Does not my hon. friend agree that at the present time the construction of houses is in no way limited by financial considerations? Does he not agree that it is limited purely by physical considerations?
They are not limiting the construction of houses at this time at all. The limitation at the present time is physical, and is found in the present capacity of the country to produce materials.
Mr. Speaker, I have just quoted at length what was said on that occasion to illustrate that in 1945 it was suggested we could not build houses because we were short of materials. In 1957 we are told we cannot build houses because we are short of money, though we have an abundance of materials. In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I suggest that by using in housing the methods we used during the war and mobilizing our credit behind the full resources of this country we could provide the lower income groups in Canada with all the houses they require on a very sound basis.
I just forgot this, Mr. Speaker: I had intended before sitting down* to bring to the attention of the minister the fact that there are certain people who are trying to do their best in present circumstances. Does the minister realize that there are small lumber operators in the interior of British Columbia who are working on a very small margin of profit and have been doing so for the whole of this year, although in a good number of cases these are efficient and well operated 96698-1621
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mills. Some of them, indeed, have been running at a considerable loss. At the same time there are employees in the lumber industries in the interior of British Columbia who have voted not to accept a 6 per cent increase in wages to which they were entitled under a two-year contract, in order to help keep the lumber industry going. These people have been shipping lumber to the prairies, particularly No. 1 common fir, in log lumber, two by four, two by six, two by eight and two by ten, shiplaps, sidings, boarding materials generally, at prices f.o.b. southern interior of British Columbia points-I can see the parliamentary assistant pricking his ears up as he hears me speak of this-ranging from $57.50 to $62 a thousand. I think the parliamentary assistant should be asked to find out what the lumber yards are charging to persons who wish to build homes with this same lumber after making allowance for the cost of transportation and so on.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I suggest that now is the time for an examination to be made of all aspects of this problem-the need for providing an adequate fund, sound methods of financing the cost of materials, the type of materials and the services to be provided. The average man earning a low income cannot afford to pay more than $6,000 for a home. I say that from my personal experience. I think a great deal more could be done to provide the type of house necessary to a person in the low income group. Could not some further study be undertaken, particularly with respect to the possibility of the owner-building of homes and the possibility of using more of the procedures and methods which have been used so successfully under the small holding section of the Veterans Land Act.
Mr. Speaker, this problem which faces us is of such great importance to the people of our nation that I regret no more members have volunteered to speak on it. I was expecting that at least every hon. member from British Columbia would want to express the reaction of the people in their ridings to this subject.
Our people need housing very badly, our businessmen need the business which house building provides, our workers in the lumber industry need some assurance of continuing employment and, above all, our unemployed need some ray of hope at this time that this government is going to initiate a mass house building program which will supply them with a pay cheque at the end of the month.
I appreciate the fact the minister has admitted that a decline in the rate of house
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construction has taken place in Canada. I would like to underline what the hon. member for Kootenay West (Mr. Herridge) said when he referred to the minister's solution as being only a partial solution. I have before me the D.B.S. daily bulletin of December 6 last which shows the decline in completed houses for the first 10-month period to be 14,292. If we add another one-fifth of the year in order to obtain the picture for the whole year we would have, unless action were taken, a decline in house building this year over last year of 17,150 houses. The $150 million that the minister made available some months ago was most welcome indeed. However, that alone was not sufficient. The first $150 million would build only 15,000 homes. I therefore endorse the principle of the minister asking this house for authority to have a larger allocation of money.
I mentioned some statistics yesterday to show that ever since the war we have not even kept pace with the growth in our population through natural causes and immigration. We have done nothing, and the act has failed in this respect. We are today faced with a worse shortage than we had at the end of the war. During all the hard years in Canada from 1929 to 1939 house building came to a standstill, and while we had six years of war we were not able to afford either labour or the physical goods with which to build any houses; therefore, we are at least 16 years behind in our house building program, and so far I see no ray of hope that this government, like the previous government, has any intentions of overcoming this shortage.
