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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Urban renewal in Canada : a postmortem Lowden, James David

Abstract

Major amendments were made to the National Housing Act (1954) Section 23 in 1964. These altered the scope of urban renewal which had been utilized for the ten previous years. The major features of the revised legislation included cost-sharing by Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, as one member of a tripartie partnership, in the following undertakings: a) the preparation of urban renewal studies, b) the preparation of urban renewal schemes, c) the implementation of the resulting projects including - i. the cost of acquiring and clearing property, ii. the upgrading of public services such as roads, sewers and watermains. The reuse of the cleared land was at the discretion of the municipality and could be retained by the latter or sold to private interests. This program operated until October 1968, when it was halted upon the request of the Federal Minister responsible for Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation. To that date $168 million had been spent by the Federal Government on the above mentioned aspects of the program and there existed a potential commitment of nearly $300 million. The hypothesis underlying the examination of the material was that the amendments were overambitious, in that the objectives were not clearly specified and the scale of the public commitment was open ended. The result was a range of potential projects which could not be adequately administered through the operating policies of Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation. By way of a sub-hypothesis, it has been contended that a major factor in the urban renewal process was the discord between the expansive but ill-defined objectives and the detailed administrative policies to carry out the program. In particular, the following elements were noted: a) Urban renewal, for all communities and all land uses, was carried out within a single, universally applied set of administrative policies, b) The economic terms of reference lacked sophistication. This prejudiced the viability of the proposed projects, especially in terms of fostering private development in renewal areas. c) The bureaucratization of the program produced an administration which was more involved in the process than the product of urban renewal. Concomitant factors were excessive time lags and an inefficient use of staff. These inadequacies, contributing factors to the low achievement level of the program, led to its evaluation for the first time in 1968 by CMHC. The result was the aforementioned discontinuation of the program. To the extent that CMHC has been considering a reversion to the pre 1964 position in urban renewal, that is, a residentially oriented program, it was felt that the changes were overambitious. This presentation has attempted to examine the Canadian urban renewal program between 1964 and 1968 and, within the confines of the material documented, the hypothesis is submitted as valid.

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