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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Urban housing quality : the importance of attitudes in the decision to rehabilitate Phillips, Deborah Anne


The persistence of substandard housing in many older Canadian cities has prompted the Federal government to intervene in the private process of renewal. Early public programmes concentrated on neighbourhood redevelopment, as had private enterprise. However, a recent revision in Federal policy has led to a greater emphasis on rehabilitation, the goal being to preserve elder residential areas through a programme cf Neighbourhood Improvement (NIP) and Residential Rehabilitation Assistance (RRAP). This change in policy has implications for the future character of declining areas and the evolution of the urban spatial structure. Since participation in BRAP is voluntary, the success cf this programme and the ultimate improvement of these neighbourhoods depends on residents1 attitudes towards rehabilitation and their eagerness to renovate. The purpose of this study is to examine factors influencing the owner's decision to rehabilitate his property. The conversion zones cf the three Vancouver inner city neighbourhoods of Kitsilano, Cedar Cottage and Grandview have been selected for the purpose of this investigation. In the past, these zones have been considered impermanent and their redevelopment seen as inevitable. However, they are now to be conserved, although at the time of the research, only Kitsilano and Cedar Cottage had been designated for Federal assistance through NIP and RRflP, The data for this study were principally collected through a questionnaire survey conducted in January and February, 1976. Resident homeowners were interviewed, while a small sample of absentee owners were sent mail questionnaires. Non-parametric statistics were used to analyse the data. The survey indicated that the decision to rehabilitate is based not only on financial considerations, but also owners' attitudes towards their neighbourhood, their property and the notion of improvement. While lower income residents having to make mortgage payments did encounter financial constraints to home improvements, income per se did not significantly affect rehabilitation activity. Possible property tax increases nevertheless did constitute a disincentive to improvement for many owners, profit oriented landlords also being discouraged by Provincial rent controls. However, most respondents supported the notion of residential rehabilitation and wanted more improvement in their neighbourhood. Kitsilano residents feared that further decline would lead to the disintegration of their community and culminate in apartment redevelopment, while Cedar Cottage respondents were concerned for the social status of their area. A small proportion of homeowners in these two neighbourhoods considered further deterioration inevitable and perceived this as a disincentive to rehabilitation. However, most regarded residential improvement as an effective means of maintaining the desirability of these neighbourhoods and protecting them from further undesirable changes. In all areas, respondents exhibiting pride and confidence in their neighbourhood and a sense of personal efficacy achieved the highest levels of rehabilitation. Many resident owners were also motivated by pride in their property. However, for most absentee landlords, the incentive to improve was purely economic. Despite a generally positive attitude towards improvement, few perceived ERAP as an incentive to rehabilitate. Landlords disliked the associated rent controls and many homeowners were discouraged by the financial burden of a REAP loan, pride in their self-sufficiency, and a negative attitude towards the neighbourhood and improvement. REAP therefore seems unlikely to significantly contribute to the improvement of older, deteriorating neighbourhoods, although recent programme revisions may stimulate more activity. Some of Vancouver's declining inner city neighbourhoods have at least temporarily been upgraded through residents' efforts to rehabilitate and government controls on redevelopment. The positive attitude of most respondents suggests that private rehabilitation will continue as long as owners remain confident in the future of their area. Neighbourhoods that would otherwise have been redeveloped have hence been preserved. However, unless the government continues to intervene in the deterioration process, private redevelopment will likely ensue and the urban spatial structure continue to evolve as before.

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