I was very pleased this morning to see the hon. member for Edmonton East (Mr. Holo-wach) place on the record, as the hon. member for Kootenay West did what is being done in other western democracies of the world. I hold in my hand a clipping from the British Columbian of December 7, 1953, in which appears a British United Press dispatch from West Germany where, in referring to West Germany, it says:
It built 400,000 houses last year, and probably will build that many again this year.
We thought the German people were a defeated nation, yet in 1952 they were building four times as many units as we were building. I was very fortunate last month in being able to spend a few days in the German seaport of Hamburg. Half the city was laid waste as a result of the bombings during the war, and yet in the city of Ottawa today you will find more slums than you will find in Hamburg. We thought that the German nation had lost the war and that we were the victors. I did not see anywhere in that city any of the slum areas that you can find in almost any major Canadian city.
Our proposals are that this government must realize that much more money has to be spent on housing, and if private enterprise is not willing to supply this money at adequate rates of interest I think the managers of Canadian investment funds should consider very carefully the consequences to their might and their power if they do not meet the social needs of the Canadian people. If they fail-and they are failing, as the record shows, and the record shows they have failed ever since the end of the war-then the government will have to assume the responsibility and see to it that these financial resources are made available to meet our social needs.
I know that the previous prime minister was opposed to subsidized interest rates for housing. I believe he said so on one occasion in this house. However, may I remind the present Minister of Public Works (Mr. Green) that regardless of the attitude toward subsidized interest rates that a former prime minister may have taken, one of the reasons why the premier of the province of Quebec wins re-elections so handily is that he possibly does more than any other public figure in Canada in making investment money available for housing for low-income citizens of Canada. Much as I may disagree with Premier Duplessis on many matters, in this one aspect at least he stands head and shoulders above any other premier in our nation.
Yesterday I noted a little conversation that went on between the hon. member for New Westminster (Mr. Hahn) and the minister in regard to research. Action must be taken to reduce the price of houses. Today you can look over the whole industrial empire in Canada and in practically no case except in the field of house construction will you find us turning out either goods or services in almost the same manner as we did 30 or 40 years ago. We have made very little progress in applying the discoveries of technology to this enterprise. I should like to commend one thought to the minister, namely to attempt to subsidize some experiments in the field of low-cost housing.
I believe the files of Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation are full of ideas on how we might tackle the problem of building a house by new methods. However, it is then left to the individual little builder to risk his neck to see whether this scheme would work. I think that some of the money voted for the field of research might be devoted to taking some of those ideas off the shelf, out of the pigeon-holes, and saying to some of our more reputable building firms: "We will make an agreement with you. Let us see whether some good might not result, and if you lose we,
the people of Canada, are willing to share with you the loss in this experiment." I have seen-and the minister well knows this-a number of builders in our province of British Columbia go out on a limb and experiment. However, they have failed and they personally had to stand the loss.
I am not very happy about the proposal to reduce the size of houses. Immediately after the war we embarked upon a rather large-scale program of building little houses,- you could almost call them little shacks -which today are not very much desired because of their smallness. I do not think the Canadian economy is so hard up or so poor that we have to begin to trim down either the size or the quality of the houses that our Canadian people are supposed to live in. I do not think that therein lies the answer.
The minister has assured us that the lending value will henceforth be more realistic. I hope when he speaks of lending value the minister also thinks of the lot as a part, as being entitled to the new approach, in determining the lending value because therein have lending values most often fallen short. The valuation placed on the lot was very much more out of line than the valuation placed on the actual home itself.
I should like to endorse in principle at least what was recommended by the hon. member for Timiskaming (Mr. Peters) with regard to insurance policies on homes. I know it is not within the field of the federal government to entertain a proposal to declare a moratorium particularly for people who are unemployed. I believe that is within the field of the provincial governments. However, at the present time the insurance feature protects only the lender and does nothing for the buyer except that the buyer has to pay for the premium. In my opinion the protection provided by the insurance feature could be broadened so that the house would be paid for in case of the death of the buyer, as recommended by the hon. member for Timiskaming. I think we could also include a provision whereby the payments would be continued in case of such unemployment as might be recognized by the offices of the unemployment insurance commission. The insurance provision now is rather lopsided in that the buyer pays the premium in order to ensure that the approved lender will be able to get his money out of the house.
