February 10, 1937 (18th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Hugh John Plaxton


Mr. H. J. PLAXTON (Trinity):

I wish to contribute a few thoughts to this very interesting and vital discussion. It seems to me that the problem of reviving the building industry must be attacked on two fronts: one, by the governments, federal, provincial and municipal, of this country, the other by private capital; its responsibility in this connection is just as serious and profound as the responsibility which is charged to the government under the resolution now before the house. It is true that it is the government's responsibility to assume the task of clearing slums in this country. There are many reasons available to support that state-
Housing Policy-Mr. Church

ment. For instance, one has only to review the experience of the house building industry in England to find support for my conclusion. At the moment there are perhaps two fairly obvious reasons to sustain what I have just said. In the first place, I do not think that any fair-minded person can ask private capital to engage in slum clearance. Speaking with intimate knowledge with respect to my own riding, I know that rents have fallen to such low levels in that particular urban centre that it is absolutely uneconomic and impossible for private capital to engage in the clearance of slums or near slums. Second, as has been mentioned by previous speakers, there is the grave question of jurisdiction, and it is a right peculiar to municipal governments and not to private capital to enforce the tearing down of obsolescent homes. That has been the experience in England, and I think we shall find that it will prove to be the experience in this country. To that extent I must support the resolution before this house.
But what is the duty of private capital? It seems to me that if private capital wishes to maintain as its exclusive field for investment that which it has had for many years, namely, the first mortgage lending and building industry field, it is the obligation of private capital in this country to provide long term cheap money to enable the building industry not only to fill the shortage of homes which has accumulated during the last seven years, due to the total stagnation of that business, but also to provide on a mass scale low cost homes for the wage earners of this country on a basis and terms which will permit of repayment. Private capital in the last seven years has dodged that responsibility. It has tried to maintain a system of first mortgage lending which is absolutely antiquated, and, if I may refer again to England for experience, should have gone out of practice about the time when hoop skirts disappeared. It is the job of private capital- if I may personify it-to provide the financing for mass production of low cost housing in this country. So, if people say to the governments of this country, wake up, and attack this problem of reviving the building industry, I say it with greater emphasis to private capital, because for the last seven years it has passed up the prime field for investment in this country, namely, real estate.

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