UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The death and life of the Little Mountain Housing Project : BC's first public housing community Thomson, Thomas Michael


Opened in 1954, Vancouver’s Little Mountain Housing Project was the first public housing project in BC and among the oldest in Canada. For more than half a century, Little Mountain provided subsidized rental housing for low and moderate income families and seniors. Throughout its years, Little Mountain was at the forefront of housing policy in BC. Little Mountain’s initial development in the 1950s spelled out how the federal-provincial public housing partnership would operate in BC. In the 1970s Little Mountain was the first public housing project in Canada managed by a committee of tenants. And today Little Mountain continues to be on the leading edge of provincial housing policy as it is the first public housing project to be privatized and redeveloped under a new province-wide policy announced in 2007. Redevelopment and privatization have involved the displacement of 194 Little Mountain households and the demolition of all but one of the buildings at Little Mountain. The displacement of the tenants and the near total clearance of the large site are among some of the disturbing similarities between the redevelopment of Little Mountain and the old urban renewal programs of the mid-twentieth century. But unlike urban renewal, the redevelopment of Little Mountain is connected to neoliberal restructuring and the erosion of the welfare state. When Little Mountain is eventually rebuilt, it will feature a mixed-income community that will combine social housing tenants and market homeowners. Redevelopment has been justified, in part, on the basis that social mixing will create more social capital for the low-income families at Little Mountain. But this thesis shows that Little Mountain was already remarkably rich in social capital. In contrast to the stereotype of the ‘troubled housing project’, Little Mountain offered a very supportive, happy, and beautiful living environment. Ironically, displacement has isolated many of the tenants. Through an analysis of the distribution of benefits and losses of redevelopment to various relevant groups, this thesis shows that the Little Mountain tenants are being squeezed out of the benefits of redevelopment while bearing significant losses.

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