My main reason for rising was that I wanted to call the minister's attention to a pamphlet issued by the Department of National Health and Welfare. I had to send to Hull yesterday for a copy of it. It is called "Housing for the Aged in Canada" and was published in November, 1957. I should like
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to compliment the department for giving a little publicity to this problem. They go to some length to explain how through limited dividend companies and otherwise the people of Canada are able to supply housing for the aged, especially for the aged in the low income categories. On page 3 of the pamphlet I find the following:
Most housing projects have been built in central and western Canada, under the National Housing Act. During the period from 1946 to 1957, C.M.H.C. advanced loans of nearly $5.8 million towards the cost of 1,416 living units for the elderly.
That sounds very nice until you analyse it. There have been 1,416 living units built for the elderly in 11 years or 129 units per year. If we divide that by ten representing the number of provinces we have an average of 13 housing units for our elderly citizens in each province in each of the past 11 years. It is a shameful record, to say the least, when the figure is broken down. When you see the figure of $5.8 million it sounds like a lot of money but when you break it down you see that it is a most niggardly amount indeed.
I think that the minister might be able to do something in this respect. I know that at the present time there are various arrangements under different sections of the act. The most commonly used section is that whereby a mortgage is granted for a period up to 50 years in the case of homes built by limited dividend corporations. However, in the province of British Columbia the provincial government pays a grant towards the capital cost of such building. Their contribution amounts to one-third of the cost. The government of Saskatchewan also pays a grant to any organization building low rental homes for senior citizens in that province. Not only does it do that, but it also pays an annual grant for the maintenance of such homes thus enabling the rentals to be kept low.
In my opinion the federal government is not assuming its share of the obligation in this respect when it offers only a mortgage for 50 years which it expects to be repaid with interest. I realize that the interest rate is much lower than the rates on individual homes. However, I believe that the government should be able to match the grant of any provincial government, thereby enabling and encouraging the supply of low rental homes for senior citizens.
In other words, we recommend that a lot more money be made available, that interest rates and rentals be based on cost and that where necessary they be subsidized, that our
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municipal governments be given greater encouragement and provided with more money at lower rates of interest and that the government exercise greater control.
I remember that the C.C.F. fought an election in 1945 and in their program they advocated that one million homes be built at the rate of 100,000 per year in each of the next ten years. The people of Canada likely thought we were too radical and not enough of them voted for us. However, since that time Canada has done just that. In the ten year period roughly one million new homes have been built at an approximate rate of 100,000 per year, some years more and some less. The C.C.F. party was overly modest at the time and I hope that now the minister's slogan will be that he is going to embark on a program that will build for Canada 250,000 homes in each of the next ten years. If he does that, then at the end of the ten year period I believe rents will begin to decline and we will have somewhere near an adequate number of homes.
I should like to close with this thought. As the minister knows, the late E. E. Winch, father of the hon. member for Vancouver East (Mr. Winch), possibly did more than any other man in British Columbia in his lifetime to supply housing for those on low incomes. After he had passed away a bulletin was issued in February, 1957, by the Vancouver housing association which contained an article by Laura Jamieson, president of the new vista society, in which she had this to say about the late E. E. Winch:
Of all the causes to which he gave his devotion and enthusiasm, housing for senior citizens of low income was the one where he could build and see the result; where he could see and talk to the elderly people who, by his efforts, were able to leave their hovels and cold rooms and live in simple comfort and security.
