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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Continuity and change : provincial housing policy in British Columbia 1945-1985 Grieve, Beverly Jean


This thesis reviews the evolution of British Columbia's provincial housing policy and programs from 1945 to the present. This overview permits the identification of what the periods are, what the major policies and programs have been, and what has changed or remained constant through the years. This overview also provides a broader context within which to eventually assess in greater detail, past and present provincial housing policies and programs. A review of federal housing programs and jurisdictional issues provides the context for provincial housing policy. The forty year time span of is divided into three periods: 1945-1972, 1972-1976 and 1976 to the present. The major forms of housing policy intervention in each period are identified through the review of budget speeches, government documents, annual reports, newspaper clippings, published and unpublished reports and discussion with government officials. This thesis finds that during the last forty years, there has never been a serious challenge to the role of urban land and housing markets by B.C. provincial housing policy makers. The encouragement of homeownership for as many households as possible and housing assistance for senior citizens have also been a major and continuous focus of housing policy since the 1950's. It is probable that the homeownership assistance programs have had, however, only a marginal impact on increasing the rate of homeownership. An active seniors' housing construction program was maintained from 1955 to the late 1970's with the majority of units sponsored by non-profit groups. In 1977, the focus of seniors' housing assistance changed from a construction assistance approach to an income assistance approach. Although the names and details of homeownership and senior citizen housing assistance programs continuously changed, the goals and content of the programs remained essentially the same. In the analysis of housing policy trends it is found that the philosophical position of the provincial government determined its "terms of reference" for housing policy. In the 1945-1972 and 1976-1985 periods, the free enterprise orientation of the governments determined a very narrow role for government housing policy. In the former case, the narrowness of the parameters for housing policy was caused mainly by a belief that housing policy was the responsibility of the federal government, while in the latter case the narrowness was due to a nearly complete reliance on the private sector to provide housing. While the NDP government of the 1972-1976 period had a social democratic orientation, it was still constrained in its ability to effectively deal with housing problems. These constraints included a limited term in office, the emergence of different federal priorities, the lack of financial resources and the resistance within the province to change. It is apparent that these changes in the terms of reference of postwar B.C. housing policy have prevented any chance of a comprehensive and systematic approach to housing problems.

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