Canadian housing history

With more than 2/3 of Canadians now owning homes, it’s difficult to imagine a time when mortgages were not yet invented — and flush toilets were a luxury.

In The Canadian home: from cave to electronic cocoon, Marc Denhez does a great job of recounting mortgage and real estate history in this fair land. Below are a couple tidbits:

– In eleventh century England, you could buy a home in one of two ways. The first — and simplest — was to simply pay cash. If you wanted to finance a home, you could pledge collateral (for example, your sword and horse). The problem was, the pledge was only valid for the lifetime of the borrower. When the borrower died, the collateral would be returned to the individual’s heirs and the lender would be left with nothing. Enter the dead pledge — or “mort gage” since many spoke French at the time — which would remain valid after an individual died.

– In the days immediately following WWII, when the government decided to offer subsidized housing through what is now known as the CMHC, only half the homes had flush toilets.

– When suburban housing communities came into vogue following World War II, the term “street” became passé. The winding, maze-like communities required more descriptive street names — hence the terms “crescent”, “circle”, “drive”, “terrace” and “court” (among others) came into being.

– In 1956 the average homebuyer was 33.9 years old, male with 2.5 dependents. He made $5,312 per year and his home cost $13,163.