I was one who yesterday wished the new minister well and expressed some confidence that in this field at least his heart would be in the right place. When the day comes when both he and I possibly will no longer be here I hope someone may write this of him: When the late Hon. Howard Green took over as Canada's minister of public works in 1957 he found mass unemployment in the construction and lumber industries; he found that the savings of the Canadian people were at an all-time high but that too little of these savings was being devoted to housing; he found that his fellow citizens lacked over a million homes. The late member had long subscribed to the belief that government is an instrument whereby people do for themselves together those things which they cannot well do for themselves as individuals. The socialist approach, the cleansing sea breezes and rains
of his province, combined with his intelligence and strength of character, caused him to embark upon a mass home building program until after a 10-year period it could be said that rents were declining and every Canadian family was supplied with an adequate home.
Mr. Speaker, I should like first of all to call the late Howard Green back to life so that I may address a few words to him, on the basis of which I hope he will take the kind of action that could result in an appropriate epitaph being written many years hence.
Mr. Speaker, because this bill does propose two amendments in the housing legislation, because the minister has at the same time indicated that one or two other improvements are to be made by a change in the regulations and by ministerial direction, we of course welcome the legislation and will give it our support. We were pleased also to hear the minister indicate in his remarks last evening that he is serious about the housing situation and that he would welcome suggestions from members of the house, indeed suggestions from any source. 1 hope that he will give very serious consideration to the many suggestions that have been made to him during the course of this debate.
Perhaps there are others, but I should like to catalogue some of them for him within a brief compass. First of all, there has been urged, particularly from this corner of the house, that there should be a reduction in the rate of interest on mortgage loans. I shall come back to that in a moment, but I list it as the first of the problems to which the government should address itself. Secondly, there has been made the suggestion from a number of quarters in the house that the amortization period should be extended perhaps to 30 years or even longer. The third suggestion is-
Yes, I recognize that. I would point out to the minister that I suggested 30 years or even longer. One or two members in the debate have suggested an amortization period of 40 years, which should be reasonable if we are building good homes.
The third point which has been made a number of times is that the price of the lot should be taken into consideration in arriving at the lending value of a home. The fourth suggestion has been made on other occasions, I am not sure whether it has been made
during the course of this debate but I present it for the minister's consideration now, that the cost of major appliances might also be considered as part of the cost of a home for mortgage purposes. No one doubts that the cost of heating equipment is part of the price of a home, but in this day and age some other things, particularly in the field of major appliances, are also a part of a home and we think they should be included in that cost so far as the lending value is concerned.
A fifth suggestion that has been made has to do with life insurance for the wage earner who purchases the home, and I think that, too, should be given consideration by the government. A sixth suggestion that has been pressed, particularly from this corner of the house but from other sources as well, is that of the need of low rental housing. We feel that that is one area where the government policy is seriously lacking. We would like, in the seventh place, to urge an expansion of facilities to make possible homes for the aged, and that in addition to assistance for the building of projects for housing senior citizens in one location special consideration might be given to assisting elderly people individually to have decent homes to live in, on the understanding that they are good homes and the kind on which money could be lent knowing that they will have value for some considerable time.
Perhaps there are other suggestions, such as redevelopment and slum clearance, Mr. Speaker, but I thought that it might be useful to catalogue these seven proposals and to urge that very serious consideration be given to them by the government if, as the minister said yesterday, this government is serious about the business of housing and really wants suggestions from members of parliament. I have in mind the words the minister used yesterday as recorded at page 2498 of Hansard for December 17, 1957:
We regard ourselves as being in business for the purpose of improving housing in Canada, and particularly housing for Canadians in lower income groups.
I said when I indicated the first of the seven points which I listed that I was coming back to it, and I do so because it seems to me that what the minister said yesterday regarding interest rates is an indication of the bankruptcy of the present government and the former government with regard to housing policy. Both the two major parties in this house seem to accept as an insuperable barrier the fact that interest rates cannot be reduced so that our people can have proper housing. The Minister of Public Works (Mr. Green) used certain words yesterday as recorded on page 2499 of Hansard. They have already been read back to him today
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by my colleague the hon. member for Timmins (Mr. Martin) in another connection when he made reference to the tragedy of the number of fires that take place in our country at this time of the year. One is conscious of the fact that these serious fires, in which children and others lose their lives, are for the most part fires that take place because we have far too many substandard dwellings, houses of a type that should not continue to exist in Canada in this second half of the 20th century. These were the words the minister used yesterday:
There is nothing the government would like more than to be able to reduce interest rates on housing. If those interest rates are reduced to the extent that the lending institutions and the banks will no longer lend any money for housing, then we are in a real tailspin in so far as housing in Canada is concerned. This is one reason why housing has fallen away in Canada this year.
