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Evaluating the need for low-rental housing : a review of conditions among family applications for the Little Mountain Low-Rental Housing Project, Vancouver, and consideration of criteria for future housing projects Wheeler, Michael

Abstract

The need for public low-rental housing is frequently discussed but there is little exact knowledge of the amount or kind of need, and few surveys of definitive type. The inauguration of the first subsidized low-rental project for family housing in Vancouver (Little Mountain) makes possible such a study. This survey is directed particularly to the housing and income circumstances of the families who applied for entrance to the Little Mountain low-rental housing project (only a small proportion of whom were actually housed in the finished buildings). Samples only could be used: the data relates to the kind of housing occupied by the applicant families, the costs of such housing, its quality and adequacy, the size and composition of the families, and their rent-paying capacity. It is -also an essay on method: (a) a simple schedule was devised, appropriate for summarizing the varied family and housing information contained in the registration forms; (b) classifications or subdivisions by which housing can be related to family circumstances were developed. A significant division is that between (1) 'normal' families which have both parents, (2) broken families which have only one parent, and (3) composite families which include other relatives. The analysis of the material is pursued in three directions: (a) adequacy or inadequacy of family accommodation, and its distribution, (b) summary methods of relating housing conditions to family composition, income, and rent, (c) budgetary aspects of rent and costs, and potential rent-paying capacities of families. Information for the study was obtained from the Vancouver Housing Authority registration forms filled by families who applied for accommodation in the Little Mountain project; from regional (B.C.) statistics of the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation; and from relevant literature on housing conditions in Vancouver and on housing policy in general, including the surveys and publications of the Vancouver Housing Association. Most of the families were found to be occupying accommodation unsuited to their needs. There is considerable incidence of inadequacy and inefficiency of accommodation; overcrowding is particularly pronounced. Many of the families are paying moderate rents, but the quality of the accommodation is low. Payment of higher rents does not necessarily ensure adequate shelter, because the available amount of satisfactory housing is limited. A major implication of the study is that rent-levels should not be used as a measurement of housing without proper relation to family composition and types of housing need. Wider implications of the study, discussed in the concluding chapter, include (a) limitations to the idea of "self-help" in housing, (b) the relevance of home-ownership, and (c) the relevance of public housing.

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