Another Controversial Subject: Vancouver Housing

Traffic congestion and inadequate housing are subjects which are revisited regularly in Vancouver. The previous post was a look at how the City tried to persuade residents not to be ‘Traffic Peakers’ in the 1940s. This post is a reproduction of a News-Herald ‘Editorial in Pictures’ that deals with the editor’s views on the state of housing in Vancouver during the WWII era.

I have been able to find all of the photos, except one, used in the News-Herald editorial within the City of Vancouver Archives. Except for that missing photo, the content of the article is reproduced here just as it appeared in 1944:

Something Must Be Done

(An Editorial in Pictures)

The authoritative and detailed survey by the Vancouver Council of Social Agencies reveals that more than 2,000 Vancouver families are living in such “shockingly inadequate” housing that ordinary city slums would look like heaven to them.

The City Council has made nine “appeals” to Ottawa for more housing, but has taken no practical steps to deal with the emergency. “I don’t see what more we can do,” says the Mayor.

The Dominion government has accepted responsibility for only a limited amount of housing for actual war workers, and for some financial assistance for post-war housing projects.

The provincial government merely supplies a sheriff to carry out evictions.

But 2,000 Vancouver families – 4,000 men and women and more than 4,000 children – are living from day to day, NOW, as are those pictured here.

Says the Council of Social Agencies: “These conditions . . . are a damning indictment of the failure of the authorities.”


More than 12 families live in this double row of ramshackle and unsanitary tenements on Sixth Avenue in Fairview. They are less than a quarter of a mile from Shaughnessy Heights, but no proud citizens bring visitors to see Vancouver’s “line homes” HERE.

CVA 1184-639 - [Garbage and garbage containers at the slums in the 300 block East Cordova] 1943 Jack Lindsay photo-2

CVA 1184-639 – [Garbage and garbage containers at the slums in the 300 block East Cordova] 1943 Jack Lindsay photo.

Here is a Vancouver child. Here is his playground. Hundreds of youngsters, the hope of our city’s future, spend their waking hours at play in back alleys like this. This lane is one block from police headquarters and the city jail.

CVA 1184-2612 - [Tenement building] 1940-48 Jack Lindsay photo-2

CVA 1184-2612 – [Tenement building] 1940-48 Jack Lindsay photo.

War industry booms and Vancouver’s busy harbor seeths (sic) with activity less than a block from this row of hutches for human beings on Alexander Street. In such conditions as this live the city’s “pampered workers” – 20 of them and their families in this one ancient building. Notice the pathetic endeavor to grace its  tattered railings with flowers and vines.

CVA 1184-2615 - [View of the rear of a tenement house] 1940-48 Jack Lindsay photo-2

CVA 1184-2615 – [View of the rear of a tenement house] 1940-48 Jack Lindsay photo.

The city rejoiced when the Japs were moved out of the human rabbit warrens on Powell Street, hailing the end of our worst slum. But it was not the end. These wretched buildings are now filled with white families, in some cases, six and seven persons to a room.

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3 Responses to Another Controversial Subject: Vancouver Housing

  1. Loretta says:

    Wow, I guess it’s never ending. A true battle for human beings. My grandparents moved from Spalding, SK 75 years ago this November. They had to rent rooms in a large house on Cordova Street, then Dundas Street, but fortunately for them, they were able to purchase 3 lots on E 27th Ave in Vancouver in 1945, for $24,000. They had managed to save the money even though they had a large family of 5 kids, and 2 more children were born at the E 27th house! My grandpa was also fortunate to find work in the shipyards in N Vancouver, for which he earned an enormous wage of $150 per month. I wonder what the minimum wage was back then? Was there even such a thing? Thanks for the great post.

  2. Harry Williams says:

    My old neighborhood! 536 E Cordova was a nifty area in the 1940’s, but not very healthy.

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