My colleague, the hon. member for Burnaby-Coquitlam (Mr. Regier), let his imagination work a bit, and quite effectively, when he referred a few moments ago to the late Howard Green, so let me use my imagination and ask the house what would have been said if the Minister of Public Works, in making this statement yesterday, had used exactly these same words in relation to something other than housing. This is imaginary, for it deals with a field in which the federal government does not have responsibility, but just supposing this minister or a minister of any government anywhere in Canada had said this yesterday:
There is nothing the government would like more than to be able to reduce interest rates on education. If those interest rates are reduced to the extent that the lending institutions and the banks will no longer lend any money to enable parents to pay for the education of their children, then we are in a real tailspin in so far as education in Canada is concerned. This is one reason why education has fallen away in Canada this year.
Mr. Speaker, if any minister of any government in Canada had made a statement like that in this year of 1957 it would have been treated with the ridicule it deserved.
Our people would say, "Surely education does not depend upon the possibility of banks and lending institutions making a profit out of it. Education is something our people are entitled to. It is something that we can afford and that our people are going to have regardless of the incomes of our individual families." We say that for the government to claim that housing will go into a tailspin if we reduce the cost of it to our people is to admit bankruptcy in this field.
I was interested in the quotation that my colleague the hon. member for Kootenay West (Mr. Herridge) put on the record a while ago,
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in which he quoted me quoting Mr. Ilsley a number of years ago to the effect that anything we produce, anything that we provide for ourselves as a nation, we pay for out of current production, that we do not go bankrupt by increasing our production and devoting that production to a great cause. We have the materials. We have the labour power. We can produce decent housing for our people to live in. But somehow or other this insuperable barrier seems to have gotten in the way, this notion that there has to be an adequate rate of interest or in other words that profit for the banks and the lending institutions must come first, and that if that profit cannot be had, then we cannot have housing.
We would not stand for an attitude like that toward education. Just imagine what would happen if this heading in this afternoon's Ottawa Journal had read in a slightly different way than it reads. This is the story of yesterday's debate on housing and the headline on page 7 of tonight's Journal reads; "Green Worried Money for Homes May Run Out". I think that is a fair comment on the speech the minister made yesterday. Suppose instead the headline had read, "Green Worried Money for Education May Run Out". We would not accept that. We would take the position that this country has come to, namely that education is the right of all our children and that it has a prior claim over the profits that banks and private lending institutions feel they must make. We say the day will come when the country will accept housing *on the same basis and will say that our people, being the people who produce this nation's wealth, are entitled to good homes to live in and must have them rather than that profit should be made first.
As a footnote to what the minister said in that statement to which I have taken exception, he said later on, as reported in the same column on the same page 2499 of Hansard:
-I pointed out that the bulk of the money being advanced now is coming from government funds through Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and that is actually the case. But that situation cannot go on forever.
Why not, Mr. Speaker? If the minister admits that under the present circumstances the only way in which homes can get built for people who need them, the only way in which we can get around this insuperable barrier of high interest rates and the demand for profit, is for the government to make the money available, why should it be just a temporary means? Why should we not accept it as a basic principle that we are going to use the powers that we have as a community, as a nation, through the state to channel the
savings and the wealth that our people produce into this socially desirable aim, namely the building of homes?
