Mr. Chairman, I have listened carefully to the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition. One thing that should be added to them is that in effect for the first time the federal government has focused its attention on the question of housing, which has provincial and municipal implications, and has produced a report on the problem which is perhaps the most comprehensive ever made on it in our history. In doing so the government has provided all those interested in searching for a solution with the opportunity to choose priorities and to decide on the kind of orientation we wish for a federal housing policy. In the past few years a large number of conferences on housing have been held and many speeches have been made. But never before has there been a study that has condensed in so comprehensive a manner all of the various aspects related to the issue, perhaps the most formidable and difficult issue facing any government in the western world, an issue that must be resolved.
Business of Supply
It might be very easy to resolve the housing problem under different economic conditions in other parts of the world, but in the western world with its free economy, with an explosion in population, in a country with such vast distances as Canada, with such diverse climatic conditions, with population increases continually taking place in some major urban centres and not in others, it is extremely difficult to produce a policy which will make everybody happy and will meet the needs in every corner of the country. On that score alone the Minister of Transport ought to be commended for having undertaken such an enormous task and for having produced in such a short time a document for us to debate and improve upon. I believe it is the beginning of a new trend wherein the federal government by virtue of other circumstances has found it necessary to focus its attention on municipal matters and on powers given to other levels of government, including the municipal level.
From examining the report everyone interested in the subject could perhaps arrive at different conclusions and different priorities with respect to the final policy which ought to emerge, and there are a few points I would like to submit in contributing to this debate as best I can.
The report in its declaration of principles says that the housing needs of most Canadians can and should be met through the private market. This is quite true so far as the production of housing is concerned in the form of new apartment buildings and new houses of a certain size. But the pattern in large urban centres, and I can only speak from experience of large urban centres, indicates that the private sector has not been in a position to produce public housing. Therefore the government, in its priorities and orientation, should include public housing. In doing so it could draw on and benefit from the studies which have already been completed and carried on over a number of years. It could draw on the experience of others.
9 (3:40 p.m.)
When we speak of public housing we hear criticisms in respect of the shortage of certain social facilities such as day nurseries, recreational centres and the like. This is the very kind of thing that could improve the quality of future public housing projects. In some situations, for instance, in the city of Toronto, the term "social housing" has been coined recently in order to indicate that much more is really needed than the provision of shelter
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Business of Supply
when it comes to public housing, that society derives from public housing social benefits in many different related and perhaps unrelated areas. Therefore this is a field of human endeavour which deserves a continuity of effort.
While dispersed acquisition of houses in any given community in respect of public housing might be very desirable from a social viewpoint, this policy will not add to the housing stock available. It will actually diminish the housing stock available from the private sector and therefore would have the effect of increasing the cost of the units available on the market. There is the suggestion, for instance, that perhaps loans should be made available as subsidies for the payment of rent. I would rather see a different objective. If loans are to be made available as subsidies I believe they should be made available not for rental purposes, because they would eventually end up in the pockets of the landlord in one form or another, but as loans toward the purchase of a housing unit.
It must also be emphasized that when we speak of housing programs and projects for the Indian, Eskimo and Metis people in many parts of Canada our attention should also be focused on the situation in the major urban areas of Canada where there is a large influx of immigrants. This situation will certainly require our attention because immigrants who will arrive in years to come will find difficulty in obtaining accommodation upon arrival.
Much has been said on the subject of urban renewal. In this regard I think the views expressed in the report are very useful for the purpose of focusing attention on what has been done so far and on the shortcomings in the techniques which have been adopted so far. I do not know that great benefit will be derived by the suspension of urban renewal schemes. I would rather that we continued our efforts and eliminated the feeling of uncertainty which has been created in some of our centres because of the suspension. Some of the projects which are awaiting approval are of a highly sophisticated nature and would meet the thinking, expectations and hopes of the task force even beyond their dreams. These projects have been produced by local groups with the co-operation of the local government and through a process of dialogue over a period of months and years of co-operation.
Therefore the question of urban renewal perhaps should be approached in the light of
experience. Perhaps it could be expanded in a way so that rather than doing it on a limited area basis of a few blocks or a square mile it could be done by approaching it as a renewal project for any given municipality. Thus it could be incorporated in the same way a municipality would incorporate a public works program. This concept should be the broadest possible within the confines of the municipality and should eliminate the atmosphere of uncertainty and discomfort that some urban renewal schemes have created in the past.
The question of loans and grants for the rehabilitation of existing housing is a very crucial one. It is a question of great importance in the older portions of our cities. I submit it is not possible to expect an elderly couple who live on a fixed income to receive a loan for the renewal of their house. It would perhaps be desirable to develop a system whereby rather than a loan a grant would be made available for the improvement of the property and this grant would then become an encumbrance on the title of the house. The repayment of the grant to the lending authority could be worked out on that basis. At present I believe it would be unrealistic to expect people to renew their homes on the basis of loans, particularly when they have a limited income.
There are several more points which I could discuss such as the question of individual rehabilitation which has taken place in some areas and the theory of the filtering down of housing. What is happening right now in large centres is that houses are no longer filtering down from one social stratum to another but are actually filtering up. Many people find it desirable to buy a home at a reasonable price on the market, improve it and then sell it on the market at a much higher price. So we are actually experiencing a reverse process which could be called filtering up.
In closing my remarks I should like to submit a few thoughts for consideration. When one considers the long list of names of people waiting for accommodation in the large metropolitan areas-Toronto alone has something like 12,000 or 14,000 names on the waiting list-it seems to me that public housing projects should be continued in the light of the experience so far rather than have to await additional studies. I believe it would also be desirable that a program of income supplements be initiated to permit low income families to purchase property. It
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would also be desirable that legislation be new dwellings. There is in all this a glaring introduced to provide financial assistance inconsistency.
through grants for the rehabilitation of low income property owners in urban renewal areas.
[DOT] (3:50 p.m.)
As I said at the outset, Mr. Chairman, we must appreciate that in our society it is desirable that we arrive at policies which reflect our concern for those who need housing. In this regard it is time to do some thinking in conjunction with municipalities and metropolitan centres such as Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg. When considering the relationship between the federal government and these metropolitan areas we must ask about the desirability of dealing directly with urban centres. We have large urban centres with populations and resources greater than those of several provinces. We must become concerned with the life of the millions of Canadians living in these centres.
At this point in history, we might ask ourselves whether there is a possibility of redrafting our constitutional relationship, when it comes to the redevelopment of Canadian urban centres. Can we correct inadequacies of this kind, the source of so many difficult situations? Can we resolve these difficulties by establishing direct bridges between urban centres and the federal government? These are relevant matters. With the help of the task force report we have the opportunity of constructively improving upon this situation.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: BUSINESS OF SUPPLY