which want some participation in their ultimate destiny increasing in number throughout the country, it is important that the government recognize the effect they can have now and I believe will have in the future. I am also pleased to note that the government has indicated some awareness of the social and recreational needs. This is important in relation to public housing.

Finally, this action is something that we have all awaited. I hope the new policy will give many people who are faced with the very severe problem of housing an opportunity at least to be in a position to acquire housing at reasonable rental scales and perhaps lead in the future to the opportunity to own a home.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   HOUSING
Sub-subtopic:   STATEMENT ON PUBLIC HOUSING PROGRAM
Permalink
NDP

John Gilbert

New Democratic Party

Mr. John Gilbert (Broadview):

Mr. Speaker, I should like to preface my remarks by sincerely thanking the minister in charge of housing for his courtesy and co-operation in sending his statement to the housing critics of the different parties. The statement outlines a rearrangement of and addition to public housing guidelines which will result in some improvement, but it also portrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the problem by the minister, namely, the urgent need for a massive increase in public housing starts. The guidelines do not do anything for the 100,000 families across Canada who are on the long waiting lists for public housing. In Toronto alone there are 18,000 families, representing about 60,000 people, waiting for public housing.

The first and greatest need is more public housing. At the present time public housing represents less than 2 per cent of total housing starts in Canada, whereas in England and in European countries public housing represents between 30 per cent and 40 per cent. Even in our neighbour to the south it represents 5 per cent. Surely our immediate target for public housing should be between 15 per cent and 20 per cent of all housing in Canada.

Public housing has been considered a welfare concept. It should not be considered so. Housing should be a basic human right of all Canadians. They are entitled to clean, warm shelter at a reasonable cost. The minister cannot and should not say, as he did in his statement, that public housing is a regrettable necessity. He has missed the point of what housing should be.

My second major criticism is that the statement does not reflect the need for a

April 21, 1970 COMMONS

proper mix of public housing with private, co-operative and senior citizen housing regardless of income levels. This integrating principle is absolutely necessary if we are to rid ourselves of the social stigma concept of public housing. We cannot continue to build segregation of the poor accommodation and increase the social problems caused by ghetto-like housing developments.

My third criticism concerns the failure to include the right of tenants to purchase public housing units. This would have given a pride of ownership and a stake in the community.

If I may comment briefly on the guidelines set forth, the rent scale revisions are welcome. There is a need for constant review so that the situation outlined by the minister will not occur again. The reduction of the percentage of income for rent from 30 per cent to 25 per cent is a progressive step. The increase in additional income allowable to working wives from $250 to $900 is a little short of $20 a week. The experts claim that the amount should be more like $1,500 which would represent $30 a week income for a working wife.

[DOT] (2:30 p.m.)

The two-year lease will give security of tenure and security of fixed rents. The social amenities are a decided improvement. Social and recreational facilities must include day care and counselling centres. The participation of tenants' organizations in management is social justice in action, and I add as a caveat that this participation by tenants must be meaningful rather than mere tokenism.

The minister in charge of housing has been a student of studies. He has always replied in the House when questioned about problems that he and his officials are studying these matters and that they are under consideration. I would hope the minister and his officials would graduate to men of action and that the minister's next statement would include a massive increase in public housing, a proper mix of public housing and other types of housing, and the right of tenants to purchase these public housing units.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   HOUSING
Sub-subtopic:   STATEMENT ON PUBLIC HOUSING PROGRAM
Permalink
RA

Gérard Laprise

Ralliement Créditiste

Mr. Gerard Laprise (Abiiibi):

Mr. Speaker, I have not had the opportunity, like some of my colleagues in the opposition, of studying the statement made by the Minister without Portfolio in charge of housing (Mr. Andras), prior to its delivery in the House, since I have

DEBATES 9099

Inquiries of the Ministry not received a copy of it. A brief inquiry revealed that no member of our party has received a copy of that statement.