I urge the minister to give serious consideration to all the points that we have brought to his attention in the course of this debate but I say to him if he really wants to do something about housing, if he is really in earnest about the matter, he must get over this notion that somehow or other the profit of the banks and lending institutions as expressed in the interest rate they must have takes priority. That notion must be got around and we have to get to the principle that the providing of homes is a socially desirable aim and that it is perfectly consistent with our way of life that we direct the savings of our people through government channels to make money available at low interest rates so that people can have decent homes in which to live.
There is just one other comment I wish to make, Mr. Speaker. We are urging improvements in our housing legislation because we believe in the provision of good homes for their own sake, for the sake of our people. But it is also true that in the building of homes there is to be found one of the most immediate ways in which to deal with the problem of unemployment. As everyone knows, house building involves a great many subsidiary types of employment. We feel that this is something to which the government should pay very close attention, particularly in view of the alarming figures which were made public yesterday by the Department of Labour and the dominion bureau of statistics. The figures which were published yesterday show that in the month from the middle of October to the middle of November this year there was an increase in the unemployment rolls of 26 per cent. Those figures also show that as at the middle of November this year compared with the middle of November a year ago there has been an increase in unemployment to the extent of 74 per cent. In the light of those figures I suggest that this minister responsible for this important field of housing should realize that he has a tremendous opportunity, not only to take steps to meet the need of better housing for our people but to make some real dent in this unemployment situation.
We welcome the statement of the minister that he is serious about the matter. We welcome his statement that he would like to have suggestions. Now that we have given them to him, we hope that he will act upon them with the least possible delay.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I wish to make a few very brief remarks concerning the bill under discussion at this time.
The government proposes to amend the 1954 National Housing Act with a view to increasing by $150,000,000 the money made available to Canadians to further improve the housing situation in this country. The former government had set aside $250,000,000, for that purpose, and loans were being granted from these funds as late as September 1957, according to the terms of section 16 of the National Housing Act, chapter 23 of the statutes of 1953-54.
The Societe des habitations modernes incor-porees, of Amos, in the county of Chapleau, had a $372,685 loan approved on September 19, 1957 by Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation in order to promote the construction of 48 new housing units in the town of Amos. This money will be paid over to the construction company and eventually people will be put in a position to occupy the housing units built in this way, the amortization period in this case being spread over 40 years.
The monthly payments will be approximately $60.50 for single, two bedroom units. This step is altogether praiseworthy. I am happy that workers from my constituency have been able to find employment during a difficult period and that this work happens to be connected with housing. I am also happy that these houses are to be offered to workers who are in most pressing need of housing, as well as to their families.
It is fortunate also that the 1954 housing act and action taken by the former government have made this progress possible in my constituency. I am in favour of the amendments, Mr. Speaker. As one father who has himself bought a comfortable home for his family on favourable terms, I would like to see every one of my fellow citizens enjoy a higher standard of living through improved housing accommodation.
In 1956 we built close to 135,000 housing units and, as of September 1956, one million new housing units had been built over the last 12 years through federal financial assistance as well as through unassisted private enterprise.
135,000 housing units in 1956 alone, and one million housing units constructed between September 1954 and September 1956.
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I know that certain minimum standards must be respected, and certain definite types of houses built according to federal legislation. I wonder though what kind of supervision is carried out as far as the building itself is concerned. The new house being the government's security, it will readily be understood that it should be built according to certain standards of soundness, also to protect the occupant who has to pay for the house, and to ensure him improved accommodation. An attempt will be made to reduce the price of homes under construction but we wonder if, as an immediate consequence, there will not be a falling off in quality of craftsmanship in proportion to the corresponding decrease in price. If the price is $2,000 less, for example, there should be a check on the quality of materials used, and especially on the soundness of the construction methods.
Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation acts through the bank and lending institutions, as well as through private organizations. But who supervises the work? Who gives approval? Who guarantees that the building is put up in accordance with the plans and specifications laid down by Central Mortgage and Housing, that is, in final analysis, by the government?
