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Towards a positive local government policy for residential rehabilitation Fitzpatrick, Gerald William

Abstract

The objective of this study is to examine the hypothesis that to achieve the maximum potential of residential rehabilitation as an integral part of the urban renewal process, it is necessary to develop a positive local government policy for rehabilitation utilizing all the means at the municipality's disposal. Rehabilitation is understood in this study to involve the repair and/or improvement of dwellings within a designated renewal area, together with what public action is necessary to remove environmental deficiencies and provide adequate community facilities. As an introduction to the study, the evolution of the urban renewal process is traced in the United States, Britain and Canada with special reference being made to rehabilitation provisions. The subsequent background study, however, relates solely to North America. The nature of the urban renewal process is reviewed, and the generally accepted terms of 'redevelopment’, 'rehabilitation' and ‘conservation' are defined. The urban renewal process is also related to the overall planning function. An analysis is made of the rehabilitation proposals contained in most of the Canadian urban renewal studies completed to date. These proposals are evaluated and the current situation is presented by referring to the replies to questionnaires mailed to planning officials in cities with completed studies. Little progress has been made in Canada with rehabilitation as part of the urban renewal process, and 'rehabilitation' appears to have different meanings in different cities: some planning officials consider rehabilitation solely as a short-term solution in an area requiring ultimate redevelopment, while others consider rehabilitation to be a justifiable end in itself. The improvement of dwellings is evident in several cities, but no concerted effort has been made to guide and co-ordinate this private activity with plans for environmental improvement. Municipalities have also been reluctant to use their police powers related to housing when a shortage of alternative housing for dispossessed families exists, and inadequate financial assistance for home-owners limits the amount of rehabilitation possible. It is concluded that the realization of the full potential for private rehabilitation efforts cannot be achieved in Canada under existing financial arrangements, and unless legislative changes are initiated. In several cities the initiative for rehabilitation appears to rest completely with the home-owners and in these cases it is not surprising that little has been accomplished. It is considered imperative that local government must indeed formulate and publicize a positive policy for residential rehabilitation, indicating its own responsibility to provide public facilities and its determination to co-ordinate public and private efforts to achieve a more livable community and to reduce the need for the more drastic, costly and disruptive measures of clearance and redevelopment.

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