In any case, Mr. Speaker, I lent an attentive ear to the long statement of the minister, and I must say that I cannot support wholeheartedly all the proposals. The minister has rather shown the powerlessness and the incompetence of the government to run the country, as well as the setback it suffered in its fight against poverty, since the poor-the ever-present poor-will be compelled to live in so-called low-cost housing projects.

Mr. Speaker, a few months ago, I had the opportunity to visit a house build by the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the National Research Council. In this experiment, the most inexpensive material and labour were used. The inside of the house was finished with paper, just plain paper, not real wall-paper, in short with materials such as would not be used for animals. The purpose of the experiment was to bring down the cost of homes in order to house the poor and the disadvantaged.

We now tell these people who have no hope of owning anything in their country, because of the present inefficient administration, that low-cost houses will be built to accommodate them.

It is clear that we must do something. The minister's statement will perhaps help to improve the fate of these people. However, no measure of a permanent nature is announced. In a country so rich in resources, and many unemployed, it is unconceivable that it should be impossible to house the population properly.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   HOUSING
Sub-subtopic:   STATEMENT ON PUBLIC HOUSING PROGRAM
Permalink

ORAL QUESTION PERIOD

POST OFFICE

PC

Robert Lorne Stanfield (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Robert L. Stanfield (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, I had a question for the Postmaster General but I suppose in view of its importance to the government of the country the Prime Minister will be in a position to deal with it. When the mail trucking contracts expire in Toronto, Vancouver and other cities, is it the intention of the government to put these contracts out to tender or to have the Post Office take on this responsi-

April 21, 1970

Inquiries of the Ministry bility as in Montreal? Could the Prime Minister indicate what the policy of the government is in this regard?

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   POST OFFICE
Sub-subtopic:   CONTRACT TRUCK TRANSPORT OF MAIL IN CITIES
Permalink
LIB

Charles Mills (Bud) Drury (President of the Treasury Board)

Liberal

Hon. C. M. Drury (President of the Treasury Board):

Mr. Speaker, in the absence of the Postmaster General I might indicate there is no fixed pattern of choice between having mail deliveries made by a private contractor or by the Post Office service itself. If there is adequacy of private contractors sufficient to have a realistic form of competition and satisfactory services, this likely would be preferable.

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   POST OFFICE
Sub-subtopic:   CONTRACT TRUCK TRANSPORT OF MAIL IN CITIES
Permalink

FORMULA TO AVOID LABOUR RELATIONS DIFFICULTIES

PC

Robert Lorne Stanfield (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Robert L. Stanfield (Leader of the Opposition):

In those instances where it is still the policy of the government to call for tenders, has the minister or the government any formula to be applied in order to deal with problems which may arise such as those which arose in Montreal, particularly regarding job and union security, and also in view of the mounting unemployment in the larger cities? Has the minister a formula to avoid these difficulties or is it the intention to bull ahead and run the risks?

Topic:   FORMULA TO AVOID LABOUR RELATIONS DIFFICULTIES
Permalink
LIB

Charles Mills (Bud) Drury (President of the Treasury Board)

Liberal

Hon. C. M. Drury (President of Ihe Treasury Board):

Mr. Speaker, we are endeavouring to work out a formula which will satisfactorily take account of all the interests involved.

Topic:   FORMULA TO AVOID LABOUR RELATIONS DIFFICULTIES
Permalink

MONTREAL POSTAL DISPUTE-PROSECUTION FOR CRIMINAL ACTS

PC

Alfred Dryden Hales

Progressive Conservative

Mr. A. D. Hales (Wellington):

Mr. Speaker, I should like to address a question to the President of the Treasury Board. Is it the intention of the government to lay charges against those people who have slashed tires and caused other damage to government trucks?

Topic:   MONTREAL POSTAL DISPUTE-PROSECUTION FOR CRIMINAL ACTS
Permalink

April 21, 1970