I wonder if there is adequate supervision in cases where the prospective owner cannot personally supervise the work. It might be said that the houses are checked by a local agent of the C.M.H.C., a man who is very busy and who possibly lives forty miles or more from the building site. I do not question the competence of the men who pour the concrete into the forms, or of those who put up the framework and make the windows draught-proof but, as section 18 of the act prescribes that the work be inspected while the house is being built, I believe it is wise to determine when, by whom and how the certificates are issued testifying that the work was done according to the regulations and to the plans.
I have some fears in this regard and I point out to the government the need of closer supervision during construction if the purpose of the act is to be fully achieved. If the foundation breaks down because there is not enough cement in the concrete, if the walls are not properly insulated against cold, if heating costs are too high, this legislation, meant to be so helpful, will have failed of its main purpose.
To my mind, close supervision is important if we want the poor owner to be spared the obligation of giving up his house after a few years because of too rapid a deterioration of a house which was not properly supervised when it was being built.
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A man who undertakes to make payments for 40 years has the right to demand that a house be sound enough for him to feel some pride of ownership.
Therefore, as we are about to put another $150 million into this undertaking, I believe it is advisable to call the attention of the government to the need of closer supervision of the work while the house is going up and not after the purchaser occupies it with his family. The builders, men of initiative, will receive the money so loaned, which the owner will have to pay back. So, let us lend the money but let us protect the ones who will have to pay back the cost of the building. Of course, it is important that builders make a profit but, above all, what is required is good low cost housing for Canadians and their families.
Having said this, I approve of the bill because I approve of more housing, better living conditions and I wish to facilitate the purchase of a house by the greatest possible number of young Canadians and thus encourage them to save more by becoming home owners.
After having had such a nice epitaph written about me I am not sure that it is safe for one with Irish blood in his veins to say anything at all at this time because, after all, we are a bit superstitious. However, this has been a very useful debate and I am grateful to those members who have taken part in it. Many suggestions have been advanced in addition to quite a few new ideas, all of which will be given, as I promised when speaking at the resolution stage of this measure, the most careful consideration.
It is very fitting that there is such interest shown by members of the house in this housing question, which, after all, is pre-eminently a human question. The lives of our Canadian people are so involved in the whole matter that naturally all of us are deeply concerned about working out the best possible solution to the problem.
I think it would be inappropriate if I were to deal with the questions which have been raised during last evening and again this afternoon, but there are one or two points which I would like to place before the house. The first is this: There are other schemes under the National Housing Act which bring about lower rental housing, for example, the limited dividend plan under
section 16. Hon. members will be pleased to learn that great advantage has been taken of that section during the present calendar year. In fact, during the last ten months Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation has received more applications for loans to limited dividend companies than in any previous period of comparable duration. In these 10 months there has been more than $21 million committed for loans to limited dividend corporations.
Then there have been many different schemes in which a provincial government and the federal government have shared. We are always on the lookout for a redevelopment plan and I am sure that was also the attitude of the former government.
One of the members mentioned today that the Jeanne Mance project in Montreal had been delayed by the present government. We are going right ahead with the plans for that huge project and we are hoping it can be completed at the earliest possible time. Mind you, there was some difficulty about it some weeks ago because it was all mixed up with the municipal election in the city of Montreal. One group wanted to go ahead and another group did not want it to go ahead, so until that dispute could be resolved it was rather difficult for the government to step in and show much activity.
We would be delighted to see redevelopment schemes of this kind in other cities. One, for example, has been recommended after a survey, for which we paid a large portion of the cost, in the city of Vancouver, and some reference was made to this by the hon. member for Vancouver-Kingsway (Mr. Macdonald). I am hoping that the city and provincial authorities will see fit to start moving on that project at a very early date. This type of work, I am sure, has the wholehearted support of everybody in the house.
