Montreal’s Post WW2 Housing Crunch



Yesterday was Mother’s Day in many parts of the world. As my mother is only a few years gone, I don’t need a special day to think about her. One of her great pleasures as she aged was a Sunday evening drive; particularly one that brought her through streets rich in memories for her. She especially enjoyed, albeit I believe bitter-sweetly, watching the face of downtown Montreal change as old buildings from her day were replaced by new glass boxes.

When my father was demobilized after World War Two, he returned to Montreal from Vancouver, having signed on for the Pacific war, and he and my mother married in April of 1946, four months prior to her turning 18 (no, no shotgun was involved, just permission from her father!). At that time, one of the biggest problems facing many people, including newlyweds, was finding a place to live. The post-WW2 period was marked by a housing shortage that was a hangover from the war.

The accommodation of veterans became the major focus of the post-1944 phase of the shelter problem.

According to research by Jill Wade, there were several causes of wartime housing congestion. Initially, the migration of war workers and their families to industrial centres and the movement of servicemen’s families to urban centres near armed forces bases substantially affected housing conditions across the country by increasing doubling up and overcrowding, encouraging tenancy, and reducing vacancies. The pre-1944 housing problem centred upon war workers’ accommodation. As well, Dominion government controls on materials and manpower placed additional pressure on housing shortages, particularly during the late war and post-war years when controls substantially curtailed house-building.

Scarcities in supplies and labour contributed to steadily rising building costs, thereby discouraging construction and adding to housing congestion. Thirdly, the demobilization of 620,000 armed forces personnel between June 1945 and June 1946 exacerbated the country’s housing situation. The accommodation of veterans became the major focus of the post-1944 phase of the shelter problem. Finally, the arrival of war brides who had married Canadian servicemen overseas increased family formation in the mid-1940s and further aggravated conditions.

Eventually, they were able to secure a room in a boarding house on Chomedey Street in downtown Montreal

Once married my parents spent time living with both pairs of in-laws at various times. Suffice to say it was not a suitable situation. Eventually, they were able to secure a room in a boarding house on Chomedey Street in downtown Montreal. The building, located at 1455 was home to many McGill medical students. In 1947 the only listed tenant, or perhaps owner, was R.T. Matheson, no mention was made of his guests.

As the photo above shows, the building, in fact, the row of buildings still exists to this day. I have no idea what my parents were paying for rent, but I have to imagine the price has risen significantly.

1 thought on “Montreal’s Post WW2 Housing Crunch

  1. We learn from every experience!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close