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Urban renewal in Canada : an assessment of current practice Bunge, John Christian

Abstract

Urban renewal is the total process of replacing, repairing, and maintaining the various parts of the urban environment as required, to permit them to continue to contribute to the life of the urban area. This process involves both public and private action when the urban components become deteriorated, obsolete and suitable for alternate use, or are in danger of depreciating in condition. In this paper, however, the broad spectrum of urban renewal has not been examined, but instead, concentrated consideration has been given to public activity in this field. Federal urban renewal legislation in Canada has evolved out of a national concern about the economic consequences of the collapse of the house construction industry during the world depression of the 1930's. This concept has been altered to some extent by the recognition that not only was new construction required in new areas, but also, provision had to be made to replace and repair the older parts of the city. This broadening scope of urban renewal has been reflected in the successive revisions and amendments to the National Housing Act, from 1944 to 1966. However, the realization that urban renewal is but part of overall community planning has not yet been fully demonstrated in the Canadian federal legislation. The British North America Act has endowed the provinces with the responsibility for municipal institutions, matters of a local nature, and property and civil rights. Thus, although national economic considerations spawned the initial public urban renewal activity, the national federal government is unable to work directly with the municipalities in the provision of financial aid and technical assistance. Instead, the provinces may approve only what the municipalities initiate, and approval of applications for federal urban renewal assistance is made in the Ottawa head office of Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation. A nation-wide survey of officials involved with urban renewal at the three levels of government, confirmed that the scope of the present program needs to be broadened. Considerable dissatisfaction was also expressed with the procedural delays and the lack of co-ordination between the federal, provincial, and municipal governments. Housing is regarded as the most critical area of urban problem, with civic appearance, traffic and parking, and socio-economic conditions, in decreasing order of importance. Decentralization of federal authority, more local autonomy, and creation of a single department to deal with all urban affairs, have been suggested for reducing administrative delays. The results of this investigation have confirmed the need for general revision of the program for urban assistance. One of the principal reasons for the deficiencies of the Canadian urban renewal program appears to be the separation of responsibilities as allocated by the British North America Act. Therefore, the hypothesis is considered to be valid, namely that URBAN RENEWAL IN CANADA HAS BEEN LESS THAN TOTALLY EFFECTIVE BECAUSE OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL LIMITATIONS OF THE BRITISH NORTH AMERICA ACT.

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