Some hon. members have referred again today to the interest rate. I dealt with this matter last evening. It is a situation which has to be faced, and there is one further feature which I did not mention last night but which I think is material, that is, that under our small homes loan plan, commonly called the agency plan, loans have already been approved for almost $150 million, as I pointed out yesterday, involving 15,456 units. Part of the money we are now requesting is to carry on this agency plan. Hon. members will realize it would be very unfair to the people who have signed up under the plan if we were to make a change in the interest rate at the present time. It is not as though the money were not being taken up; it is being called for at a very rapid rate and I believe that with
the additional funds for which we are now asking there will be perhaps 25,000 housing units built in Canada during this winter period as a result of the plan.
I would suggest that that would not be a practical thing to do where you have over 12,000 loans out already and more going out every day. One of the dangerous features about these suggestions under present conditions is that we are trying to get these houses built quickly; we are trying to get men at work quickly. If we assume there are five men at work on each of these units, that would mean 75,000 men at work in Canada on this housing, and if there were some doubt as to whether the interest rate were to be reduced as a result of the suggestions being made now, the first thing that would happen would be that people would stop taking loans and building would stop. As I say, there is this time element involved. One of the main reasons why the government adopted the policy of using government funds for these loans was to help the employment situation. The policy is essentially one to meet the conditions existing in Canada at the present time, and it would be very detrimental to have changes announced now which would, or which might, have the effect of stopping employment.
This plan is going extremely well now, far beyond what my colleagues or myself dared hope. It is a great success, and I hope that nothing will be done to stop it continuing to be a great success, giving thousands of Canadians work, making thousands of new homes available for Canadians in a much lower income group than those who have been benefited hitherto under the National Housing Act and, I think, helping to build a far better Canada.
I am very grateful for the support which has been given to this particular bill from all sides of the house even if there have been a lot of "ifs" and "buts" attached to that approval.
Mr. Chairman, arising out of the remarks made by the minister, I should like
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to ask for further clarification of one or two points. I note the minister said that a lowering of the interest rate would have the effect of reducing still further the amount of money which private lenders might put into the lending field. Are we to conclude from this statement that the minister does not see in the foreseeable future any reduction in the present high rate of interest? Does the minister in effect say that if we are to expect an increase in housing in Canada it is going to depend on an increase in the interest rate? The minister made a statement to the effect that by lowering the interest rate we would be putting housing starts into a tail-spin, except for the fact that the minister looks upon this as being a temporary way of dealing with the situation; that is to say, direct lending is simply an expedient, an emergency program designed to carry us over a temporary period. Can the minister indicate whether he feels that there is a likelihood of private lenders taking up the slack by increasing the amount of money which they might put into mortgages without an increase in the interest rate?
Mr. Chairman, I am very hopeful that private money will provide the necessary funds next year for housing, and that those funds will be provided at a rate which certainly would not be any higher than the present rate of 6 per cent. No one can tell at the moment what the situation will be next year. My hon. friend will realize that the rates under the insured loans which are made by the lending institutions with their own funds would have to be kept at the same rate as is charged on these agency loans which are made with government funds. It would be chaotic to have a different rate on the two different types of loans.
I am informed by my officials that in the normal course the amount of $150 million in a year, which was what we provided under our original plan, would be only something like 10 per cent of the total amount of money required for housing. That will explain our difficulty to the hon. member. I do not say there is anything sacred about the present rate. Rates have been changed before and I would think that they would be keeping in line with what the actual conditions are across the country.
Mr. Chairman, would the minister care to give us his opinion as to why lending by private lenders has fallen off in the past year, thus necessitating an increase in direct lending by Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation? Why have conventional lenders not provided the mortgage money?
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Is it because they feel the interest rate is too low? Would the minister venture an opinion on that?
I mentioned last night that I believed there were two main reasons. One was that the mortgage companies and the banks could get higher returns by making other investments; therefore, they put their money in other fields. The other reason was the tight money policy which was in existence at the time we took over the responsibilities of government and which had resulted in a shortage of money, a shortage of loans, for builders and for activities of that kind. In my judgment it hit the house-building industry harder than any other industry. We were faced with the position where there simply was not the money going into the house-building field and if we had not moved the picture in house building in Canada this year would have been very bad. We moved to meet this need.