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Housing conditions among social assistance families : implications for rental allowances in social assistance and low-rental housing needs Wilson, Warren Andrew

Abstract

Housing conditions are, of course, mentioned frequently in social work files and case records, but there is no standardization of descriptive information, and few systematic or periodic surveys. Housing conditions among social assistance families have not been studied as much as might be supposed. A special point is that many social assistance families have only one parent; for broken families the influences of good or bad housing are more pronounced. The present study is a survey of housing conditions among social assistance families, based on a sample and revealing the types of shelter available, the costs of such shelter, and its quality and adequacy for the families who inhabit it. It is also an essay on method: (a) a simple schedule was devised, appropriate for summarizing basic housing information in case files: (b) classifications or subdivisions by which housing can be related to family circumstances were developed. By nature the families classify themselves into those who are paying more than the rental allowance and those who are paying less. The actual study divides itself into three areas: (a) criteria of adequacy, (b) budget aspects of rent and costs, (c) some tentative methods of relating housing conditions to effects on family life, differences In family stability and attitudes, and the family's ability to manage on a limited income. The latter involve ratings and judgements by social workers, but they are explorations in an area which has important welfare significance. Information for the study was obtained from the Vancouver City Social Service Department records of social assistance families, from interviews with the workers assigned to each family, and from relevant literature on housing and on welfare policy. Many of the families were found to be paying rent in excess of their shelter allowance. There is also considerable incidence of inadequacy of shelter. Payment of extra rent does not necessarily insure adequate shelter, because the available amount of satisfactory housing is limited. Suites, apartments, and rooms are the most prevalent type of housing for social assistance families, but also the most inadequate. Single-family housing is hard to obtain. Housing of this type may involve budget difficulties or expedients (including "doubling up") to make it possible. The implications of the study as seen in the concluding chapter Include (a) the adequacy of the social assistance grant, (b) the possibilities for social work services, and (c) the relevance of public "low-rent" housing projects.

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